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Thread: British Army only needs 50,000 troops: Phillip Hammond.

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    Exclamation British Army only needs 50,000 troops: Phillip Hammond.

    According to the press today, it appears the Chancellor of the Exchequer believes that the British Army needs only 50,000 soldiers in order to deploy a warfighting Division. The Army is reportedly at around 78,000 personnel as things stand, which should be 82,000, so we’re talking about a personnel cut of 36% from current numbers (39% from what it’s meant to be).

    That is an absolutely staggering percentage and, on the face of it, shows a complete misunderstanding of how an army functions. A Division, for example, is typically around 10,000 troops as an average for most nations, and it’s roughly 1,000 less for the British Army as things stand. Three such divisions form a Corps, not an army, which means the British Army would effectively not be an “army” anymore and would consist of a single Corps and an additional two divisions. This would obviously be unpalatable to pretty much anyone in the UK of course, so one imagines that Hammond thinks a Division is around 8,000 troops, a thousand less than what ours are currently billeted for, which would then be formed into two Corps units that would form the British Army.

    For those not fully up on military terminology, an Army traditionally consists of three Corps; each Corps consists of three Divisions; each Division consists of three Brigades or Regiments. So, our army would probably be two Corps split into six Divisions, with those Divisions split into eighteen Brigades (the difference between a Brigade and a Regiment is mostly in its level of self-sufficiency). This is a rule of thumb, though, as armies around the world are organised differently.

    Great.

    What the Chancellor is probably unaware of, ultimately, is how an army works. He’s displaying no evidence of understanding that an army, particularly the British one, needs a significant amount of support. From administration, to training, to logistics, to support, to intelligence, to medical, to discipline, to operations, to diplomacy, to planning. Our army also has to support and maintain its own materiel, including fixed and rotary wing aircraft, as well as its bevy of tanks, APCs, IFVs and other smaller vehicles that it uses to get around and do its job. I don’t know because I can’t read his mind, but I tend to think he’s also forgetting that the army sees employment internally when things go wrong such as the firefighters strike or for disaster relief.

    Now, we already know one think-tank disagrees with the Chancellor.

    The Centre for Historical Analysis and Conflict Research published a paper earlier this year, pointing out that we only have a single warfighting Brigade of around 2,500 personnel and that, should it be sent anywhere to fight a symmetric conflict, it’d be beaten in an afternoon thanks to years of budget cuts “hollowing out… the army’s capabilities”.

    In short, this group of ex-soldiers and academics already believes that our ability to deploy has been binned. Cutting another third from every Brigade we’ve got would hardly alleviate the problem. A problem that, it’s worth mentioning, is causing significant problems with morale that are seeing people leave the army in droves. Official numbers from the Ministry of Defence in March pointed out that people leaving possibly reached its highest number for two decades, with 15,325 landing in civvy street. Of that number, only 1,759, or 11%, did so due to the end of their careers. 7,349 of those, or 49%, left early for their own reasons, with the remainder being discharged for medical or disciplinary reasons. Should requirements be squeezed by a third to an “army” of 50,000, those percentages would likely go up, exasperating the problem exponentially.

    Even if we kept those numbers, each year would see 18% of soldiers leaving which amounts to 9,000 a year. Of that number, 990 would be career completion, 4410 would be leaving due to personal reasons, and 3,600 being forcibly discharged. Anyone who thinks the British Army is going to recruit 9,000 new soldiers every year is, quite frankly, living in a dream world.

    But it’s perhaps more nefarious than that.

    As recently as July this year, documents were claimed to have been seen by Child Soldiers International – documents that suggested that the Army’s key recruiting demographics are 16 to 24 year-olds from places such as Manchester, Sheffield, Birmingham, Belfast and Cardiff. To quote Rachel Taylor, the charity’s director of programmes:

    ”It’s not about presenting the military as one of many options. It’s about exploiting people who don’t have a lot else going for them and taking advantage of that lack of opportunity to fill the ranks usually for the most dangerous and badly paid roles”.

    But are there some numbers as to where exactly people are coming from in the British army, and whether or not they’re from disadvantaged areas?

    Unfortunately, it’s notoriously difficult to find that out but this document provided under FOI suggests at least part of the answer, namely that Scotland provides, on average, 10% of army recruitment each year. In general, from what I’ve seen, soldiers are recruited from lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder and the percentages of recruitment go down as household income goes up.

    We also know that one part of the Strategic Defence and Spending Review was to cut the numbers of full-time soldiers, and plug the gaps with reservists. That didn’t work too well, either, despite millions spent on a nationwide campaign to encourage it; up to 2014, I recall it netted about three reservists a month. None of the recruitment targets have been met to date, and the upper hierarchy of the British Army has been almost unanimously clear what it thinks about replacing full-time soldiers with part-timers. This is also not bothering to mention that there is a cultural problem within the army itself, where reservists simply aren’t valued the same at “shop-floor” level when compared to career soldiers. I can think of no reason why they would be.

    Now, it must be said, that it’s extremely unlikely that we’ll see the army cut to 50,000. Extremely unlikely.

    But what we should be bearing in mind is that the Chancellor clearly has the military in his sights for cuts, and he’s obviously considering very heavy ones. I’ve only spoken about the army, but this obviously has bearing for the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, too. It seems to me that Spreadsheet Phil has consulted his Excel documents and concluded that the military can be scaled back dramatically in the face of Brexit, while secretly hoping that societal destitution will fix recruitment problems into the armed forces. I find it laughably unlikely that the government will somehow abandon its foreign policy of interventionism, particularly while it’s trying to cosy up to a shrill, moronic narcissist in the Whitehouse, and these commitments will obviously include the GDP spending ratio and nuclear deterrence aspects of NATO membership (which the UK tries to abide by, while next to nobody else in NATO does).

    President Arseface is unlikely to accept a scale back of this proportion, and there’s already heavy circumstantial evidence to suggest that procurement spending will not necessarily slow down. The implication is that while the British government continues to shovel money into badly negotiated procurement deals that hugely benefit private sector companies (surprise, surprise), the new equipment will have a smaller number of less professional and demoralised personnel to operate it.

    Scotland, for its trouble, will still likely meet its “responsibilities” in recruitment numbers so that young people can avoid foodbanks, and our reward is nuclear submarines in one of our most attractive estuaries and probably bearing the brunt of lost army regiments as they’re wound up.

    But, hey.

    Better together, eh?

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    I know nothing about the army or the military in general, except I'd never join or never allow my kids to join. I do have respect for those who do join up and obviously the deepest respect for anyone killed whilst protecting our liberties and freedom.

    The army are quite regular recruiters in The Kirkgate, they make it look quite exotic and appealing. Every time they're there I always ask one of them when they'll be in Barnton or Stockie or Morningside.

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    If ever there was an indicator of how tits up the UK economy is, it's this. When they cut back on the only thing that gives them a seat at the top table then you know the country is more broke than the Rangers. Successive UK governments have lied to the electorate about how bad things really are. They let the banking sector destroy the economy and rewarded them for it. Gordon Brown sold the family silver when it was rock bottom and there's nothing, absolutely nothing to fall back on. It is only Scotland's natural resources getting bled to death that prevents the UK from imploding. Do folk really believe they want to keep us because they like us? England and Wales are up $#@! creek without Scotland and they (the government) know it and have done for a long time. The general public south of the border see us as a whinging spoilt brat country, fuelled by their inherent xenophobia and racist social and media outlets. Their politicians area a bit more clued up. Pity a great number of people in Scotland think 'no surrender' is the way ahead. $#@!in arseholes.
    Game's rigged, why bother?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Beagle View Post
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    If ever there was an indicator of how tits up the UK economy is, it's this.
    Funnily enough, I’ve argued consistently for a few years that the British armed forces should see a dramatic reduction in spending. The rationale for this is that there are better ways to achieve what we need to with regard to security, and that our interventionist foreign policy simply isn’t sustainable in the long term for a country with a population our size. There’s no empire anymore; we shouldn’t be continuing to act like there is. The caveat to this, and it’s absolutely massive, is that it would require a complete restructuring of the armed forces, from the ground up, in order to build a modern military. Cutting a bit off the top, and a lot off the bottom, just wouldn’t cut it.

    The most extraordinary thing about government commentary about the military, however, is the complete ignorance shown about how people are recruited and (more importantly) retained. It’s as if they don’t know the Continuous Attitude Survey exists, or simply don’t care what soldiers, sailors and airmen are telling them about life in the forces. In my time managing junior soldiers, I found that their biggest complaint was that they weren’t in control of their own careers, and that promotion possibilities rested on the shoulders of their line managers rather than themselves.

    Absolutely nothing is being done about either of these things in a world where “service need” is understood to mean “$#@! what you want, you’ll get what drafty gives you”.

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    It seems that James Gray, North Wiltshire's MP, has this to say about the topic:

    "The fact is that the world is a more dangerous place than it has ever been; and we simply cannot afford to cut our forces any further. They are stretched to the limit, and the Treasury must dig deep and pay up. We spend two per cent of GDP on defence at the moment – the NATO minimum. Many of us would like to see that progressively rise to three per cent if we are to meet our international obligations and keep our shores safe".

    Ignoring the fact that it's nice to see someone support the military, this paragraph doesn't make a lot of sense. The threat of the Third Reich made the world far more dangerous than today, given that symmetric warfare is largely a thing of the past and the army deals mainly in counter-insurgency.

    It's also worth pointing out that the threat of international terrorism is lower than it was prior to the Good Friday agreement in '97, and that it's generally the remit of the police because we know invading other nations doesn't deter it.

    Where things certainly are more dangerous, is in the sphere of information confrontation but our armed forces are pretty horrifically equipped to deal with this because there are few recognised career paths that treat it. Procurement of aircraft carriers also seems laughably strange, given that the Royal Navy deals with anti-piracy and interdiction most of the time; something aircraft carriers are obviously bad at.

    And a desire to see spending rise by another third on defence doesn't see "some of us" quantified, nor indeed the international obligations we can scale back and the shore safety that doesn't need deployment to Afghanistan or Iraq.

    This is the problem, really.

    Politicians trying to make arguments they don't understand.

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    Thing I don't get is there's always money for Nuclear armed subs which are a weapon of last resort. If we ever use them we are already probably up the swanny. But the army/navy/air force are weapons of first resort and will arguably prevent us getting in to a situation where we need to use nuclear weapons. Or am I being naiive?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bofahibee View Post
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    Thing I don't get is there's always money for Nuclear armed subs which are a weapon of last resort. If we ever use them we are already probably up the swanny. But the army/navy/air force are weapons of first resort and will arguably prevent us getting in to a situation where we need to use nuclear weapons. Or am I being naiive?
    No, you're quite right. The only naivety you could be showing is in why this happens.

    Defence procurement isn't unintentionally terrible. It's been the case so long that "bad negotiating" isn't a viable excuse. What effectively happens is that public money is most efficiently put into private hands when you invest in equipment (that you can sell) rather than people. It's a very Conservative thing to do. Nuclear proliferation is big money, as is most defence procurement, so the government can say, quite truthfully, that it meets its NATO GDP targets; but it's hollowing out our armed forces by purchasing ships, tanks and planes that there isn't the support to fly.

    A friend of mine who left the navy recently put it quite succinctly:

    "Why would I want to be in a navy with no ships?"

    This site makes for some pretty sad reading, for those of a naval persuasion. It's all still mostly true.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zellviren View Post
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    No, you're quite right. The only naivety you could be showing is in why this happens.

    Defence procurement isn't unintentionally terrible. It's been the case so long that "bad negotiating" isn't a viable excuse. What effectively happens is that public money is most efficiently put into private hands when you invest in equipment (that you can sell) rather than people. It's a very Conservative thing to do. Nuclear proliferation is big money, as is most defence procurement, so the government can say, quite truthfully, that it meets its NATO GDP targets; but it's hollowing out our armed forces by purchasing ships, tanks and planes that there isn't the support to fly.

    A friend of mine who left the navy recently put it quite succinctly:

    "Why would I want to be in a navy with no ships?"

    This site makes for some pretty sad reading, for those of a naval persuasion. It's all still mostly true.
    Interesting site. I’ll have a good look. I always thought it was crazy that we built two aircraft carriers but only six destroyers. It takes six to protect one AC so apart from not being able to protect both capital ships there are no destroyers to do anything else. I was lucky to go aboard Daring when it was first commissioned and the type 45 is an amazing bit of kit (when it works).


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    So long as top politicians can cream off the wealth of society, lets let our troops suffer from lack of numbers eh! Well if the intention is 50k I hope they are reverting to a national guard type army like Japan, because we certainly don't wanna be involved in big conflicts. To be honest I hope we do decide to be a protective force rather than send our sons and daughters to lands they know nothing of to fight battles they know nothing about.

    But that won't get the goverment off the hook and as others have said we are basically bankrupt. North Korea must be shaking in their boots

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    In the very near future the only reason Britain is going to need an army is to keep the population in check. You know, when the celtic nations of the 'union' finally wake up and decide $#@! this, we're off, and our dear neighbours send in the troops.
    Game's rigged, why bother?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bofahibee View Post
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    Interesting site. I’ll have a good look. I always thought it was crazy that we built two aircraft carriers but only six destroyers. It takes six to protect one AC so apart from not being able to protect both capital ships there are no destroyers to do anything else. I was lucky to go aboard Daring when it was first commissioned and the type 45 is an amazing bit of kit (when it works).
    It's important to note that our navy (and forces in general) doesn't exist in a vacuum. NATO is the most obvious hierarchy we belong to, and it's commonly understood that almost every task group a Royal Navy ship ends up belonging to is multi-national - in short, we don't have to manage and support the carriers ourselves, while our own destroyers and frigates will support other national carriers.

    The problem is the cost to run an aircraft carrier, as a single unit, when our surface fleet is on the bones of its arse and our sub-surface fleet has been utterly left behind. Morale is low across the forces, people are leaving in greater numbers than ever before, and this whole "50,000 personnel" smacks of cuts rather than reorganization.

    Exactly the same will happen as with happened with the first round of redundancies. A few cuts will be made at the top (jobs for the boys), a lot of cuts will be made at the bottom, and the bottom will contract when people conclude that being in the military is $#@!ing miserable because you're never-endingly stretched to breaking point.

    Either foreign policy, and thus forces demand, must change dramatically, or you cannot shave a third from the army. It's really as simple as that.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by Beagle View Post
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    In the very near future the only reason Britain is going to need an army is to keep the population in check. You know, when the celtic nations of the 'union' finally wake up and decide $#@! this, we're off, and our dear neighbours send in the troops.
    Stuart Campbell mooted yesterday that it's only a matter of time, probably about twenty years, before Ireland is united and Scotland is independent. It's the only conclusion of this current course that the Conservative party is on, and they've neither the will nor the ability to prevent it happening.

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    20 years? I'll be deid before then. I want to see it in my lifetime and the way things are going it could end up on my bucket list of possibilities before I depart.
    A united Ireland and an independent Scotland. $#@! the rest of them
    Game's rigged, why bother?

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    I understand what people are saying about traditional armies [armed forces] but does anyone think we'll be having a traditional war anytime in the future?

    And anyway we're totally dependant on what the USA says or does. So much of our equipment, hardware and software, runs only because the USA allows it.

    We might build multi billion pound aircraft carriers but they're kitted out from fore to aft with American technology. We might build a few aircraft of our own but they're kitted out nose to tail with American technology. We don't have access to the coding!!!

    Our place at the top table is about as important as the waiter at a buffet!
    Space to let

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jack View Post
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    I understand what people are saying about traditional armies [armed forces] but does anyone think we'll be having a traditional war anytime in the future?

    And anyway we're totally dependant on what the USA says or does. So much of our equipment, hardware and software, runs only because the USA allows it.

    We might build multi billion pound aircraft carriers but they're kitted out from fore to aft with American technology. We might build a few aircraft of our own but they're kitted out nose to tail with American technology. We don't have access to the coding!!!

    Our place at the top table is about as important as the waiter at a buffet!
    I have a mate who is ex RAF. Was a flight engineer on Nimrods. At that time UK encryption was the most secure on the planet and was unhackable. He told me that when they went out over the North Atlantic on patrol, they would regularly land at Canadian bases for refuelling etc. They were able to detect hack attempts on the plane's communication systems. It was the CIA every time. Our supposed allies. Apparently the yanks we're furious as their attempts failed and they continually demanded the UK grant them access, 'cos we're all best pals.
    Wouldn't surprise me if the government sold out on that eventually too.
    Game's rigged, why bother?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jack View Post
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    I understand what people are saying about traditional armies [armed forces] but does anyone think we'll be having a traditional war anytime in the future?
    No, not really.

    Much of the "war" nowadays is fought in the information domain. That's why the concept of cyber security is such an important one, but it's something our military does very poorly because it's not recognised or funded as a capability in and of itself. Russia, for example, has an entire organizational structure committed to information confrontations - of Brigade size at least.

    In both Iraq and Afghanistan, we put down indigenous insurgencies; and that was largely the case in Libya, despite some key differences. Even going so far back as (whisper it) Vietnam, that wasn't a symmetric army versus army scenario. It was a guerilla fight where, unsurprisingly, the indigenous soldiers who were well-versed in that particular type of warfare stopped a much better funded and equipped army in its tracks.

    Our pilots don't dogfight anymore, they provide close air support and intelligence collection. Our ships don't sink other ships, they interdict pirates and drug smugglers. Our soldiers don't fire their weapons out of tanks, they put down local tribes and avoid roadside bombs.

    So, your question, is probably this:

    "Do we need a conventional army of 82,000 troops?"

    The short answer is no, but this downsizing won't be the type of restructure the armed forces needs. It'll be cuts, pure and simple, with no change in foreign policy or military commitment. THAT is where the problem with the Chancellor's view lies.

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