Wednesday, 20 September 2017

The Corps huh, What is it good for?

The Times reports today that the RN is considering scrapping 1000 Royal Marine posts as part of a wider options package to save money. The report suggests that the RN could save up to £100m per year, which would go a long way to addressing the financial black hole sitting at the heart of the MOD.

For all the talk of a rising defence budget, it remains clear that the devaluation of the pound, coupled with rising equipment costs clearly shows that that there isn’t enough money to do everything that the 2015 SDSR set out to deliver. For all the spin of ‘backed by a rising defence budget’, when you speak to friends in the military or MOD, these lines are met with hoots of derision. Their view is simple – the budget situation is bordering on catastrophic and only major reform, or a major injection of funds will solve the problem.

From a Treasury perspective, the case for MOD to have extra cash is weak. The Department enjoys considerable latitude in how it chooses to spend its cash, with significant delegated authority (far more than most departments), and what is regarded in Whitehall as a very generous comprehensive spending review settlement. There is definitely more money coming in, but friends have suggested it is coming in at the wrong point in the five year spending cycle and in the wrong amounts. Getting the Department financially to the point where it can meet its in year budget, and ensuring it is on a stable long term footing is the challenge.

It is hard to see the Treasury being amenable to demands for more money – there is precious little spare money, and no political appetite for higher taxes to fund defence. There is also a sense of weariness that the Armed Forces excel at ‘special pleading’ in demanding ever greater sums of cash, without showing the ruthlessness required to cut costs at every opportunity to find the money themselves. Speak candidly to Treasury officials with experience of working with the MOD and they are torn between enormous admiration and respect for the military and its ‘can do’ attitude, and enormous frustration at trying to put sacred cows on the menu, let alone eat them to save cash.

Given the lack of willingness to find extra funds, the only other option open to the Department to meet its financial challenges is to make real and painful cuts. This is currently being wrapped up in the auspices of a mini national security review, sneaked out under the radar on the last day of the Parliamentary session. It seems inevitable that cuts will follow from this, but likely packaged under a series of headline grabbing announcements of ‘cash for X’ with much smaller footnotes describing how A,B,C and D are all being scrapped, delayed, deferred or descoped too.

By Land

The news that the RN is considering offering up the Royal Marines indicates several things. Firstly, it’s a sign that the traditional battles in MOD during spending rounds have reached the point of leaking the ‘sacred cow’ options (such as scrapping the Red Arrows, disband the Parachute Regiment etc), in order to try and fight a rearguard action. All the Services have these options, it was a bit of a running joke with some of the authors friends that the ‘Close BRNC Dartmouth’ option paper seemed to have been staffed about 50 years ago and was just dusted off as required. There is also the possibly urban myth that the reason the Upholder class were scrapped was due to a planning round where the diesel submarine capability was offered up as a sacred cow, with the submarine force planners assuming no one would be foolish enough to take it…

 The usual form is to leak or brief selected options  which are hugely emotional and tap into the psyche of MPs and commentators, and then get them to fight a campaign to save X at all costs. This usually leads to lobbying, letters and pressure on Ministers, and if lucky direction that the Option won’t be taken forward after all. The problem is that this doesn’t make the financial pressure go away – and its usually only by taking tough calls like scrapping a capability outright that you can save the chunks of money required.

Why Royal, Why Now?
The challenge for the Royal Marines right now is that they look particularly vulnerable targets, with a highly specialised core role that is increasingly unlikely to be used in anger. The RM and the RN have long had a slightly odd, and at times, uneasy relationship. It is often forgotten these days that the role of amphibious warfare isn’t something that really took off until WW2, and that the RM have only been leading on it for about 70 years. Until that point they were arguably merely light infantry embarked on ships and the odd landing party.

The post war use of the RM saw them work across a variety of tasks such as Northern Ireland, and the withdrawal from Empire. From the 1960s onwards was a force optimised to go to Norway and halt any putative Russian advances, and then die bravely when things went badly wrong. The RN did not invest heavily in specialist amphibious shipping beyond a pair of LPDs (FEARLESS class) in the early 1960s, which were mostly used for training cadets or in reserve and absorbing into the RFA some tank landing ships to put troops ashore.  A pair of carriers were converted into the LPH role (ALBION and BULWARK), but ALBION paid off quickly, and BULWARK spent much of her later life in reserve.

By 1981 the RM represented some 10% of the Naval Service and was subject to hard questions on its role, noting that much of their amphibious work could be done through using RORO shipping chartered in a hurry. The RM were facing swingeing cuts when they were saved by the Falklands War, a period which led to a renaissance in the amphibious force and made the RM politically untouchable. Over the next twenty years there was heavy investment in new shipping (a total of 6 LPDs and 6 RORO ferries were acquired) and the Corps escaped almost unharmed from Defence Reviews.  Used operationally in Sierra Leone and the Gulf War, the RM was seen as a light infantry force able to deliver a Commando Brigade ashore with supporting enablers to allow them to fight and operate with allies or link up with wider UK elements.  More widely the RM continued to provide security for the nuclear deterrent, boarding teams and other specialist roles as part of a wider package of capability.

The key point where things began to change was arguably OP HERRICK. At this point the Corps transitioned from being an organisation which fought from the sea onto the land, to one that spent many years focusing on being a land based warfighting force. The depth of commitment to HERRICK meant that the Corps lost a lot of its links to the wider RN; speaking to friends who served in the RM, many remark that during the HERRICK years the RM did very little with the RN at sea. This would have been fine for a short operation, but for a multi-year commitment it meant that an entire generation of Officers and NCOs were growing up who excelled at conventional land warfare, but who had lost touch with their maritime roots.

By Sea

At the same time, there was a growing sense in some parts of the RN that the RM was arguably a money pit that cost the RN a significant amount of time, money and platforms, but which delivered very little for the RN itself. Tellingly, during the worst years of the piracy issues in Somalia, the RN had to rely heavily on RNR ratings to form ships protection teams, not RM in part reportedly because the RM was so focused on Afghanistan. At a time when the RN was taking heavy cuts to ships and other platforms as part of budget reductions to help deliver success in Afghanistan, there was perhaps some resentment that the Corps delivered little, yet absorbed a huge amount of the Naval Service budget. What is the point of having an amphibious fleet, and maritime amphibious helicopter capability, if your amphibious troops are stuck in a cycle of deploying only to a landlocked country?

The 2010 SDSR marked the point where the RM began to see a real shift in approach, due to the reduction in how much amphibious shipping was available, and the ability to deploy a conventional landing force ashore. No longer would the UK seek to put the entirety of 3 CDO Bde ashore, but instead smaller landing forces would be deployed instead (thus enabling the paying off into reserve of one of the LPDs, and selling of an LSD(A)).

The RM managed to escape significant cuts in the 2015 SDSR, but by now had become proportionately a very large part of the Naval Service. In years gone by the Corps had averaged 8-10% of total Naval Service strength, but by 2015 this was closer to 25%. Given the widespread and savage manpower cuts to the rest of the Naval Service, questions were reportedly asked as to why the RM were so politically untouchable.

The Situation Today
In the current security environment that the UK faces, it is hard to see a need for a major amphibious lift capability to conduct opposed operations. This may sound like heresy to say, but if you consider that any major beach landing would be fraught with risk, and require major military support and logistical access to a port and airhead quickly to succeed, it is hard to see the circumstances where the UK and US would want to conduct such an operation. The political circumstances are such, that it is difficult to see the UK willingly wishing to indulge in a full scale amphibious assault against a hostile nation with a brigade sized force anytime in the future.

There are plenty of situations where the ability to transport equipment and people is vital – for instance conducting a NEO, or moving troops and supplies into a friendly country ahead of a wider land conflict. There are also circumstances where an ‘amphibious raid’ capability is equally important – the ability to quickly send a small number of troops ashore via helicopter or fast landing craft to conduct a specific mission, or diversionary raid is extremely useful.

Do these circumstances though require the Royal Marines to stay as  they are, or could they be restructured? If the decision were made to move away from a large scale landing force into one that focused on smaller niche roles, then the benefits could be considerable.

Firstly it would enable the RN to look at savings on running of the two LPDs. These ships are immensely expensive primarily due to their HQ functions which support the planning of large and complex amphibious operations. A change in emphasis could reduce the need to have these ships active, allowing them to do other tasks, or be held at readiness and free up manpower. It would also allow the scaling down of the HQ organisations that support amphibious operations – plenty of people moan that the RN has too many 1*s and above – here is the chance to downgrade or scrap the planning staffs that support the larger operations and reduce the senior officer headcount.

Sea Soldiers in the Desert...

For the RM, the chance to re-embark at sea and focus on maritime counter piracy and security could be an opportunity to rebrand and reinvent the organisation, giving it a new lease of life. There is a real and pressing need to marinize the RM again, getting them used to being at sea, not permanently working ashore. At the same time it would free up a lot of highly trained infantry soldiers who could train to deliver boarding teams, and maritime counter piracy duties. This is a deeply complex role that requires a lot of training and support to get right, and is only going to grow in importance over the next few years.

Investing in niche roles such as this, or protection of nuclear weapons, and coupling this with a smaller ability to land raiding parties not brigades has the benefit of making the Corps far more valuable to keep in the long term. Right now it is arguably a light infantry brigade which has some other secondary duties tagged on the side. This is fine, but there are plenty of light infantry brigades out there, and probably too many soldiers in the Army as it is. If the RM were to refocus onto being sea going soldiers again, and deliver a small range of capabilities very well, then this makes them far harder to scrap entirely.

For the RM itself it also perhaps gives a chance to consider what it is they exist for, and how they can rebuild relationships with the RN. Speak to RM’s candidly, and you quickly pick up a deep sense of persecution and vulnerability. They feel unloved by the RN, and that they are held to a different expectation of standards of conduct. Issues such as the wearing of dresses, or the lads having very messy nights out point to a culture which is increasingly different to that of the wider Naval Service.

But speak to the RN and you sense a similar frustration with the RM, a sort of paternalistic groan at the exploits of junior marines who manage to do something which does real diplomatic damage to bilateral relations, or who are often perceived as social hand grenades. There is also a sense at times that the RM absorb money and people that could be better spent keeping other ships at sea, or on  more escorts, more OPVs and more sailors to man them.

This sense of diverging paths stems from arguably too many years of the RM not working alongside matelots at sea, and becoming increasingly focused on just the land part of the littoral. A move to being back at sea, to working with sailors and showing the benefits of having embarked marines on a ship could be what is needed to rebuild this relationship.


Where do we go from here?
It is too soon to know whether there is any likelihood of this option being taken. Downgrading the RM landing capability would be a considerable policy statement of future UK aspirations – it would essentially say that the UK is out of the major landing game, and could have significant repercussions for longer term equipment planning, such as future amphibious shipping plans.

Is the need to conduct major offensives, or to move highly skilled people quickly to disaster relief? Do you need the supporting enablers that 3 Cdo Bde has, liked the Royal Engineers, the Royal Artillery and the Royal Logistics Corps that right now are proving their value in supporting OP RUMAN in the West Indies? Can this be delivered by other means?

Given the current parlous state of finances to not do this means that the RN has to ask what else does it want to stop doing instead? It is difficult to see what can be stopped without having significant effect on either delivering Carrier Strike or the Deterrent, and in supporting ongoing operations. To find an extra £100m a year in savings without changing the RM would need major structural, manpower and operational changes, which would be challenging to deliver.

Ultimately the Naval Service needs to consider what effect does it wish to have on land, the extent to which being able to land the RM on land to be able to fight matters and whether it is better to step down from that level of capability, but instead fund specialist roles like maritime counter terrorism instead that could be of far more importance than a theoretical landing capability.

There is no right answer to this debate. It highlights how difficult it is for planners in the MOD to know what to do – they have to balance off the need to meet national policy goals, support military force levels and provide capabilities, all while guessing and second guessing what may, or may not, be needed in the future.

The history of the RM and the Parachute Regiment since 1945 seems to be that both are seen as light infantry forces capable of ‘kicking the door in’ but neither has really been used in this way for decades. Whether the cost of maintaining this capability is worth it, or whether it is better to refocus elsewhere is difficult to know. There is no right answer now, only time will prove whether the planners of today have the foresight to prevent their successors 30 years down the line from going ‘well we used to be able to do this, but we scrapped it 30 years ago to do that instead which it turns out we’ve never used’.


  1. Humph, we need an article from you detailing how much defence funding has gone up and down over the years. There are plenty of articles saying that every defence review involves cuts, but these may have an agenda. What is the real story here?

    Has there been an increase in funding at times (in relative or absolute terms) or not?

    1. There is more money now, absolutely. But things cost more, particularly people and equipment. Whether we have more money now than 10 years ago in real terms is a good, and probably possible to answer in 30 different ways question, depending on what data you use and how you spin it!

    2. But the Italians seem to get a hell of a lot more for less money, they already have Armoured brigades, medium weight/ strike brigades, light infantry, amphibious infantry, mountain warfare troops, parachute infantry and better air defence, artillery, air support etc. And yet they don't spend anywhere near 2% GDP and have a smaller economy. Their air and naval capability seems to meet their needs better than our forces do for us, examples being the typhoon/F35a/F35b/AMX mix and the PPV versus type31/ OPV conundrum we face.

    3. Interesting.... I still think it would be useful if you and/or Save the Royal Navy and/or any other blogger had a crack at working it out.

  2. What sort of numbers would that reduce the RM head count too?

    1. In August the RM numbers were at 6,640. This is down from 6,880 in April 2016 so it's been gradually being reduced anyway. I suppose it depends on what timescale they want to lose 1,000 more by. If they want to stretch it out over 5 years it shouldn't hit us too badly really, until we're needed. By then it's too late though.

  3. Sir H, a bold but spot on article. I've thought for a while that the End have needed a refocus, given that the days over massed opposed over the beach assault is long gone.

    I'd suggest the RMs focus on three areas:
    - Maritime / Littoral security via small boat parties.
    - Small OTH (via small boat / help combination) raids
    - HADR

    I'd personally scrap / mothball the 2 LPDs tomorrow to save Ocean, which could not only act as a third OTH raid/ ASW platform, but also in a HADR role.

    1. Ocean has reached the end of her planned operational life of 18-20 years and is too worn out to be run on any longer. To do so would be a pointless waste of scarce resources.

      There is currently a pre-concept study underway into replacing Albion, Bulwark and Argus with multi-role support ships. This is the most likely way forward, with the current assets being replaced by probably 2 multi-purpose ships flagged out to the RFA. They will be able to carry out a variety of roles, not just amphibious warfare.

      So the LPDs and Argus (and probably the Bays as well) will not be directly replaced. However, there will be ships capable of performing the amphibious role but they will not be dedicated platforms. Like it or not, this probably will happen.

  4. The RN needs to be very careful here. The "cost" of the amphibious shipping is essentially 1 LPD in service and one at low readiness, as it has been since SDSR10. The LSD(A) and the LC force costs are similarly low. Compared to (for example) the cost of the SSN force, it's miniscule, yet delivers real-world effect across the scale - and wider than amphibiosity. If memory serves, the cost per head of RM training is comparable (or even less) than that of Percy pongo.

    If you really want to conduct interventions, you do need to be able to seize infrastructure - not necessarily against the Fantasians - which means you need more than a Coy group in boats.

    There is a real danger that in regenerating Carrier Strike, the RN sacrifices one of it's principal raisons d'etre - CS is significantly diminished if it cannot support ground effect.

    The real issue is of course that there's a large number of LI Bdes that have capbadges that are owned by another branch of the AF that is rather less efficient in its use of budget share and very unwilling (understandably) to cede any of it to another organisation that can do most of what it does - and more. There is also a lack of understanding in the Dark Blue field of the value of Royal vs his perceived cost - or more precisely the cost of amphibiosity set against DD/FF.

    Withdrawal from amphibiosity will (eventually) result in loss of rationale for CS and the RN in general. Not the sort of analogy you'd expect, but "First they came for Royal and I said nothing etc....."

    1. Agree with some of your comments; we need 2-3 LPDs; we need HMS Ocean as well. The author of this blog you should get a job as an accountant, he knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

      The history of the marines and the varied roles that they conduct are highly important, you cannot expect the ships cook or the signals officer to start wielding a gun in the Gulf of Aden or a set of skis in Norway to protect against possible Russian incursion. Marines are there for reconnaissance, to destroy enemy infrastructure and combatants, the security and protection of personnel / ships / naval yards and capital assets in far off places from sabotage / none Islamic fuck heads / idiotic protesters … and etc.
      The marines need to be highly trained and able to fight and survive in the jungle, in snow and in a variety of different habitats, simple because the country has commercial interests and assets just about everywhere; being an island nation does, not just mean pirate duty, preventing Spanish trawlers from stealing fish, nor is it restricted to destroying Argentinian assets in the Falklands war.

      If one understands what a cutting-out-expedition is, then one will gain a small understanding as to navy history, and what a navy needs to do in times of future war, and why the marines are not just there to protect against enemy boarders on ships.

      Incidentally, you don’t just have an army / navy and air force for war time, the best military is the one that does not get attacked, because the enemy calculates that their losses will be too expensive. In other words, the services are there to protect the peace. If you don’t fund peace protection, then as the Falkland’s war shows, the alternative is a much greater cost to life and commercial assets for the whole country. The three Falkland islanders who lost their lives because of Argentinian aggression had no say in the matter. The prosperity of the country depends on being able to conduct business in times of peace; the cost of the defence budget, is therefore, the insurance premium that everyone pays to have that peace protected.

    2. The author of this blog is well aware of the value of things - you do him a disservice. He's just reflecting the real hard choices that are forced upon those with delegated budgets in the MoD because as a nation we choose not to fund defence "properly". A choice made all the harder by our societal inability to recognise public services subject to unconstrained demand for what they are.

    3. Hi 'Not a Boffin' In 2010 we were landed with a 38bn GBP defence budget DEFICIT; we are all well aware of the 1Bn per week being spent on debt interest payments as a result of two consecutive financial collapses inspired by the labours party financial prudence and inability to manage government public services.

      BUT, the cuts on the defence budget did not just happen on the spin of a financial dime, the attack through consecutive SDRs pre-date the 2nd financial collapse of 2007. The royal navy has been haemorrhaging ship numbers since the Falkland’s war, the lack of replacement ships has been a political choice, not a financial one, at least, not in the financial years before 2007. The political spin around finances against the military budget has been played time and again in the media and by politicians. So what are the motivations against the military budget?
      I’ve just scanned though BRITAIN’S SECURITY: LABOUR’S DEFENCE POLICY REVIEW Emily Thornberry MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Defence. January 2016; its complete military waffle - Written by someone who does not have any understanding of engineering, research and defence technology, soldiering, defence, military equipment, recent military history in several European countries close to Russia; she specialised in human rights law! And voted against the renewal of trident, worked as Shadow Secretary of State for Defence under CND man Jeremy Corbyn!

      The take home here is that the labour party was and still is being run by anti-defence activists who are against the royal navy and other services as demonstrated by their cuts in ship and tank numbers and aircraft and R & D budgets before 2007. I could not believe that the labour party would be run by the head of CND. Until it happened search for corbyn. – take a look at the banner names / pictures
      As to this blog, it appears to be at times financially orientated, and is representative of the short term historical and political views of our times. I like a lot of what’s been written, but, it supports the notion of cut back after cut back being the only choice, this is wrong, spending money on defence in times of peace is cheaper than going to war, in so many ways
      A thought for your day – written by someone who has crossed the river of time.
      “Hostile armies may face each other for years, striving for the victory which is decided in a single day. This being so, to remain in ignorance of the enemy’s condition simply because one grudges the outlay of a hundred ounces of silver in honours and emoluments, is the height of inhumanity.
      One who acts thus is no leader of men, no present help to his sovereign, no master of victory. Thus, what enables the wise sovereign and the good general to strike and conquer, and achieve things beyond the reach of ordinary men, is foreknowledge.
      Now this foreknowledge cannot be elicited from spirits; it cannot be obtained inductively from experience, nor by any deductive calculation.”

    4. None of which alters the uncomfortable fact that no political parties in the UK have any appetite whatsoever to increase tax to fund defence or reduce "social/NHS spending" as an alternative. At a time when we are still spending more than the defence budget on debt interest repayment due to our collective societal inability to live within our means. Which includes the foreign aid budget.

      The witterings of Lady Nugee are neither here nor there, but should at least serve as a reminder of what awaits the country unless people grip the fact that we need to have a proper national conversation about government, spending, welfare, tax and responsibility. Something which society seems congenitally unwilling to indulge in.

  5. And - of course - Royal is admirably gender-neutral in his/her dress habits, making the force a glowing tribute for the modern diverse armed forces. Allegedly....

  6. The accountancy viewpoint in defence spending, is dangerous and limited in scope, since it does not take into account the peace dividend that is being received. UK civilian business benefits from peace, because of the investment in military personnel, training, equipment, research and development.
    As an aside, the Hurricane season is yet again giving the military yet another challenge that is eating into government finances. I don’t mind if equipment wear and tear is being paid for out of the overseas aid budget, this should also include expensive helicopter maintenance and aircraft spares and parts equipment.
    Hurricanes earn political capital, but it’s not doing any favours to aircraft, helicopters and ships that are being used to ferry soldiers, build bridges, schools and repair damaged roads, electricity and water supplies and peoples roofs in the Caribbean.
    In one years’ time, when the current hurricane season is over, the question becomes, will the armed forces find that yet again, that we are rebuilding the same infrastructure and handing out water, food, and pickup trucks from Gibraltar to the same people living on the same islands?
    It does give a feel good factor to see Britain doing something to help commonwealth citizens around the world, but we don’t want the military being reassigned to civilian infrastructure development instead of learning how to defeat Zircon missiles or catch pirates. Nor do we want the Caribbean deployment costing us any more military budget at the expense of ships, marine personnel, or F35s because the first and primary duty of the government is to keep the country safe from incursion of Russian aircraft Blackjack / Tu-95MS Bear H RF-94130 amongst other challenges from Putin.

  7. It seems the MoD doesn't understand how defence works. You set out as a government what your military has to do to support your political aims and the Military goes away with your requirements and comes back with what manpower, kit and organisation it must be to perform those tasks. This of course comes with a bill which you as a government either pay or change what you want the military to do if you haven't got the money.
    If the government doesn't want to be able to have a serious expeditionary capability it wouldn't invest in STRIKE brigades, aircraft carriers and keep the Para's intact whilst cutting the RM.
    The truly idiotic thing is that the PARA's recent history of usefulness in action as a a bridge seizing force in Bosnia and airfield seizure in Sierra Leone has been practiced by the Gurkas in recent exercises with the French and seems that they could be more easily replaced and just become a pure SFSG group.
    Whereas the RM have an amphibious capability, maritime interdiction usefulness and protection of RN assets which has not been practiced by any other force and yet the RM are taking cuts!
    Now in my personal opinion the entire force shouldn't face more cuts and the Paras and RM both have distinct precious capabilities which shouldn't be cut, especially as the UKSF are almost entirely reliant on these groups for recruits.
    I think the RM is failing to put forward the case of how special their capability set is, the USMC keep their regular forces not used in Martime Interdiction and the like in MEU(SOC) maybe we could do that but without the reduction in capability/ numbers suffered by 42 commando.
    Alternatively use marines instead of Army commandos to do the support roles, this would also prevent the army from reducing supports (as it has done recently) and mean more recruits join through the RN rather than the army.
    Overall I think the idea of cutting the RM is insane, how can you say the corps and amphibious shipping is not useful when it is currently deployed almost continuously in anti- piracy, drug interdiction, disaster relief etc. Whilst the only continuous use of the multiple army battalions is training foreign armies and the enhanced forward presence which only require a heavy and light capability and we have too many infantry battalions for either role as there are currently too few vehicles for so much armoured infantry and too few jobs for the multiple light battalions.

  8. Glad to see you're back Sir H.

    Let's hope that this is just politicking and comes to nothing.

    It's a shame that savings appear to have to come from within RN to fund RM - I'd much rather sacrifice a couple of the army's hopelessly understrength foot battalions, which they can't afford to equip anyway.

    I often think that people don't understand the government's funding problems and how badly the banking collapse of 2008 hurt us. I recently worked out that you would need to raise basic income tax by 9p(!) just to meet the deficit - and that comes before CS pay rises or spending extra on defence! I know that gov't gets money from a variety of sources, but it just shows the scale of the problems we are facing as a country...


  9. Makes sense to cut the Royal Marines (a genuine capability in which we are world leaders) to save the Army's precious infantry battalions and cap badges (that they can find no role for and cannot even be bothered to equip).

  10. Jim,

    Big hand small map; I'm no maritime SME, but 6K headcount looks a little excessive from where I'm standing.

    Cull the RM by a third and reduce the RAF Regt to a cadre force - both have a residual expeditionary FP role. We cannot be a credible 'global' power without credible power projection (at the littoral), so what is the irreducible minimum wrt to RM capability? The CVA cannot stand alone...

    Defence's headcount (stand-fast critical trades) probably still has a little wiggle room - but, as we were cut to the bone at SDSR 10, we are now probably into the marrow now.

    Just need to cut through tribal service interests... and the frozen middle ;-)


    1. I remember a few years ago when the head of the metropolitan police in london was talking about the police; but the bit that I remember was when he bragged about having more men under his command than in the Royal Navy. This was a few years before 2010; I thought at the time that he probably had quite a few ex service personnel under his command as well although he might have thought that not very important. In any event, it was very poor taste and typical of the negative competition that he was a part of.

      Its very hard to regenerate lost skills, part time soldiers are no substitute for battle hardened combatants or regularly trained full timers.

  11. Why don't we scrap the paras and the marines and then when something bad happens again the RAF Regiment can handle it can't they. NO THEY CAN'T

  12. 100 million is nothing in a Defence budget were so much waste exists in equipment buying mismanagement and has been forever really, to get rid of 1000 top quality Royal Marine servicemen, in these dangerous days when despite the small size of all the Forces the only people who have a good recruiting and top training regime are the Royal Marines is madness...

  13. The world is getting more dangerous and volatile by the minute and we are contemplating cutting our best trained and most adaptable force. Madness indeed.

  14. We need to expand the armed forces. In order to do that we need to expand the economy. The best way to expand the economy is by increasing trade and investment. The trade needs to favour exports over imports to balance our visible earnings and the investment needs to favour domestic sources rather than foreign in order to balance our invisible earnings. In short, buy more of our own stuff, sell more of it overseas and invest it here and abroad rather than constantly selling companies and assets to overseas investors. The ability to do this rests with us the consumer. 80% of everything I have ever bought has been made I'm the UK where possible by primarily UK owned companies. I'm an extreme case but if each and every one of us switched 10% of what we buy in goods and services our economy would be booming, and it's a lot easier to do than you think.

    1. It is more complicated than that. Often it is just not possible to buy British and many products are in any case multinational. Is a Honda Civic British because it is built here or Japanese because that is where the profit ends up? Where do the components used actually come from? Are Dyson vacuum cleaners British because they are designed here and the company is based here, even though they are made in the Far East? Should I spend silly money on a supposedly British but actually Chinese-made Roberts radio or half that amount on an (also Chinese) Sony radio and spend the money saved somewhere else to spread my disposable income and support other services, retailers and/or manufacturers? Should I buy British if there is a cheaper and/or better foreign equivalent? Where does the money that benefits the economy the most actually come from? Probably high-value activities such as finance and R&D rather than what I do or do not choose to buy on the high street.

  15. I think you're off a little with you're comments about sacred cows in the services. To an extent it doesn't really matter what they or even the treasury think of say the paras or the red arrows. No PM is going to sign off and take a political hit of that size, especially not this one.

  16. Get rid of Nuclear Guarding and Arctic Warfare. The CNC and MDP do the former up and down the country and a small degree of upskilling for those two organisations would easily fill the gap left by what little usable effect the RM bring to the table.

    As for playing in the snow - the thought that a small military unit from the UK (which grinds to a halt every time it snows), and whose environmental experience stems from an annual skiing holiday in Norway to learn how to throw snowballs whilst naked is going to be some sort of military match for the Russians (the bloody Russians of all people!) is pure fantasy land stuff. It isn't going to happen, so why bother?

    There you go, problem solved!

    1. Superb insight, well done. One is so wise.

  17. Hmmm, clearly the perspective of somebody who hasn't served in the Corps. Expectedly, misses the point regarding what the RM bring to the table. Let's just see what actually transpires and leave the decisions to those current and "competent".