One topic that my readers know I feel deeply concerned about, is Britain's failed defence policy and the urgent need to remedy this potentially catastrophic situation. The urgency could not be better illuminated by yesterday's North Korean ballistic missile test that places Britain within reach of the despotic Kim. This threat is but one of many simultaneous threats on the horizon.
From domestic and regional terrorism driven from Islamic fundamentalism to cyber espionage with its extraction of the nation's IP and its tactical and strategic capabilities to disrupt an enemy; to a weak but militarised Russia led by a capable, opportunistic and strong Putin, who is ardently opposed to the democratic nations of the West; to the frightening rise of China's armed forces and its willingness to project power globally on an accelerated timeline and whose public are constantly reminded of Britain’s role in the Opium Wars.
Yet, only the day before today's missile launch, it was leaked that the National Security Adviser, Mark Sedwill has prioritised investment in cyber capabilities above the conventional armed forces. What is most concerning is that this announcement has been accompanied by the belief that cyber war capabilities have made our conventional capabilities redundant as the ever increasingly networked weapons systems are vulnerable to be shut down or misdirected by cyber attacks during war.
The truth is that networks will always be exposed to being penetrated and disrupted, but without kinetic weapons on sea, air and land how can a war really be fought? Noticeably, the Americans, Chinese and Russians who are all at the forefront of cyber warfare capabilities and are well aware of the capabilities and limits of this new type of war fighting, have not stopped building conventional weapons platforms. So why should Britain? The only explanation is that this ill-informed excuse is being used in Whitehall to prevent the much needed spending increases in our defence forces. The sad reality is that we should not be spending 2% but rather 5% of GDP to have any hope of rebuilding our armed forces to face a conventional, high-intensity war which seems ever more imminent. Yet, for the Ministry Of Defense it is not just money that is needed, but a complete and radical reorganisation of our defence forces.
The inefficiencies of the MOD's procurement process and its sheer size compared to the armed forces demand drastic changes. But additionally, the time has come to recognise that the inter-service rivalry between the Navy, Army and Air Forces has weakened our nations defence and this has to stop. The only way forward seems to be to create a combined arms single British Defence Force (BDF), along the lines of the US Marine Corps or even on a lesser level, of the US Cavalry. This new BDF will require new training processes and especially for its officers much more general training and understanding of the capabilities of the others arms of the BDF. As radical as it may seems, in the world of high technology, the three services should have more in common than ever before. The key branches of the BDF force should be:
• Cyber command
• Space and air command
• Maritime and littoral command
• Land and close air command
For the BDF to be effective each arm would have to be balanced and provided with world class equipment. This inevitably means buying from overseas manufactures who build best in class which will be cheaper than allowing BAE systems to maintain its monopoly on defence contracts, which has in itself been a major problem with respect to units' costs. Lastly, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr Hammond, who should know better as an ex-defence minister, needs to open the purse strings to defence spending.
In 2016, I wrote a strategic defence review that highlighted the need for sweeping changes. That document is a relevant today as it was a year ago. Please feel free to ask for a copy of "A new model for Britain's Defence Forces" by emailing email@example.com and spread the word.
Our nation's survival may well soon depend on the British population waking up to the threats we face and demanding that our politicians act now before it is too late.