Armed Services Cuts Will Come Back to Haunt Us
The protests yesterday at Cenotaph’s up and down the country against the cuts to the armed services were not only justified but importantly has drawn attention to a decision which is not only unfair and unnecessary but one that will come back to haunt us in the future.
It is only a few months ago that Phil Hammond MP, Minister for the Armed Forces on behalf of the Conservative – Liberal Democrat Government announced that “we have now balanced the books and there will be no more cuts”, since when of course we have seen further cuts being announced almost weekly.
The question has to be asked is whether the Minister is either incompetent or deceitful, bringing into question once again the competence of the Coalition Government and parties who seem to spend most of their time trying to pretend everything is alright rather than address the very serious situation being faced by everyone throughout the UK, or at least those who pay their taxes.
The Government line of “we need to cut the regular armed services and especially the army so we can fund it correctly” is ridiculous in trying to justify the latest round of cuts.
Basically what they are saying is never mind the operational needs, “this is all we are prepared to spend on regular armed services and the numbers have to fit the budget”, sadly it is the line this discredited Conservative – Liberal Democrat coalition are also applying to the NHS, (cut services, increase waiting lists to fit the budget), to Education with class sizes increasing and falling numbers of teachers and to Public Services such as the Police providing essential front line services to the public, the elderly and the vulnerable.
The great strength of the UK armed services is that it has always been made up of predominantly regular full-time personnel who volunteered to ‘join up’ and as full-time professionals were willing and prepared to do whatever was required of them by the politicians including paying the ultimate price.
The role of the Territorial Army cannot be understated as support for the regular forces but it is in no way capable of being able to substitute for it, which is why the move to increase the numbers of TA soldiers and use them effectively as ‘front line’ troops on a more regular basis than at present is one that will bring with it major problems.
There is no doubt that the TA are excellent people but how can they be as well-trained as regular full-time personnel?
How receptive will employers be to releasing TA personnel for months at a time, not only for training but for deployment, and if they can do without someone for up to six months at a time why in a recession would they carry on employing them?
What will happen when TA personnel return from deployment and find it difficult to settle back into their full-time regular employment?
These are important questions because we already know that on discharge from the services there is a major problem of armed service personnel being able to settle back into civilian life, many of who have trauma problems which leads them to being unemployed and as the latest figures show end up incarcerated with over 10% of the current prison population being ex- service personnel.
What, in the official “we’re cutting the regular army to fund it correctly” line being trotted out is the answer to “how much will it cost to fund the increased Territorial Army”.
I confess as an ex-serviceman to being biased in favour of a full-time professionally trained armed services where you know that to use a favourite but in their case totally wrong Government phrase, “we were really all in it together” and knew that we had the whole weight of centuries of regimental and service history behind us.
There is a role for the irregular services and it is in some cases on the front line but I can envisage that in the future employers will be asked to provide the volunteer service personnel to for example, provide security for the Olympics or provide assistance following natural disasters such as flooding or foot and mouth outbreaks whilst the reduced regular services spend even more time on front line operational duties increasing the problems society will have to deal with in the future.
As regular readers of my blog know I have argued for some time that people serving in the armed services are treated disgracefully on completion of their service, no better example than that currently in the news of a Fijian serviceman who has served this country and is now facing what amounts to deportation because of a minor military discipline incident.
It is time this Government supported our armed services, but I fear that they won’t and it begs the question should young men and women seek to serve in our armed services in the future.
A sentiment that I never thought I would ever envisaged having in the past but one that I know is shared by many ex-servicemen and women who no longer feel proud of having served the Crown and Government whilst remaining absolutely loyal to their friends and colleagues.
Sad isn’t a strong enough word to express our dismay at the lack of Government care and consideration of those that serve with such distinction.