Commons Report Refutes MoD Claims of Army Capabilities

Army’s Warfighting Division Depends on Manpower and Equipment Goals Yet to Be Reached

In its Report, the Defence Committee welcomes the decision of the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) to establish a warfighting division of 40,000 troops and associated support which will be able to deploy at speed.

However, this ambition will not become a reality unless the next Government and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) provide the funding, manpower, training and equipment required.

Achievement of new formation based on standing army of 82,000 Regulars

The achievement of the new formation is based upon a standing army of 82,000 Regulars. Even though this is an historically low target, the MoD has yet to recruit these numbers. There are also serious doubts about its ability to provide the envisaged 30,000 trained reservists by 2019.

Appropriate training for the new division is vital for it to be able to counter the threat of a peer adversary. Therefore, the MoD must protect, and probably increase, the Army's training budget.

Requires an extensive range of new equipment and vehicles

The division will also require an extensive range of new equipment and vehicles. The MoD has announced an impressive equipment programme to address this need, but it is not clear whether the funding to pay for it is in place. While welcoming the commitment to the new AJAX vehicles, the Report highlights the decline in the numbers of Challenger 2 main battle tanks and Warrior vehicles available to the Army. Any further reductions—either due to budgetary pressures or programme delays—would be fraught with risk.
Chair's comments

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."

Click here for the full report (65 PDF pages), on the UK Parliament website.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: On April 29, an MOD spokesperson said:
“Our troops are amongst the most capable in the world. In the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review, the Ministry of Defence committed to providing adequate funding to ensure a fully effective fighting force,” which, as usual for MoD, sidesteps the issue at hand and makes a general statement of no actual contextual value).


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