Minutes of the All Party Group for Reserve Forces and Cadets Meeting on 9th November 2010 – Combined meeting with the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Armed Forces
Members Present throughout:
Julian Brazier MP Chairman
Bob Ainsworth MP
James Arbuthnot MP
Dai Havard MP
Mark Lancaster MP
Madeleine Moon MP Vice Chairman
Sandra Osbourne MP
Bob Stewart MP
Desmond Swayne MP
Bill Wiggen MP
Julian Radcliffe Sponsor
Colonel Hugh Purcell Honorary Clerk
Miss Kate Tattersall
Major General Greg Smith ACDS Reserves and Cadets
Commodore Bob Mansergh Head of Reserve Forces and Cadets
Colonel Nick Kitson
Colonel Roddy Lee
Lt Col Dickie Davis
Major Matt Lewis
Major Peter Baines
Mr Rob Malpass
Chairman’s Opening Remarks
The Chairman welcomed all to the meeting and started with two announcements:
1. Next week’s session would be with the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff, Chair of the Reserves Review Team, on which he and Sir Graeme Lamb were serving. He would take opinion among colleagues. The meeting would be at 6 pm in CR 17.
2. There would be a visit on November 30th to 256 Field Hospital in South London; details would be on the whip and all members were welcome.
The Chairman introduced the speakers, Richard Williams, who had recently commanded 22 SAS and Sir Graeme Lamb, who had also commanded the Regiment and was the co-author of the Pamphlet and whose last job in the Army was Commander Field Army. He explained that they both now earned their living in the “productive sector”. The Chairman handed over to Richard Williams.
Richard Williams addressed the Group as follows
Graham and I are judged by some to be counter-consensual. However, consensus with the past is never the best way to prepare ourselves for the future; or as a previous defence minister, Hore-Belisha put it in 1938, “The obviously unforgettable experiences of the past are no guide to how to perform in an uncertain future”. We are also judged by some to be “Special Forces centric”, but we prefer to present ourselves as ‘joint/global’ as opposed to ‘single service/templated’. Our purpose is NOT to promote the defence of any departmental agendas; rather, as interested citizens with experience in defence and security activity, we are guided by the security needs of the whole state and not of just the MoD. We are not employees of the state. We are guided by our conscience, not the preservation or promotion of our reputation or that of the MoD. We do not expect our arguments to win over people, just because they come from us, but because they make sense. If you like them, or you don’t like them – that is fine with us. However, enough of us, what about ‘upgrading our armed forces’ and the opportunity that SDSR provides?
We have written an extensive paper that highlights part of how we feel the UK should change the way it uses force and the way the whole of the nation’s military potential is harnessed. This can be achieved via better use of current technology – particularly in Information and Command Systems, a reorganisation of the way that defence is commanded and greater use of Reserves/Civilians/Agencies. We judge that our solution will enable greater reach, greater simultaneity, more and varied military options and an ability to cover more threats. This is so much more than re-working the dry, and easily broken, Defence Planning Assumptions that themselves do more to explain existing structures rather than integrated defence and security outputs. It is about making sure that we do not make the same mistakes as we made in Iraq and Helmand, about ensuring that we can rescue hostages taken by pirates, that we can protect the sea-lanes, prevent another Mumbai and defend our critical national infrastructure. It is about improving the ability of all within the UK to contribute to the defence of the nation, our way of life and our prosperity. It is absolutely not about preservation of institutions for their own sake. As a paper it shows how to “sweat more from one’s fixed defence cost base, departmentally and nationally”, something that is needed at a time when risks are increasing and available cash is reducing.
The basis of our paper’s analysis is as follows:
Global threat adjustments – There are more threats, not less. At the same time as budgets tighten, the UK’s interests are becoming ever more global and arguably vulnerable. In this environment the greatest threat to our activity and interests is from Non-State actors, Cyber Warfare and Terrorism as opposed to that which creates State on State conflict. However, noting this change, does not remove the need for combat-capable forces, which SDSR recognises.
SDSR, quite radically, confirms this new threat within the Tier 1 basket – which should trigger an adjustment to force structures and doctrine. But this robust and radical start, which should promote change is then confused by being juxtaposed in the Tier 1 basket with the very woolly threat of ‘drawn into non-specified military conflicts’ threat. We fear this latter and very woolly requirement probably included by the MoD, will become a ‘catch-all’ justification for maintaining the status quo, meaning that adjustments become only budget, rather than requirements/threat based.
We can hear the MoD saying: “we’d love to get more involved in fighting non-state actors, but we have to be ready to be drawn into non-specified conflict where tanks, artillery, deep water navies and bombers are needed”, as opposed to really adjusting their focus.
To us, being prepared is NOT about facing off China, or fixing our thinking within yet more under-resourced and thereby phoney territorial defence of the NATO area. Choosing not to defend NATO in this way, should be done now, freeing up resources to be used elsewhere.
As is frequently noted, we are in a constant continuum of conflict, everywhere, at every time; at home and away; with no real delineation between Homeland and Awayland. In this situation, the Military is but a sub-set of a wider system, that itself needs managing/directing at a supra-departmental level to be effective. Hence, why we welcome and support the formation of the NSC – to provide a method of securing the country that is able to think beyond the needs and biases of any individual department. To us the NSC becomes effectively a full time COBRA; although we recognise that it is still immature. With work, it should provide better coherence of thinking and action, itself enabled by better information systems – creating both a Common Global Operating Picture for the UK, as well as a smarter way of designing and executing defence and security options.
An adjusted UK Military position in the world – We overplay our military power. In the alliances of today, and almost certainly of tomorrow, we in the UK act only as an influential but junior partner. On our own we retain only a limited ability to conduct short-duration, stand-alone operations to secure our own interests; and facilitate stabilisation where we see a need for it, and when no one else will help us
On this basis, we see the UK Military being basically an interventionist force that is required to do three things to ensure the protection of the nation and its interests:
• Intervene to Protect UK
• Intervene to Stabilise
• Intervene to Support Alliances
Therefore, the basis of our military power is not corps-level land manoeuvre, or a re-run of the Falklands War; as some would argue. We must not become a ‘re-enactment Club’ playing out in our minds and in our structures the needs of yesterday. Why would one do Arnhem again, or the Falklands as we did it? We have new technologies, new options, and operate in a new world. We can and should seek to do things differently.
In interventions: if we need a template to mould thinking, it is Sierra Leone (2000) with Cyber. capability
Experience of operations. Basra and early Helmand were “The dustbin of UK COIN dogma”. Regrettably, Mass, berets and badly resourced and pseudo ‘hearts and minds’, without an offensive/kinetic element to track and target threats only produces targets for the enemy and dead UK soldiers. An infantryman without information or backed by a system that can target the offensive capability of the enemy, is just a target that is on his way to Wootton Bassett or Headley Court. Their bravery and duty squandered by bad planning, bad ideas and arrogance. As Siegfried Sassoon said, “It’s not the enemy that gets you killed but a bad plan.” Extend this to strategic insight, and you can see the point. We can expand on this, later in questions. We have all learned a lot, and this needs to be incorporated into our modern defence system.
An appreciation of new information-based technology and systems. We need to develop across defence a command system that is similar to that used by the American Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) system: a networked, decentralised command, enabling simultaneous thinking/action; incorporating positive versus negative hierarchies. Defined by ‘Mission Command,’ actually/ And ensure that as a military we can move from operating only in the Land/Air/Sea environment to also being masters of how to exploit the Cyber/Space/Communications spectrum. This is the key point that too often is not well understood. Too many people talk of Cyber operations, but have very little idea of what it is. For now, it is all fluff and buzzwords, with no real understanding or plan within the MoD and no one to lead it. We have Information systems as management systems – yes, but not as a weapon system. To us, (and we can discuss this more in questions) we see Cyber Operations consisting of:
• Defensive and Offensive dimensions.
Strategic, Operational and Tactical opportunities – focused on affecting enemy decision-making. Influencing his choices of, (for instance): To fight/not to fight, .to manoeuvre/hold, to destroy A or B etc.
• Being GCHQ-led, but not GCHQ constrained. An integrated whole in thinking and action.
• An extension of manoeuvrist doctrine, but this latest level needs an attack on hierarchies.
• The primary new focus for defence R&D, intelligent contracting/service provision.
• And so much more than just the provision of UAVs and laptops.
A need to improve efficiency. We do not need to spend as much as we do to create better utilisation rates (from assets) or whole outputs. This is not about cutting budgets alone, it’s about sensible and focussed reallocation; of change Now - too much money is stuck in capability that is required at low readiness; and not enough is being allocated to those assets required at the highest degree of readiness. Not enough is made of civilians/reservists as a source of vital and cost-effective capability.
We remain appalled by the waste, the inefficiency, the way that the MoD constantly justifies its past decisions, is allowed to do it again and no one is sacked or punished. How can this be? There is a £38 billion ‘black hole’ and no one is being called to account. This is a national disgrace, creating waste and dead soldiers, and no one has been punished for it.
SDSR must be seen just a start-point, not an ending. Changing Defence takes time, and strategic change, by definition is a long process. We see 2015 as a re-calibration point, not an ending. This change will cost; for instance, we will need to include the transitional costs of exit from Germany and take account of population Growth that limits space here in the UK, whilst potentially increasing the defence labour pool.
And finally - First and foremost, the Military must be a fighting force. We do not advocate becoming a “gendarmerie”, which simply uses forces to protect itself. We believe in the proactive use of force, but remembering that bravery and skill is not the exclusive preserve of the Regular force.
From these quick-fire points of reference, you can see there are several themes to our proposal.
1. UK Defence should transform itself into an ‘information age’ force:
No distinction between Home/Away – to ensure Counter Terrorist effect.
Investment in communications, processing, and new doctrine.
Smaller and more numerous platforms.
Simultaneous not sequential thinking; geared towards influence not destruction or ground-holding.
Less specialisation; more multi-role.
More civil-military integration; less stovepipes, greater integration.
2. The Command system should adjust:
The NSC is vital, but needs a supporting system.
Reduce the current HQ head-count.
PJHQ to go, as it adds an unnecessary level of consultation that delays action.
Whither the Single Service HQs?
3. We should adjust our view of alliances, partnerships and joint-ventures:
NATO costs too much, its utility needs adjustment.
Partnerships can be binding.
Engagements must be fluid – an extension of the ‘defence diplomacy’ idea of SDSR.
4. The Reserve/Regular Force Mix should change:
Current preservationist agenda of Regulars v. proven efficiency and worth of Reservists – right must win over might
In our model, reserves will be multi-use Citizens:
o On standby to fight conventional threats.
o On standby to provide individual reinforcements to Regular forces during early-stage interventions.
o On standby to provide formed units for stabilisation operations
o On standby to provide support to a Counter Terrorist type incident anywhere in the UK.
o Employed and paying Tax/NI, or in Education.
We welcome the Review led by VCDS and Julian Brazier, but emphasise that this is much more than a review of the TA, it is about Reserves in all areas, Air, Land, Sea, Special Forces, Cyber, Logistics; and a new system of integrating Regular and Reserves into one force. And note that other benefits to an expanded Reserve could be better management of the injured: It would cost less to maintain a wounded soldier in the Reserve on extended service than it does to put him out on the streets. This would help reduce the through life cost of the wounded as well as increasing their defence utility over time; (and we could give many other examples).
However, this change agenda must not be hijacked by the preservationists within the MoD or the single services. It requires the personal leadership of the Prime Minister and the NSC to drive this through. It is not just the National Agenda v. the MoD Agenda, but what other Departments and the Nation want of the Reserve.
Richard Williams thanked the group for giving him the opportunity to speak and he welcomed questions. Before questions, the Chairman welcomed Major General Greg Smith, the ACDS RF&C and Commodore Bob Mansergh, the Head of RF&C.
Question 1 – Desmond Swayne MP asked Graeme Lamb to talk about China.
Answer – Graeme Lamb began by drawing a parallel with the breakup of the Soviet Union, where no shot was fired but Russia was economically broke. While the West rejoiced in 1989 as the Wall came down, one of the biggest risks was that the second largest nuclear port in the world was on the threshold of being controlled by eight criminals (oligarchs). As for China, it was a country that had moved from controlled/centralised communism to controlled and centralised capitalism. He observed that it:
• had 29 more billionaires this year than last, 11 of whom were under the age of 40 and 9 of whom were women.
• was selling 2000 more cars a day, but on the other side of that coin, it had to find 24 million new jobs every year, year on year and half the country had no central heating. The point was it needed to be careful in managing the very fragile social chain.
• had more to lose by going it alone than going at it with its neighbours. It had every interest in managing a global market and needed the resources of the globe to maintain the state structure.
• had more interest in protecting its interest, not necessarily in projecting itself.
He thought it would increase its force levels and start building the sort of things we recognise as Naval, Air and improved ground forces. He said it would be a fatal error to try to match this and he pointed to China’s sense of self-importance; the term it used was “America you are the great developed power, we are the great developing power”.
He ended by saying China had more to gain from sensible and understanding partnerships than it had in contesting its right and authority in a combative nature and that we had an extremely important part to play in helping America to understand this.
Question 2 – Lord Lee asked if the precise Terms of Reference for the Review were available.
Answer – The Chairman replied that the details were yet to be finalised but the outline was in the Prime Minister’s announcement in the Commons. He reported that it would be Tri-Service; would look at the Regular/Reserve Balance and would be informed by best practice abroad, America in particular. The first meeting had been held on Monday and it had been a constructive start.
Question 3 – Bob Stewart expressed concern about how Reserves would fit into the Regular Army if they were completely changed and he asked what authority the Review team had to suggest to the MoD that they should oblige by changing the way the Regular Armed forces were structured.
Answer – The Chairman replied that the Prime Minister’s intent was quite clear, that the whole of this area would be looked at properly and that the team had already met with key people in the MoD.
Question 4 – Lord Moonie asked Graeme Lamb to comment on how General Sir Rupert Smith’s ideas would fit in with possible changes.
Answer – Replying, Graeme Lamb said that General Smith had written a paper, which was about war amongst, with and by the people and a stark reminder that defined the difference in the nature of war in this century when compared with all others. No longer would two armed forces contest on the field of battle to decide the champion, and industrial violence was no longer the preserve of an army, navy or air force. He stressed the importance of understanding cross-cultures and ‘isms’ and how 'breathe takingly naïve' was our understanding. We necessarily have a hierarchical structure devised to ensure resilience and while there may not be too many officers, there may be too many tied up in the bureaucracy and managing the institutes of state, with all the demands that Government puts on them.
Richard Williams returned to the question of a whole force. It was essential the Army was integrated and this change had to be driven from the top. What was required was a seamless move between Regular and Reserve forces that permitted operations on related tasks within the same battlespace. This change needed to be owned by the service chiefs and then passed down; it was what the Prime Minister had asked for and it needed to be considered in the context of the ‘national vision’ and Big Society; it was not something Defence could say no to. What needed to be defined was how to achieve force elements that were fully trained but not full time; that would contribute to high intensity warfare at least cost and deliver territorial defence at no notice. This should be achievable by individual reinforcements and formed Territorial units.
He believed absolutely that the TA should be deploying formed units to Afghanistan and did not understand why this was not happening. The Americans had deployed National Guard brigades and battalions in Iraq, which had worked exceedingly well. When in Bagdad, a National Guard pilot aged 60 who had wooden legs had flown him around. The UK should consider how it could do the same, how to train and resource formed Reserve units for such operational use. He then considered current homeland protection. It was the Home Secretary’s responsibility to plan the reaction to a Mumbai-type attack; but the right response, getting the SAS in the right place within 30 minutes, was only achievable by having a small, smart telephone exchange run by calm personnel with the right telephone book. He went on to extrapolate that standby TA units scattered across the UK, tasked by such a ‘telephone exchange”, deployable at short notice readiness to control and communicate, would bring a very different solution to homeland security. He thought such a force could take on an armed police role and deal with a combat situation such as in Mumbai. Despite the over-simplification, the same might be possible as a way of replacing standing air and naval forces, both of which were UK-based. If one could sub-contract the maintenance, why not contract these forces to the Reserves, thus delivering a surge capability. A reserve maritime force, capable of dealing with armed terrorists in the Thames estuary, rather than the river police, could deliver a cheap, pay-as-you-go capability. This, by its very definition, must involve society in delivering security, thereby unifying groups and bringing together individuals with a common purpose. This would be a creative use of Reserves and an imaginative way to deliver political, intelligence and security dividends way beyond the confines of weekend training and a summer camp. It certainly did not make sense to have a Regular force that was under strain, when with sufficient warning and preparation time London, for example, could produce a formed unit to take up some of the strain. It is interesting in terms of the debate that serving and ex counterparts all say the Reserves are outstanding as individuals, and no one had told him of a TA soldier who had let them down, but they did sometimes become coy when it came to them making up formed units.
Question 5 – Bob Stewart asked whether this change, this revolution, was too serious a matter to be left to the Generals, Admirals and Air Marshals. He wondered whether they had the ability to stand back and actually make the bold decisions, and if not, who should.
Answer – Richard Williams replied that the Prime Minister had instructed that this was to be done. As the order came from the elected leader of the country, those responsible for delivering security would have to conform to his requirement.
Question 6 – Dai Havard expressed concern about the lack of synergy between defence and security. He noted that it seemed as if the military were doing the military thing, the police the police thing, and both were operating in different camps. He asked what the final figure for force generation might be.
Answer – Replying, Richard Williams said it was for the Review to determine likely costs. However, what mattered was that in terms of integration of security and deployment, there existed in every village, town, county and district the ability to reinforce the emergency services with a Reserve capability. Taking London as an example, he asked how many Reserve forces could be drawn on and at what notice. During 7/7 it had been all hands on deck, and people had turned up with permissions following later. This was the way it should be done and this sort of capability should be in place across the country.
He said the aim should not be to recruit Reservists to be homeland security guards or to manage tanks covered in grease, but to employ them to have at least four roles at different readiness. These would be:
1. High intensity combat.
2. Contributing to intervention operations up to sub unit level or higher.
3. To be part of a formed unit.
4. To be able to contribute to homeland security.
This would be quadruple use of a citizen who is probably also doing a job, paying tax or doing a university degree.
Question 7 – Keith Mans agreed with everything Richard Williams had said and asked whether he thought the real problem was that people at the top of three Services did not understand Reserves. He considered that when it came to cost and deciding whether to cut a Regular unit or keep a Reserve unit, unlike in some other countries mentioned, they tended to favour cutting the latter.
He then asked the speakers their views on how to counter the inevitable loss of combat experience and skill fade when Regular service personnel resigned or retired and he wondered whether they agreed that Reservists were needed at the top of the Services.
The Chairman added that General Greg Smith had been bought into the heart of the Reserves Review.
Answer – Richard Williams made two points in reply:
• He found a considerable degree of open-mindedness among mid-ranking officers because they had seen the value of using Reserves.
• He thought that the All Party Group could have a part to play here. Over the past few years the Regular Army’s view of the Territorial Army had changed greatly and it was now seen as a thoroughly competent force that should be given the opportunity to demonstrate its utility in war. There was sufficient time over the next few years, to deploy a formed TA force in Afghanistan and allow it to prove its worth as a ground holding force. He had seen the Territorial SAS deployed by senior special operations commanders in this way, either use them or lose them, and they had proved their worth. He added that the Review ought to be able to define the political direction, identify the available resources to deliver transformation and set in context how Reserves could be used. Graeme Lamb added that he had been included in the team at the last moment and he was sure that there would be some stark statements in the Review’s findings and that they would be frank and honest. Commenting on the perceived loss of experience, he said that though it might be lost to the armed forces, it would not have been lost to society, which was why the review of Reserves was so important. He finished by saying that in his drawdown report to the Chief of the General Staff in 2003 he had written that whatever was done to retain Service people there was no overriding need to retain them in the Regular component.
Julian Brazier thanked the speakers for giving up their evening to be with the Group.
Colonel (Retd.) Hugh Purcell OBE DL, Honorary Clerk to the APGRF&C.