2010 will be remembered as a difficult year for Defence. Not only have our Armed Forces been fighting hard in Afghanistan but we have also navigated a very difficult Strategic Defence and Security Review. I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you - military and civilian alike - for all you have achieved and for the support that I and my fellow Ministers have received.
Afghanistan remains our Main Effort, and once again your performance has been outstanding. We will never forget those who have fallen, and we will do everything we can for those who have been injured, both physically and mentally.
I have visited Afghanistan a number of times this year. I’ve been humbled by the professionalism and determination on display and I see positive changes each time I return. I am cautiously optimistic that we have turned a corner. We now have the right strategy, we’re making steady progress, and we will ensure you have the tools you require to do the job.
Of course, operations are not limited to Afghanistan. Many of you are deployed for instance countering piracy, defending the Falklands, providing the continuous-at-sea deterrent, and you stand ready to deliver humanitarian assistance wherever required. You have kept us safe here at home, patrolled the seas and skies to deter those who would test our resolve, and lent your assistance through snow and flood whenever needed.
To everyone involved on operations, particularly those who are far from their loved ones this Christmas, thank you for what you’ve done and continue to do - day-in, day-out, week-in, week-out.
You have also risen to the challenge of the Strategic Defence and Security Review - the SDSR. The work on the SDSR didn’t just begin in May. Many of you worked long and hard on the Green Paper and other studies that informed the review, and I’ve seen at first hand the incredible demands that delivering in the timescale required has placed on many people.
We all knew that after 12 years without a review significant change would come. I am acutely aware that behind every number is a person, livelihood and a family who through no fault of their own face uncertainty. The dire financial circumstances the new Government inherited and our determination to protect the mission in Afghanistan means that we had to make some very difficult decisions - decisions that we have taken no pleasure in, and decisions that I know have been painful for many people.
We now have a clear vision for Defence. Future Force 2020 will be one of the most powerful and sophisticated on the planet and will endure long into the 21st century. The task of implementation ahead will not be plain sailing but I know that everybody in Defence, civilian and military, will knuckle down to the task ahead and continue to show the dedication and commitment which keeps our nation safe.
Successful countries are not those who look inward or backward to former glory, but those who look outward and forward to future threats and future opportunities. The last twelve months have been tough. But we are in a far more sustainable position than we were twelve months ago. Working together, we have what it takes to embrace the future and make a success of what is asked of us.
I wish you all, and your families, a very Merry Christmas.