Since becoming Defence Secretary, I have realised quickly that it is the quality of the people in Defence that makes the United Kingdom’s Armed Forces such a potent and powerful force.
The cutting-edge, high-tech equipment used in protecting our national security only comes to life with your skill, professionalism and commitment. You should be very proud of what has been accomplished in the past twelve months - in Afghanistan, in Libya, and on standing tasks around the world defending our dependent territories, protecting our trade routes, and contributing to multinational operations.
This has been achieved by military and civilian personnel working together as a team and making sure that, across Defence, we deliver for the country.
In Afghanistan, you’ve been working hard to bring security where there has been none, and help build Afghan forces strong enough to protect their own country from insurgency. Security in large swathes of Afghanistan is now being provided by Afghans for Afghans and it is working.
This is the way we will diminish in the long-term the terrorist threat on our streets here at home. Afghanistan will remain the first priority for the Ministry of Defence in the year ahead.
In Libya, your contribution has been remarkable. Even with the enduring campaign in Afghanistan, you have shown that we have the capability and the capacity to respond when the national interest requires, in this case to prevent the return of a festering rogue state on Europe’s borders.
After 40 years of Gaddafi’s brutal regime, Libyans are finally free to determine their own destiny and Britain can be proud of the part we have played.
Those of you who will be away from home this Christmas are in our thoughts. I know this is a particularly difficult time to be separated from your families and loved ones. I speak for the nation when I say we are grateful for your commitment to our defence.
We remember in particular those members of our Armed Forces who have lost their lives this year, fighting for our national security. Their sacrifice, and the sacrifice of those who have been seriously injured, will not be forgotten.
I know this has been a challenging year for all those in Defence as we begin the tough job of implementing the changes required to get the defence programme back on track. I regret, in particular, the cuts in personnel that are required.
In some cases, people who have given long periods of loyal service will be leaving us. But the way to secure a strong future for Defence is to get the budget back on track, and we must not waiver in our determination to deliver the balanced programme for the future that will remove the cloud of uncertainty from the MOD.
We are making good progress. We have secured real terms increases in the equipment and support budget for the next Spending Review period. This means, for the first time in years, we can be increasingly confident that our vision for the powerful, formidable and adaptable Future Force 2020 is built on firm foundations.
The Government also remains committed to rebuilding the Armed Forces Covenant. We can only go as fast as resources permit, but with the Covenant now enshrined in the law of the land, the nation’s commitment to our Armed Forces is stronger than ever before.
None of what has been achieved this year would have been possible without the dedication of the men and women, military and civilian, who work in Defence. I am proud to lead such a magnificent team, and I wish you all a very merry Christmas.