Future of the British ArmyPosted: 31/01/2013
The institute’s Ben Barry has contributed to a piece published by the BBC today, asking how recently announced defence cuts will shape the British Army of the future. The restructured force will be cut from 102,000 to 82,000 by 2017, while the number of reservists will double to 30,000.
Brigadier Barry, who left the army in October 2010, calls it the ‘most radical reorganisation for 50 years’.
‘The Army 2020 design [as the plan is called] displays many innovative ideas and structures,’ he writes, ‘reflecting many hard lessons of the Iraq and Afghan wars and the likely challenges of future land operations, particularly fighting “hybrid” enemies and the increasing requirement for urban operations.
‘The Army’s ability to build the capability of foreign armies by partnering and training with them will increase, helping the UK to prevent conflict and get “upstream” of future security challenges.
‘While new armoured vehicles, drones and helicopters are funded, the project relies on successful withdrawal from Afghanistan, and bringing back the weapons, vehicles and equipment there.
‘Increasing the effective strength of the reserves is achievable, but will require new thinking, cultural change in both the reserves and the regular Army and gaining the support of employers. While the regular Army is to contract by 2015, the reserves are not due to reach their full capability until 2018.
‘Decreasing opportunities for adventure and excitement could make it difficult to retain the brightest and best combat-hardened talent and to recruit sufficient new soldiers and officers.
‘Notwithstanding the reduction in size, the reforms have the potential to transform the Army’s remaining capability.
‘Success depends not only on the programme being properly led, managed, resourced and politically supported, but also on the government not committing the Army to new operations that overmatch its reducing size – particularly while it is still fighting in Afghanistan.’
Others giving their opinions on the changes include former defence secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, Prof John Gearson from King’s College London Centre for Defence Studies, and Nick Harvey, former Liberal Democrat armed forces minister.