DefenceSynergia Challenge to United Kingdom (UK) Defence Spending Plans Post The Russian Invasion of Ukraine

DefenceSynergia (DS) has followed the recent national discussion over UK Defence spending for Her Majesty’s Armed Forces with increasing dismay. Despite the obvious change in the geopolitical threat to this nation and her allies driven by the total disregard for international norms by a revanchist Russia, few in political or secular authority can bring themselves to admit that UK Defence spending must be increased to pre–1990 ‘peace dividend’ levels of circa 4%.

 

According to official UK Public Spending figures Defence spending was pretty steady at circa 5.5 percent GDP in the 1970s, peaking at 5.95 percent of GDP in 1982 at the time of the Falklands War. Defence spending then declined to circa 5.0 percent in 1987, before stabilising at 4 percent of GDP in the early 1990s.

 

We all know where that figure is now – circa 2.2% of a declining GDP! Yet the government is out of touch and is ignoring a senior military adviser, the Chief of the General Staff (CGS) and the Secretary of State for Defence. This is ignorance and/or stupidity of the highest order.

 

The UK cannot fight a ground war with so few ‘boots on the ground’ and the lack of offensive and defensive Land, Air and Naval Power. If we want the UK to play a real role in international security we must spend money on recruitment and equipment now and at a greater rate than the wholly inadequate 2.5% of GDP promised over the next 8 years. The mismatch is here, now!  Additionally, it is worthy of note that the declining defence budget includes items could not be defined as belonging to the defence and security budget such as veterans pensions that contribute nothing to lethality.

 

DS asks itself – what should any of us do?

 

We should point out the glaring anomalies in our defence posture, question them and suggest a plan to take each service forward into realistic war fighting positions.

 

DS thoughts are as follows, others may think differently:

 

  1. As already stated, 2.5% is paltry, especially when compared to some other departmental budgets like Welfare, The NHS and Education. Priorities must adjust irrespective of political and electoral drivers. In the spot light must be: the oft recounted inefficiencies in our most beloved departments of Health, Education and Welfare. Surely funds from the pruning and improvements in these ministries could be redirected towards the immediate National threat.

 

  1. DS says our armed forces are not fit for purpose when measured against major antagonistic combatants, particularly when analysed for size, equipment capabilities, depth of resources. And the plans to reverse these inadequacies are either too long term, inadequate or non-existent to be of any use against the current and emerging threat whatsoever. The Russians are in Ukraine now! China is sabre rattling over Taiwan now!

 

Government should plan to reverse these blatant inadequacies by increasing the defence budget to match a programme of improvement across all services. This is not to imply a lavish spending spree but to steadily increase to 4% against a practically achievable programme as, perhaps, envisaged by CGS. The Royal Navy could, as another example, accelerate escort production and transform our aircraft carriers into effective Carrier Strike Groups, maintain our SSBN numbers and increase SSN numbers. There are restructuring savings to be harvested in MOD while a true trusting relationship with defence industry – one UK security/ defence team – would pay large dividends to the nation.

 

 

We have entered an era of greatly increased threat reminiscent of the late 1930s and the UK’s defence and security profile must be raised to match this whilst also making sure that we remain at the forefront of ISTAR (information and communication) cyber and space warfare. The UK will never have all the assets this requires in the numbers that we would wish for. This is why the Government and MOD must embrace all forms of combat multipliers such as air to air refuelling, common NATO munitions, the single fuel concept and most important of all Cooperative Engagement Capabilities (CEC).

 

DS believes that this short appraisal is something for all concerned parties to build upon.