Army cuts will leave UK 'exposed'
05 July 2012
Plans to cut some 20,000 regular troops from the British Army by 2020 will leave the country exposed in the short term, the former head of the army has said.
General Lord Dannatt, speaking on Radio 4's Today programme ahead of a parliamentary announcement on Army 2020, said that politicians must be prepared to increase the size of the regular forces quickly in the event of a "strategic shock".
The Army 2020 plans will see 20,000 regular troops cut, including whole regiments, reducing the army from 102,000 personnel to 82,000, while the number of reservists is set to increase to around 30,000.
Asked if he thought the cuts would leave the country 'exposed, Lord Dannatt said: "We'd be exposed in the short term, but governments have to be responsive, they have to analyse the situation they find, and if it meant that we needed a larger army, or indeed a larger navy or larger air force, we must be prepared to find the funds and expand those forces and capabilities quickly.
"That's part and parcel of the whole business of government."
The army would still be agile but would only be capable of fighting one "significant operation" at a time, he said.
"We won't be capable of getting involved in two operations simultaneously of the size and scale of Iraq and Afghanistan."
The cuts would mean the army could do less but it would still be able to achieve "a tremendous amount", Lord Dannatt added, suggesting that 'expensive maritime equipment programmes' had been preserved at the expense of the army.
Conservative MP Bob Stewart, a former Colonel and United Nations commander in Bosnia,, told the BBC that the UK should have larger armed forces than it does but has a "real problem" trying to pay for them.
"I would much prefer us not to be making these cuts, and I particularly don't like the idea of cutting infantry battalions," said Stewart, adding that 82,000 constituted a "very, very small army".
"Some people say that once you go under 100,000 you should start referring to yourselves as a self-defence force because it's hardly an army."
Details of which regiments are to be cut are set to be announced in Parliament later today.
HAVE YOUR SAY
05 July 2012
Bob Stewart hits the nail on the head about trying to pay for the armed services.
This country MUST start to develop, produce and sell products for world demand if it wants to hold its head up high in the global village.
The fact that a significant part of our industrial base is now in the defence sector shows how poor we have been in the last 30 years in developing an indigenous industrial strategy for the rest of the UK.
In private hands our companies make everything from woodworking planes to motorcycles and excavators but once these industries go public they disappear and production goes abroad. Quality then gets worse as costs are cut and the brands disappear.
We will never be a player on the world stage if all we are is a cardboard cut-out of a major power, rearranging the dust behind the scenes. Real power comes from deeds not words; having an industrial strategy and a national belief to drive the country forwards is what we need now.
Either that or the same old policy since the war: Carry On Borrowing, starring Kenneth Williams as David Cameron and Charles Hawtrey as David Milliband.
Michael - Hertfordshire
05 July 2012
Sorry Michael, we could never get labour costs below China's whilst we insist on human rights.
AlMiles - Bristol, UK