Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has discussed the key considerations behind the role of the Army in Future Force 2020.
Speaking at the Land Warfare Conference at the Royal United Services Institute in London, the Defence Secretary said that, while the Strategic Defence and Security Review has set Defence on a course for a sustainable future, the implementation of this vision of a formidable, adaptable and flexible Future Force 2020 requires transformation in every corner of the Defence establishment.
Mr Hammond said:
Army 2020, as we call it, will deliver a new structure designed to meet the needs of a smaller, more flexible and agile Army. Set on a firm foundation, in terms of both men and materiel. Well-trained, well-equipped, and, crucially, fully-funded.
The Defence Secretary said there were three key underpinnings to the structure of the force: sustainability, capability and integration. In addition, he said that continuity would also be important, ‘retaining the regimental system that has served the Army so well’.
Looking at the context in which the Future Force will operate Mr Hammond said that in future Defence ‘will need to meet threats as they evolve, upstream and at distance, rather than waiting for them to come to us’:
That requires the UK’s Armed Forces to be intelligent, flexible and adaptable, both in approaching the fight and during the fight. With an expeditionary capability and a theatre-entry capability.
On sustainability, Mr Hammond said that Army 2020 is led by the need to recover the Army from a decade of enduring operations and transform it to face the future:
But all of us here recognise the reality that this process is not taking place in a vacuum. The wider national interest requires that we build for the future with strict financial discipline. Tackling the fiscal deficit and returning the economy to sustainable growth are themselves strategic imperatives.
Efficiency and the successful application of military force are not mutually exclusive concepts. Indeed, military productivity, which binds them together, is a key concept in the future management of our Armed Forces.
The value that our Armed Forces produces for the country is based on their capability to deliver standing military tasks and project formidable power when national security requires it.
That, not balancing the books, is the raison d’etre for the existence of our Armed Forces and the MOD.
On capability, Mr Hammond said that there will be a focus on maintaining critical skills and capabilities that would be irrecoverable and this would include retaining the ability to scale up in the future if the threat demands it and the means permit it.
I am also determined that we rethink the way we deliver every aspect of military effect in order to maximise capability at the front line.
He said this would mean thinking innovatively about how combat service support is provided and the increased use of the skills available in the Reserve Forces and from contractors:
Working closely with partners to operate logistics more rationally through Alliance structures. Looking, sometimes, to others to provide the tail, where Britain is providing the teeth.
Mr Hammond said that Future Force 2020 would embrace the ‘whole force concept’, built on three pillars: the Armed Forces, both Regular and Reserve; the civilians who work alongside them; and the contractors who support them on operations.
This took Mr Hammond on to speak about integration and in particular the integration of the Regular and Reserve Forces:
The Future Reserves must be structured to provide, as they do today, some niche specialist capabilities that simply aren’t cost-effective to maintain on a full-time basis - for example in areas of cyber, medical or intelligence,” Mr Hammond said.
But the Future Reserve must also be able to provide on a routine basis those capabilities across the spectrum of tasks requiring less intensive complex training.
The Defence Secretary explained that the integrated Army concept means, for instance, that light infantry battalions will be reinforced on deployment through a permanent partnership with reserve units.
Addressing concerns about how individual units and regiments would fit into the new model, Mr Hammond said:
I also understand that people worry about how, in the midst of all this change, we will maintain a strong thread of continuity. Retaining the ethos, traditions and connections that are part of what makes the British Army so effective - particularly a regimental system and regionally-focused recruiting.
Of course, a Regular Army of 82,000 will have a different structure to one of 102,000. And some units inevitably will be lost or will merge.
But let me be clear, we value the history and the heritage because they deliver tangible military benefits in the modern British Army. There is no question, as some have suggested, of abandoning the regimental system in the British Army.
But that does not mean that we can avoid difficult decisions as the Army gets smaller.
The Defence Secretary said that while the MOD is determined to maintain an effective regimental system, it must be based on ‘the realities of today and the primacy of capability’:
That means focusing on analysis of recruitment performance, demographic trends and future recruiting needs.
Concluding, Mr Hammond said that the Army is embarking on a programme transformation, building the balanced, capable and adaptable force structure required to face the future:
The values of the Army have sustained it through countless previous transformations; they have sustained it over the last decade of enduring campaigns,” Mr Hammond said.
And those same values - courage, discipline, respect, integrity, loyalty, selflessness - will sustain it through this transformation.
See Related Links to read the full transcript of Mr Hammond’s speech.