Why is morale low in the armed forces?
Defence Secretary Phillip Hammond has outlined which of the army battalions would be axed in the current round of defence cuts. These cuts will affect the Royal Welsh which will lose its 2nd Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers which will lose its second battalion and the Yorkshire Regiment will lose its second and third regiments. The Mercian Regiment will be scrapped altogether and the royal regiment of Scotland will be kept at one battalion for ceremonial duties.
This is the latest in a long line of hits that the armed forces have taken but this is the first that has hit the army directly. By the end of the cuts the army will be reduced to 82,000 the lowest number since the Napoleonic Wars. According to future force 2020 these defence cuts will according to the government “save money [and] would still be able to deploy a similar sized force to that deployed in Afghanistan.”
It would appear to this author that the Defence Secretary as well as the government itself is living in dream land if they believe this. According to FutureForce 2020 the army would re organised around “one specialist high readiness brigade; five multi role brigades (one at high readiness) for intervention and stability operations.”
We have seen this before with the simultaneous operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan from 2006 until the drawdown of operations in Iraq at the back end of last year. We tried to conduct two intervention and stability operations at the same time but it was only when the American’s began their surge in 2007 that Iraq quietened down. Could this happen again for British armed forces? I doubt it; we do not have an army navy or air force that is half as well equipped as the American armed forces.
Even the politicians it would appear now do not believe that the Future Force 2020 plans will work. It was reported in the Daily Telegraph on the 6th July that “David Cameron is facing a Conservative backlash against savage plans to cut the Army to an astonishingly small size and reply on part time soldiers” . This is at a time when it is a recognised fact that fewer people are opting to join the Territorial Army, the latest figures show that the Territorial Army (TA) only has a working capacity of 14,000 soldiers when ‘army 2020’ requires the TA to be beefed up to 30,000 and given better equipment.
This programme for the Territorial Army needs money spending on it but money needs to be spend in the right areas and everyone involved needs to support it. Lord Stirrup former chief of the defence staff argued that for the reforms to work a consensus needs to be built between the army the government and employers to allow territorials to go on operations and stay on them if they get extended and still have a job to go back to. Given that we are in the middle of an economic crisis this might take some time to get this consensus built and time is something this government does not have.
The essential point to all this is the morale in the armed forces is low because they do not know where they stand. What the government needs to do is hold its hands up explain that the army needs to be trimmed but do it sympathetically while keeping all the experience it can. Nobody likes being made redundant but this is the price of the budget overspend.