Tuesday, June 8, 2010

2010: Options for [Fundamental] Change

2010: Options for [Fundamental] Change
June 9, 2010

The publication of documents outlining the 2010 British Public Spending Review and the Prime Ministerial address highlighting the scale of the UK budget deficit create a situation where the pending British defence review will be driven by resource constraints.

Given the reviews of recent decades (1966 'East of Suez', 1974, 1980 'Nott', 1990 'Options for Change', 1998 'SDR', 2009 'Green Paper') all the issues are known, all that remains is for the Defence Council to reach, take and implement the right decisions to build the right basis for meeting British National Security needs well into the 21st Century.

Moving away from 'salami-slicing' to taking fundamental decisions include some of the following more obvious measures;

1. Consolidate down to a dozen RAF Air Stations and reduce real estate. MOD is the biggest landowner in the UK - drastically reduce the figure.

2. Close Portsmouth Naval Base - base all Submarines on the Clyde and all surface combatants at Devonport.

3. Reduce army size and bases. Enact the super-garrison proposals of the mid 2000's and rationalise further, faster. Although Iraq and Afghanistan are Army led the future will likely be more specialist forces. Increase the Royal Marines by one Commando (Battalion), bring the Parachute regiment up to strength (3 battalions plus the re-roled one).

4. Nuclear deterrent - go for nuclear tomahawk from Astute class as multi-role SSN/SSBN (takes longer for the big bang but net effect is the same and big savings in terms of not designing a specialist SSBN (even the proposed stretched Astute)).

5. Cancel the Aircraft Carriers, fundamentally refurb existing ships (plans exist on the books) and build a new class of smaller more numerous surface warships to project influence and forward presence.

6. Cancel JSF and deploy UAV's and helicopters on the refurbished aircraft carriers. Applying Moore's Law from IT to UAV's higher payloads are on the immediate horizon.

7. Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S) Organisation - cut red tape and staffing by 75%. Ultimately bureaucracy has grown to man complex processes developed to defer decisions on procurement which cost the MOD money it does not have in-year. Adopt a 'simple procurement' strategy to succeed the 'smart procurement' of the late 1990s.

8. Rationalise RAF airframes to base on the Eurofighter for nearly all non transport / tanker operations. Retire the Tornado IDS, regardless of capability it is simply too expensive to maintain on the balance sheet.

9. Recreate DESO to support defence exports. Its dismantling was one of the more bizarre decisions of recent years.

10. Open up the archives to examine the organisation for defence in the Second World War and slim down the central staff accordingly. Reduce the numbers of one star plus officers in the three services. A General, Admiral or Air Marshal should be a rare sight and not seen chairing a laptop in Abbey Wood running a programme with no budget which was cancelled before they took post.

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