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Defence Cuts - Statement by the Secretary of State and cuts to MOD - 27 June 2011

Published: 27 Jun 2011

Military commanders who have spoken out against the ability to continue operations in Libya are putting lives at risk, Liam Fox said today.

From the Daily Telegraph 27 June 2011. (Note: items which appear in the FAAOA News from general sources may not necessarily always represent FAAOA policy or FAAOA views).

Admirals and Air Marshals who, in the last week have voiced concerns over the sustainability of their forces to carry on attacking Libya, were giving strength and hope to Col Gaddafi’s regime, the Defence Secretary suggested.

In a private speech leaked to The Daily Telegraph last week, Air Chief Marshal Sir Simon Bryant said RAF morale was “fragile” and questioned whether Air Force operations could continue beyond September without cuts elsewhere.

His remarks came a few days after Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, the First Sea Lord, also questioned whether his forces could sustain the Libya campaign after severe cuts in the defence review.

But in a speech on major reforms to be introduced at the Ministry of Defence, that will include a purge of generals, Dr Fox gave a severe warning to senior officers.

“We must be very careful, those of us who have authority in defence, in discussing the sustainability of our mission. People’s lives are at stake. There can be only one message that goes out to Libya that is we have the military capability, political resolve and legal authority to the through what we started.”

He then added: “We will continue our mission until our mission succeeds and Col Gaddafi must get no other signal than that.”

His words follow the rebuke to commanders by David Cameron, the Prime Minister, who last week following the Telegraph’s report on Air Chief Marshal Bryant, said “you do the fighting, I’ll do the talking”.

Earlier, Dr Fox warned that high-ranking members of the Armed Forces including generals, admirals and air marshals are facing the sack because the Government wants to reduce military bureaucracy by cutting "the star count".

Dr Fox said he wanted to see "new career structures" and "better streamlined management" in the military because over-complicated decision-making had "bedevilled" the UK's defence for many years.

Dr Fox told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "There is a very strong case for reducing the star count in the Armed Forces to create space for those coming up the ranks."

He also fired the latest salvo in a bitter public exchange of views between senior politicians and military chiefs, which has seen leading figures in the Royal Air Force, Royal Navy and Army all question Britain’s ability to conduct wars in Libya and Afghanistan with a diminishing budget.

He said: “In a war you have got to be careful of the messaging you give to the other side.

“There is a time and a place for anyone in the Armed Forces to give ministers a message and they have a much greater chance of success in delivering it in the appropriate manner.”

His comments came hours ahead of an official review due today, which will report that the “bloated and dysfunctional” Ministry of Defence leaves ministers “in the dark” about key decisions. . . .

In the new report, Lord Levene’s defence reform unit will call for a sweeping overhaul of the structure and management of the MoD, saying that military chiefs must be made accountable for their own budgets.

In a speech, Dr Fox will say that Lord Levene has found that he leads a “department with overly bureaucratic management structures, dominated by committees that led to indecisiveness and a lack of responsibility”.

The unit is particularly critical of the Defence Board, the MoD’s top decision-making body, which includes senior officials and the heads of the three Armed Forces, but no politicians.

“A bloated top-level defence board without ministerial membership allowed strategic decision to drift, unable to reconcile ambition with resources,” Dr Fox will say, adding that the board has left “budget holders without the levers needed to deliver and ministers in the dark”.

In response, the individual heads of the Navy, Army and Royal Air Force will lose their seats on the board, but the Chief of the Defence Staff will remain.

Under current practice, the heads of the three services follow relatively narrow career paths, with the Army almost always led by a former infantry commander and the RAF by a former fast jet pilot.

Under the Levene changes, officers with experience from outside their service’s core activity could compete for the top jobs. That could eventually allow a Royal Marine to become head of one of the services for the first time.

Dr Fox will confirm a report in The Daily Telegraph on Saturday that the defence budget still faces a multibillion-pound deficit that could force him to make more cuts in the Forces.


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