There are planned defence cuts which may see the British Army shrink even further from the 82,000 regular personnel it currently has.
The Ministry of Defence is bracing itself for ‘brutal defence cuts’. While the MoD has outlined a list of options which, including cuts to the Royal Marines and amphibious vessels, there are no plans to cut funding for the Trident nuclear deterrent. We must not forget that ‘conventional deterrence’ in the form of the number of troops, ships and tanks is equally vital to the defence of the realm and has to be guaranteed or our credibility as a global power will be in doubt.
The National Audit Office has warned the British Army cuts will significantly risk its operational abilities. The move to raise the number of reservists from 19,400 to 30,000 may not be fully realised until 2025. While there is the rationale this will save money to the sum of £19bn, it serves to hollow out our conventional capabilities and in my opinion serve to weaken our armed forces, placing Britain’s credibility as a global player and a military ally in doubt. That is not to say that having a Reserve Army is not in the national interest but for the nature of this argument, it has to operate in conjunction with regular Army. However nothing ever stays the same in international affairs, and if anything global politics and emerging security dilemmas are becoming less predictable.
Britain’s ability to act unilaterally in this changing strategic context has been placed in doubt – with politicians in Westminster more concerned about accountancy than military affairs. Now more than ever Britain as a global player is facing decline on the world stage, while the nature of the threats this country may be facing in the future may indeed be multiplying. I argue, what is needed in 2018 is a fresh strategic defence review which properly looks at realigning our military capabilities with the changing nature of the threats we face, and maybe then we can have a properly tailored defence policy which meets our strategic needs.
Conventional deterrence should remain just as important as any other weapon system or capability that Britain has and it is the opinion of this author, that cutting our armed forces will have a detrimental impact on our strategic ability to project our forces overseas.