No Choice but Change for Britain’s defence policy

September 26, 2008 8:20 AM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

Sir Menzies Campbell MP, marks his return to front-line politics with the publication of report into the state of the 'military covenant' and Britain's defence policy. The report, commissioned by Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg, sets out the tough choices required if the 'military covenant' is to be honoured.

Sir Menzies argues that unless defence strategy is fundamentally overhauled with a new Strategic Security and Defence Review, military personnel will continue to suffer from the strains of over-commitment and inadequate equipment. The four broad options Sir Menzies sets out are: Carry on Regardless - continue to base defence policy on the strategic assumptions of the 1998 Strategic Defence Review (SDR), without the financial commitment to address shortfalls in the equipment budget. This will lead to a slow decline in capability and in Britain's standing and influence in the world. Do Everything and Do it Properly - fund the assumptions of the 1998 SDR properly to maintain both expeditionary and large scale war fighting capability. This would require significant net spending increases for the Defence Budget. Roll Back -replace the expeditionary strategy with one of strict regional defence contributing to NATO and European defence assets for the purposes of protecting the region from direct attack. Such an option would be unpopular with allies and would diminish Britain's influence in the world. Focus on the Wars of Today - prioritise expeditionary and peacekeeping missions over full-spectrum war fighting capabilities. This would see prioritisation of armoured vehicles, helicopters, strategic lift and intelligence gathering technology over large scale procurement such as fighter jets, aircraft carriers, and submarines. Reliance on NATO and EU capabilities would increase.

Nick Clegg MP, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, said:

"Menzies Campbell has produced an authoritative report that poses all the right questions which the Government has ducked for so long. We cannot continue to ask so much of our armed forces without a long-term defence strategy that is sustainable."

Sir Menzies Campbell MP said:

"Our military has been 'running hot' for years; its budget is in crisis and there are huge deficiencies in the quality, quantity and utility of the military equipment available for operations."

"Our armed forces are qualitatively second to none in the world. They do a phenomenal job for our country every day, without challenging the wisdom of their deployment, but there are now tough choices to be made"

"We have come to a point where there is no choice but change. Either our armed forces should do less and differently, or we need increases in the defence budget which will be difficult to justify to tax-payers."