Thursday, November 18, 2010

Why is the UK's SDSR like the Ground Zero Mosque?

(Artist's impression of Park 51)

Leaks amuse me.

Especially ones which reinforce my (sometimes strongly) held views about things. (And no, dear readers, not prejudices - analytical views!). And I have a stinking cold, slept all day and so can't sleep, hence blogging on this now.

So, over to our friends at the Daily Telegraph (I know, I know - rightwing claptrap etc etc):

Quelle surprise: Tom McKane's review team have written (and someone helpfully leaked) a mea culpa that conveniently blames the nascent UK NSC for the daft decisions, the rushed timelines and the no-briefing rules. All presumably correct and all entirely predictable, especially as this "Review" took as it's intellectual starting point the previous Secretary of State's (Rt Hon Robert "Comrade Bob" Ainsworth) "effort" at a Green Paper in January could politely be described as "anti-intellectual facile bullshit".

But this underscores the reason I've not blogged on the UK's Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) - it's not strategic, and it's not a policy driven defence and security review; instead, it's a cash cuts lead review which has fundamentally unbalanced the UK's military capabilities, with far too strong a focus on big toys and not enough thought on what the UK is trying to achieve.

Specifics: Binning Nimrod MRA 4 and the UK's fixed wing anti-submarine maritime patrol aircraft to save £200m p.a. at a time of increased hostile submarine operations and without credible search and rescue alternatives is abysmal, and will cost lives. Ignore the £3.5bn already spent - such sunk costs are sunk - it is a capability that the UK needed and which will be sorely missed, especially as the number of frigates and destroyers (FF/DD) are reduced (again).....

FF/DDs to 19 hulls. Which means that approximately 12-14 can expect to be ready for use at most times, and which compares poorly with the 32 that were required as a minimum in 1998's SDR. Has the RN's tasking fallen by more than a third since '98? Hardly, though their presence on the world's oceans has. But these cuts allowed the Aircraft Carrier programme to proceed......

Ah yes, the Carrier programme.... c. £6bn for two ships, one of which will almost certainly never operate British fixed-wing aircraft as the Harriers are being scrapped (a good choice in a poor document), and the other of which may operate F-35C JSFs from 2020 (another good choice if the money is ever there). But neither of these behemoths will (even if shared with the French) actually be of any use if they can't be protected, and the assets required to protect them (FF/DD, Airborne Early Warning aircraft, Maritime Patrol Aircraft, Attack Submarines) have all had their numbers cut, in some cases to zero. Oops.

And then there's UK's nuclear pretensions with Trident. A subject for another post.

So, why is the UK's SDSR like the Ground Zero Mosque? Because like that project, it's neither Strategic, nor about defence and security. Unlike Park 51 (aka the Ground Zero Mosque - which let's remember, is neither at Ground Zero nor is it a mosque), SDSR is a bad idea, and constitutes a massive missed opportunity for the UK, which will take a decade or more to work through.

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