In the eyes of the author, 2012 has been a very good year in some ways for HM Forces. From a practical perspective, the standing of the Military in the UK has never been higher. The ability to step in at short notice and provide outstanding support for the Olympic Games, while simultaneously carrying out operations in Afghanistan, the Gulf, the Falklands and elsewhere demonstrates that for all the reductions that have gone on, the UK military can still rise to the occasion. Very few nations would be able to operate at the tempo that HM Forces have done this year, fewer still could then continue with the operational tempo of day to day operations that the UK is currently committed to doing.
The good news is that the budget appears to be in a much better place now than it has been for some years. This has not been an easy or straightforward process, and it is genuinely good news that things look like they are balancing out. The fact that MOD has been able to escape any front line cuts in the Autumn Statement is to be welcomed, although we do not know whether any cuts will occur to support services.
In general, 2012 has been the year in which the final parts of the SDSR cuts were implemented, and we saw the bedding in of the various changes put about by the Levene Review. The standing up of Joint Forces Command was a big step forward, as was the scrapping of the three 4* CINC posts. There is a genuine change going on at the top of the system, as the military moves to a more streamlined command structure in future. We also saw the vision of the Army in 2020, in which a smaller army will focus more on preventative training and capability building, while reducing the teeth equipment it has previously drawn on for use. There will be many challenges in taking forward the future vision of the Army – 18% smaller, with significant reductions in equipment and cherished capbadges. On paper though, if the CDS vision of an Army with Brigades focusing on regional engagement can be delivered, and if it is properly funded, then there are grounds for cautious optimism that as we move forward into the post HERRICK future, we will see an Army which remains operational capable and globally employable.
As we move into 2013 we will see more changes in HERRICK – 2012 was a very low profile year for the operation, and it is increasingly beginning to feel like the war that the Media forgot. With the exception of particularly bad news stories, the Media seem to have little interest in the UK involvement in Afghanistan now, and this will only continue as we move further towards withdrawal.