Since 1997 Labour have cut service personnel and equipment while at the same time expecting the military to take more and more commitments. The simple truth is that our armed forces are now far too small for the role they need to play. The size of the Territorial Army has been slashed and as a result the TA is currently at its lowest strength ever.
Our troops have been sent into battle short of vital equipment because of this Government’s incompetence. The lack of body armour for example has certainly cost lives. They have proved much better at securing expensive office equipment for Ministry of Defence civil servants. Ministers claim to be spending more on defence but often the money is not spent well.
The end of the cold war has made the world far more unpredictable and dangerous. We need the capability to fight both conventional and unconventional warfare. We must recognise that NATO remains the cornerstone of military effort. Our Armed Forces must be fully capable of playing a significant part in global security. International terrorism
A combination of overstretch and time away from home means that we are losing experienced regular servicemen from the forces in record numbers. High tech equipment can help but it is not a substitute for boots on the ground.
The next Conservative Government is going to be faced by huge challenges in fixing defence policy.
First our tiny armed forces are undermanned, the army by about 2500 troops and the navy and RAF by similar proportions. This manpower must be recruited, trained and deployed. In addition the three infantry battalions abolished in Labour’s round of defence cut must be replaced. This would help extend the time between deployments and allow for training.
Many of the army’s vehicles are worn out through hard service and so will need to be repaired or replaced. There is a clear need for a tank based heavy armoured personnel carrier. We must increase the numbers of helicopters, especially heavy lift, available to our armed forces.
The announced order for new aircraft carriers is welcome but it will be years before they will be in service. Ships currently decommissioned must be refitted and put back into Royal Navy service.
Recent cuts to the RAF have gone too far and the service is experiencing marked over stretch. We need more strike aircraft and it is absolutely vital that the air force’s long range transport capability is updated and improved.
There need to de a dramatic improvement in the standard of housing for service personnel. The standard of some barracks a quite frankly a national disgrace.
The young men and young women of our armed services volunteer knowing that they will be ordered to do difficult and dangerous tasks. The Government, of whatever its political complexion has a duty to then to ensure that they have the arms and equipment they need to do their jobs. The current policy on equipment must change from ‘just in time’ to ‘just in case’.