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Diverting Defense Dollars

July 9, 2009

Rich Western militaries so used to proposing extremely sophisticated and costly weapons programs, almost assuring they will get passed through legislatures hungry for the jobs and votes which coincides with grandiose projects, might be in a for a shock very soon. In this new era where moneys are tight and political leaders are more concerned with propping up tottering economies, the funds are just no longer there for future spending sprees by our spoiled service folk. So instead of a rise in defense spending on just any new project the generals and admirals conjure up, look for weapons and strategies to be increasingly prioritized. Read this from the UK Times titled “Ruthless approach to spending needed“:

Resources have been at breaking point, despite the constant reminders from the Government that, year on year, the defence budget has been increasing in real terms. In reality, the MoD has had to look for cuts, and the days are over when adequate savings could be made by delaying the painting of windows or canceling training exercises…There is now huge support for the troops fighting in Helmand and a growing sympathy for the sacrifices being made, but no one in any political party is contemplating increasing defence expenditure by a substantial margin. Assuming there will be no change in approach, whoever wins the general election, a strategic review will be the only way that some sense can be brought to play in plotting Britain’s defence and security requirements…A ruthless approach is needed. If expenditure is not set to rise, the Armed Forces can no longer do everything and be everywhere. Investment should focus on the capabilities and platforms that can best be used in the future to contribute to multinational, probably US-led, efforts.

As we mentioned earlier, we see the Army winning this fight, for the simple reason that is the only rational way. When all boils down to needs, it is always the ground troops which win wars. Air Power might defend from invasion and Sea Power will sustain peace for a time , but it is the Army which ends conflicts decisively. This current crisis in spending has been brewing for a while now. Back in 2007 we wrote:

Since the Army is carrying most of the load in the War on Terror, and thus is more susceptible to reform than the other two, they should get the lions share of the annual funds, say a 50%-25%-and 25% ratio. Then perhaps their more hi-tech siblings would become less interested in fighting some future war that never occurs and be more useful in wars we already have.

Which is why we consistently plead with the Air Force and Navy to emphasize less high tech, with more planes in the air and hulls in the water. Else they will face irrelevance with the politicos choosing future force structure.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Alex. permalink
    July 10, 2009 5:49 pm

    this is what happens when you try to maintain a credible force on a budget that would struggle to feed the squaddies, let alone arm them! the budget is fine when there are no high intensity operations but there ALWAYS is and has been constantly (more or less) for over 60 years

    ’45-48 palestine
    ’48- alot later’ malayan conflict (not sure about the extent of british contribution)
    ’50-’53 Korea
    ’56 op Musketeer/suez
    ’62-66 borneo (cant remember the name of the problem now)
    ’69-2000’s op banner/NI
    ’82 op corporate/FI
    ’91 op granby/GW
    ’95 bos
    ’99-‘ongoing Kosovo
    ’01-ongoing Veritas later Fingal even later Herrick/A’stan
    ’03 telic/Iraq
    many more inbetween such as Aden and Cyprus but i cant even put rough dates to them

    my point is that for a peace dividend you really need a peace first, dissolution of the soviet union isn’t an excuse for the dissolution of the British armed forces, something i feel strongly about and one of the reasons i left (’77-’99 so there was a great deal of change in that period.)

  2. Mike Burleson permalink
    July 10, 2009 5:16 am

    You may be right Alex. Now I hear Britain is having its own version of our QDR, so all will be sttled soon enough hopefully. We have more than our share of unneeded bases as well and probably need only the airbase and hospital in Germany.

  3. July 10, 2009 4:06 am


    there is another reason why the army may not win…the RAF is gunning for it as much as it is gunning for the Navy, the Navy is having to go offensive to protect itself, and the navy has the Marines…who so far have been so succesful, the Conservatives want to raise a 4 squadron (RM for Battalion), added to all this, if the British want to maintain their presence for commonwealth, and simply status reasons, then the carriers, Amphibious Task Group, and Escorts/Subs will need to stay; although they may get only C2s and some C3s rather than the full FSC package.

    The army on the other hand, as does the RAF, have huge, virtually empty bases in germany, in the former republic of yugoslavi, Saudi Arabia, and many many others; some like BATUS in canada are needed for training and should be kept; but many were built and are maintained at considerable cost for wars that have never been fought, or have already been fought, or were fought and those bases were denied to us – so what is the point of maintaining the expenditure?

    The RAF has the added weight round its neck that it’s Eurofighter program has cost more than Trident to procure, and the costs are still rising…and less and less of it is built in the UK. The same with the foreign bases, as they are direct flows of cash out of the UK. The navy is built in britain, based in britain; and pretty much all of the cash goes into britain; thus for a government wanting to cut costs but keep jobs and therefore votes…it is the sensible option for power projection. Added to all this the Conservatives, who most likely will form the next government, have not forgotte the Falklands, they were in charge then, and whilst they don’t mind singing of Maggie T’s victory; they would rather not have that problem come back to haunt them.

    yours sincerly


  4. July 9, 2009 9:09 pm

    That may have been the Repub version. The real version was like
    – The Army was slow to deploy
    – The Army deployed about a brigade worth of combat troops to protect the few short-ranged attack helicopters that were meant to be used
    – The Apache pilots were inadequately qualified and needed more training.
    – The Army crashed several Apaches in flight training in Albania.
    – The Army wasn’t ready for Apache action before the war was over
    – The Apaches would have been much more vulnerable to Yugoslav AA than the combat aircraft (necessarily operating over enemy territory in face of camouflaged ManPADS, 14.5mm and 23mm opposition).

    Later came all that talk about getting “relevant” again and “rapid deployable” of the Shinseki era…

  5. July 9, 2009 7:38 pm

    Hmmm I remember it quite differently. The Army was reading to pull the trigger and go in full tilt. What stopped them was a weak, timid, globalistic President who didn’t have the power of his convictions.

  6. July 9, 2009 6:43 pm

    10 years ago -TF Hawk had been a disaster and air power had forced the Serbs to cede Kosovo without a land battle.
    The army was fearing to become “irrelevant”, panicked and junped on the Stryker Brigade “easily deployable” medium weight plan.

    Times are changing.

    I say: It’s just a fashion, not a long-term trend.


  1. The Wakeup Call for British Defence « New Wars

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