Former UK service chiefs have spoken openly about the current state of our forces, telling a House of Commons Defence Committee that they are near breaking point and on the edge of capacity.
While it is normal for Service Chiefs to complain about the level of defence budgets not being high enough this warning comes as a result of over spending on the renewal of the Trident nuclear submarine fleet and two new Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers, that only yesterday we reported had its Wardroom furnished by super yacht company Trimline.
General Sir Richard Barrons, who retired last year as commander of joint forces command, estimated there was a £2bn gap between the defence budget and the programme the forces were being asked to carry out.
Barrons also described a proposed cut to the size of the Royal Marines as “madness”, a view echoed by Adm Sir George Zambellas, the former First Sea Lord, who also retired in 2016.
Zambellas said that while the marines, which he described as a “Premier League fighting force”, made up only a small proportion of the total number of troops they contributed up to half of the special forces.
He also said that the services had been under-resourced for years and the choice being offered to service chiefs amounted to whether to cut off a right arm or a left one.
Also giving evidence was Air Marshal Barry North, former deputy commander (personnel) at RAF Air Command. He told the House of Commons Defence Committee that assumptions relating to the capabilities of the UK’s allies, which were made in the 2010 and 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Reviews (SDSR), now needed to be looked at again.
This was due to NATO and European allies suffering similar fiscal challenges – leaving the UK unable to rely on a foreign party to provide a capability that we cannot provide ourselves.
These views shared by the former chiefs will form part of an investigation into the latest defence review, which is scheduled to announce its findings next month and which will almost certainly mean more cuts.
It would appear that the former disgraced Secretary of State for Defence got out just at the right time as the review presents an early headache for his replacement Gavin Williamson.