The RUSI Land Conference 2018 held earlier last week was an eye opener as to the array of problems across defence.
The first appears at first glance to be obvious, but it nonetheless is an issue. There doesn’t seem to be a clear consensus as to how the army should evolve. We obviously have plentiful documents and doctrines; the 96 page long 2015 Defence and Security Review is an obvious example. There’s also a 38 page summary ‘fact sheet’, available but that is just as long winded. I’ve read both cover-to-cover. There is plenty of procurement information:
• Reaffirming the commitment to ordering 138 Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning IIs
• 9 Boeing P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft (first will arrive in 2020, 9 years after Nimrod was scrapped….)
• 589 Ajax armoured vehicles
However, there is no clear consensus as to how defence should evolve existentially. The purpose of defence into the future is not something all agree on. One could write an essay on this, but if I was summarise it in short:
Our military chiefs are clinging to a platform based military. They want their new clever bits of kit. The RAF wants their F-35s, the Royal Navy want their new frigates, and the Army want Ajax, among many other things. They also all want a lot personnel.
Then we have the other group. Those like the National Security Advisor Mark Sedwill who’s obsessed with cyber, software, and AI, and less interested in platform procurement. Or Professor Hugh Durrant-Whyte, who in a nutshell, doesn’t see any need for at all platforms in defence.
Most worryingly, the Modernising Defence Programme (MDP), which will be previewed at the NATO summit in July, doesn’t look like it’ll solve this problem. It’s been written by Mark Sedwill. I got the impression at the Land Warfare Conference that minimal consultation was done with senior army officers, and the majority of the MDP based around budgetary constraints.