The full text of the message is reproduced below:
2012 has been a busy and challenging year for Defence - on operations in Afghanistan, on our many other overseas commitments, and here at home, delivering security for the Olympics and beginning the huge process of Defence Transformation. You should be proud of what you have achieved in the last 12 months - military and civilian personnel working together to protect our security.
In Afghanistan, 20th Armoured Brigade, 12th Mechanized Brigade, and now 4th Mechanized Brigade, have built on the hard work and sacrifice of their predecessors. This has been another tough year in Helmand province and we should remember, in particular, the members of our Armed Forces who have lost their lives or who have been seriously injured. Their sacrifice will not be forgotten. However, we should be in no doubt about the importance of the mission or the significant progress that we are making with our ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) partners.
And as the ANSF (Afghan National Security Forces) take on ever more responsibility for security, we will be able to make further significant reduction in UK troop numbers in theatre next year.
At home, this summer, at short notice, you stepped in to undertake the largest peacetime operation since World War II, helping to make the Olympic and Paralympic Games such a resounding success, and in the process you demonstrated to the British public and visitors from across the world that your reputation for the highest standards of professionalism is well deserved.
While our main effort has been on operations, we have also continued the vital task of transforming Defence to ensure that we have the people, equipment and training to maintain our battle-winning edge in the post-Afghanistan security environment. A balanced budget is the foundation upon which this rests and we must continue to ensure that we maintain our budget discipline.
However, I know that achieving that balanced budget, and in particular reducing the number of military and civilian personnel, has been a painful process for many. I also recognise that there is a need for certainty over the future laydown of the Armed Forces and the structure of DE&S (Defence Equipment and Support). These are both complex tasks, but I will announce the outcomes and provide that certainty as soon as I can next year.
As we undertake this process of transformation, it is important to keep in mind what we are aiming for: the most capable, deployable and best-trained armed forces in the world, supported by a lean, efficient MOD and a procurement operation that delivers the maximum effect for every pound of taxpayers’ money. There is still a long way to go to deliver this, but I want everyone, whether military or civilian, to be proud of what we are achieving in Defence.
Finally, I want to thank you all for the hard work, commitment and professionalism you have shown in 2012. I am proud to lead such a capable team of men and women. To those of you spending Christmas away from home, you will be in our thoughts. For those of you not on operations, I hope you enjoy the Christmas break. Merry Christmas.
The Right Honourable Philip Hammond MP