Last week, the final tranche of redundancies within the British armed forces were announced. This fourth tranche, whilst it may have been expected, will still bring a new air of uncertainty to those finding themselves at risk. The announcement concerned specific time-lines, redundancy fields and the numbers to be cut.
"I know this has been a painful process, but completion of this final tranche will mark a turning point" - Philip Hammond MP (Secretary of State for Defence).
The British Army are to lose 1,422 posts and the Royal Navy (RN) will lose ten posts. The Royal Air Force (RAF) find themselves losing 69, a compromising position for some. The bulk of RN and RAF losses took place during earlier redundancy tranches. A total of 1,501 posts will be lost in this tranche, the expected exemption remains in place for those either in or preparing to deploy to Afghanistan.
Transferring to a different trade within the armed forces is a possibility for some. However, with the risk of dropping pay and moving into a job they can't put their heart and soul into, many will take the redundancy money and run.
"After a decade of unfunded promises and shortages of key equipment under the previous government, our personnel will have certainty about the future size and shape of our armed forces, and confidence that they will have the kit, equipment and platforms they need." - Philip Hammond MP
Had there not been 'unfunded promises and shortages of equipment', then cuts to the armed forces could have been very different. Despite the cuts which have been made, we as a country still have one of the largest defence budgets in the world. Notwithstanding the reservations held by many, modern advances such as the use of drones are highly useful to the armed forces. These advances are expensive, but only a week ago we witnessed the 23rd anniversary of the day John Nichol and John Peters were shot down in Iraq and subsequently beaten. In this case the use of expensive kit can reduce the risk to our forces.
"Mr Speaker, if he was a football referee, the crowd would be chanting and it would have to be a charitable crowd, 'you don't know what you're doing' and they'd be right. The government is letting down our armed forces and their families, and taking risks with our country's safety and security. The secretary of states story is one of failure on procurement, on recruitment and on redundancies. He's getting it wrong and he knows it, and today's statement only reinforces that." - Vernon Coaker MP (Shadow Secretary of State for Defence)
Over 6,000 people applied for redundancy in tranche 3, 'at the end of 18th June 2013, 4,450 Army personnel, of whom 84% (3,740) were applicants, were due to be selected for redundancy.' Some in tranche 3 may have jumped ship before it went down, yet the cries of letting families down isn't entirely justified, especially with a whopping 84% of 'redundees' being applicants. Yet undoubtedly there will be those who have had their entire world turned upside down.
"My Rt Hon friend [Phil Hammond] has said this is the final tranche, well thank god for that. What commitment can my Rt Hon friend give, that this is the very last of these unwelcome statements for many years to come?" - James Arbuthnot MP (Chair of Defence Committee)
Armed forces manning is undoubtedly a dark art that is difficult to understand completely. For those concerned at the alleged ineptitude surrounding Capita and recruiting, sources within the MOD suggest the current short fall within recruiting could have reduced the number of cuts required in this latest tranche. Many will take up the offer of joining the reserve forces but there will be those wanting to make a clean break, especially if redundancy is non voluntary.
"This will deliver us the size of the armed forces we need for Future Force 2020, of course I cannot predict or predetermine the outcome of the next strategic defence and security review, which will take place after the general election in 2015." - Philip Hammond MP
Again, these changes have been in the pipeline and expected for some time. The troubling issue is what effects these changes will have. The benefit of hindsight is something we can all rely on, after something has happened. These changes may or may not have the desired effect, if they do then we can't be certain that the intended result was achieved through design rather than accident. For those subscribing to chaos theory, you will find solace in Dr Ian Malcolm's 'Life finds a way' - Jurassic Park.
"Could I ask the secretary of state to say what everyone in this House [of Commons] feels, that our armed forces will now be up to any challenge that they're asked to do within their small numbers, and that our people should rest assured that they would do that extremely well when called upon to do it" - Colonel (Retd) Robert Alexander Stewart MP, DSO
Colonel Stewart has expressed concern as to whether the remaining armed forces will be up to the challenge, they of course will be, much as many of those leaving will also be in terms of improvising, adapting and overcoming. The armed forces are very good at making do and 'cracking on' whatever the weather, often because there is no other choice.
Several businesses are keen to take on service leavers, mainly because of the rounded set of transferable skills they possess. Lord Ashcroft held an event in the Tower of London (July 2013), where a Corporal from 2nd battalion Royal Regiment of Fusiliers spoke. In a room full of CEOs, the Corporal spoke about his career and was even offered a job on the spot from multiple employers.
Sir Bob Russell of the Liberal Democrats said, "The Prime Ministers approach to defence is the most complacent in my lifetime." He went on to quote former US Defence Secretary Robert Gates, bringing up recent comments made by Mr Gates in terms of not being able to be a full partner with the US. Philip Hammond stated that he believed Mr Gates had been vague with some of the details of UK defence policy, adding that the former secretary seemed unaware that we "were building the two largest ships in the Royal Navy's history."
There were also complaints from the SNP's Andrew Robertson, regarding current force numbers within Scotland being well below the 15,000 needed for the Scottish Defence Forces. The Defence Secretary dealt with this by saying "The Scottish government's so called plans for the future Scottish Defence Force, exist in cloud cuckoo land."
Speaking of cloud cuckoo land, as with many situations you would encounter in the armed forces, if you can't laugh at something then you would probably end up crying.
First posted at http://geordiebore.org.uk/