Following the publication of the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), the Defence Committee has reviewed aspects of the plan and has reported its findings.
In its latest report the Committee has welcomed the decision of the review to establish a warfighting division, comprising 40,000 troops and support that can deploy at speed. However, it has warned the Government and MOD that funding, manpower, training and equipment could restrain these ambitions.
The main stumbling blocks will be in recruitment and equipment. The warfighting division can be formed with a standing army of 82,000 regulars, although this is a historically low target, the MoD has yet to recruit these numbers. There are also doubts over recruitment of trained reservists.
Appropriate training would also be required for the troops, which may lead for an increase in MoD training budget.
As well as training, the equipment budget would be expected to increase in order to equip the new division with an extensive range of equipment and vehicles. And while the MoD has an equipment programme in place, the Committee has questioned where the funding will come from and highlights the decline in equipment numbers while new technology is being procured.
Chairman of the Defence Committee, Dr Julian Lewis MP, says: “The creation of a warfighting division is designed to counter the increasing threat of state-on-state conflict identified in the 2015 SDSR. No longer are counter-insurgency campaigns top of our agenda. To be a credible force, the division must be fully manned and fully equipped. The MoD’s future equipment plans are heavily dependent on identifying and achieving billions of pounds in so-called ‘efficiency savings’ over the decade ahead. So, while the Army’s ambition is laudable, the MoD and the next Government must make it a reality.
“As in many other areas of Defence, the work of the Army is constrained by the fact that Defence expenditure has fallen to an unacceptable level in GDP percentage terms: until the mid-1990s, the UK never spent less than 3 per cent of GDP on Defence. Until we accept the need to spend more than the 2 per cent NATO minimum, the timely establishment of the warfighting division, and the attainment of our manpower and equipment goals, cannot be taken for granted.”
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