Speech by Michael Fallon, Secretary of State for Defence
Just last week we marked Armed Forces Day
…as literally thousands of people came together
…from Cleethorpes… where I attended with the Prime Minister
…and places in between
…to applaud…as members of the public… the immense contribution of our Army.
In a few days’ time
…local communities up and down the land
…will gather once more
…this time not in celebration
…but in commemoration
…as we mark 100 years on
…from that immense battle
…fought in the trenches of the Somme.
…are worlds apart from their WW1 counterparts
…in terms of firepower, technology and protection
…yet they do share the same commitment to service
…the same passionate belief in the values of our nation
…the values of justice and tolerance and freedom
…that are worth fighting for now as they were worth fighting for then.
Values under attack
And they do have to be fought for now.
100 years after the Somme, those values remain under attack.
From Islamist extremists… who most recently wrought havoc in a concert hall in Paris and in a nightclub in Orlando.
From aggressor states…like Russia… who continue to menace the Ukraine.
From rogue nations like North Korea…who keep rattling their nuclear sabre.
But just as our forefathers did 100 years ago, today we face those dangers head on.
Last year we had almost 80,000 British soldiers deployed on more than 380 commitments in 69 different countries around the world.
This year our troops have maintained that relentless pace.
Today they are training tens of thousands of Iraqis and Kurds to counter Daesh.
They are assisting Nigerian forces to take on Boko Haram.
And they are providing essential support to our Ukrainian allies as they stand firm in defence of their nation’s territorial integrity.
Our personnel…our service people… around the world are making a difference.
And they deserve our heartfelt thanks.
It is through their service that they remind us
…that if we’re to continue protecting our own people
…projecting our influence
…promoting our national prosperity
…then we have to have a strong Army out in front leading the way.
Investing in a strong army
Now not so very long ago, Malcolm, there were some who questioned this Government’s commitment to the Army.
In fact, I now recall standing at this very lectern a year ago
…fielding a barrage of questions
…polite but firm
…about forces being hollowed out
…budgets being constrained
…and continual retrenchment.
Yet, barely a week after that conference…of course because of that Conference!…the Chancellor announced that we would not only meet our 2 per cent NATO target
…but that our budget would grow for the first time this April in real terms and would go on growing for each of the next six years.
And, as you have said, a few months after that the Strategic Defence and Security Review decided
…to put us back on the map
…by investing in stronger defence
…in the shape of Joint Force 2025
…an Air Group
…a Maritime Taskforce
…and a Land Force made up of 112,000 Regulars and Reserve
…able to deploy more rapidly an expeditionary force of around 50,000
…20,000 more on the equivalent review four or five years before
And committed over the next five years to spend some 12bn on the Army’s equipment programme alone
Some 28bn over the next 10 years up till 2025.
That additional force will give us a war-fighting division
…optimised for high intensity combat operations
…including two new strike Brigades
…able to deploy over long distances.
It will give reconfigured infantry battalions
…who will increasingly contribute to countering terrorism and building stability overseas.
And it will give us firepower to match this additional manpower.
…digitally-enhanced Ajax armoured vehicles
…Mechanised Infantry Vehicles
…Warrior Fighting vehicles
…upgraded Apaches and Chinooks
…and cutting edge Remotely Piloted Air Systems.
And I can announce today that we’ve signed a £80m support contract with Thales
…that will keep our Watchkeepers flying high for years to come
…helping in the process to sustain 80 jobs and more in the supply chain. So we know now from the SDSR…what our future force… will look like.
But the questions for today go much deeper. . And they return us, as you said Malcolm, to the theme of this conference, “adaptability”.
How should the Army adapt to a much more complex age?
How can we make sure, as you’ve already been discussing in earlier sessions, that the Army does have the ability to react to such a wide range of threats
…whether simultaneously from the East or South
…whether from conventional or from cyber warfare.
In answering that question, I would like to set out my vision of Army 2025
In my view, it should be a future force with three essential characteristics:
First, it should be an integrated Army.
I don’t mean an Army structure that’s better integrated.
I don’t mean an Army that’s better integrated with the Royal Navy and Royal Airforce - they’re already doing it.
I mean an Army that is integrated with the “whole of Government”.
Increasingly, the threats we face transcend departmental boundaries.
Tomorrow’s Army is going to be working more closely than ever before with Intelligence Agencies, with the Police and Home Office to deter and respond to threats.
It will joining up with key government departments to support national resilience contingency planning.
It will be building stability overseas by improving our partners’ abilities to deal with terrorism, radicalisation and extremism.
Now the Army, of course, always been more than just a blunt instrument.
It’s always been an organisation with the skills, the intelligence and on-the-ground knowledge of how to make as well as how to break.
And having fully absorbed CGS’s doctrine note on integrated action…that he released last year…I want to see Army 2025 fully utilise its in-depth expertise
…not just in theatre but at the heart of our government
…helping to shape and inform the decisions that are taken in government
Secondly, I want to see Army 2025 dominate
…not simply enter…the information space
…in the way the Army currently masters the physical terrain.
We can already see our adversaries waging war differently
…using cyber to take down infrastructure
…using social media to spread misinformation
…using chat groups and rooms to radicalise followers.
The Army of the future
…will be plugged into the digital age.
It will be able… in the words of those tech experts over at Silicon Valley
… “to translate the virtual bits into physical atoms”
…that emerge from multiple receptors
…whether digital tanks…carriers…or the F35.
And it will have the capability to deploy that real-time information
…to disrupt and dismantle our adversaries’ capabilities
…to help inform political decision making
…and to deliver…above all…a faster truth to our public.
So just as the pioneers of air support and tanks were to be found in the later stages of the battle of the Somme
…so the pioneers of information warfare will now be found amongst our men and women of 77 Brigade and 1st Reconnaissance Brigade.
They’re already learning ways to improve information…influence capabilities
…counter hybrid warfare techniques
…and improve battlefield intelligence.
And along the way they are pioneering techniques that will undoubtedly be taken up throughout the rest of the Army.
They’re discovering how to use more flexible terms-of-employment so we can do more to tap into the deeper wells of talent within our country.
They’re breaking down barriers in the way we organise ourselves so that our intelligence analysts receive the information from unmanned aerial systems more swiftly.
And they’re finding out how to give our deployed forces even greater access to the additional expertise and services that UK assets can provide worldwide.
I believe that impact will in time be revolutionary.
Third, Army 2025, as Malcolm reminded us, will be international-by-design.
Thanks to the Army 2020 refine programme we will be a force to be reckoned with…with a full array of capabilities to operate alone if required.
But we will also be in a much better position to work together with our global partners.
And make no mistake…regardless of the result of the referendum… we will remain a major international power with global responsibilities.
Leaving one particular union means we will have to work even harder with our commitment to others and to our key financial operations.
We will continue to be leading members
…of NATO …of the UN Security Council …of the Commonwealth …of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe …of the Northern Group of European nations …of the Five Power Defence Arrangements in the Far East …of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance
And we will continue to be a country with strong and valued Defence relationships
…with the United States
…and with countries around the world.
The result of the referendum does not change our global outlook.
We will continue to fight terror with our partners
…to support counter migration efforts
…whether organised by NATO or the European Union…or the United Nations.
We will continue to tackle counter-arms smuggling.
We will continue to deepen and broaden those relationships we set out in the Strategic Defence and Security Review last year.
That’s why Army 2025 is being configured to l operate predominantly in combined formations
…as part of NATO’s VJTEF…which we lead next year
…as part of our Joint Expeditionary Force of northern European nations.
That combined formation in each case exemplifies the sort of relationship that international-design will forge and sustain.
So Army 2025 will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our American allies …building on the strength of our existing partnership.
…building on the regular joint exercises between our nations
…and the recent agreement to integrate more effectively a UK division into a US corps.
…and the fact we’re one of the few Armies in the world able to match the tempo of the US Higher Headquarters.
And that’s why Army 2025 will also be there alongside our French colleagues.
And this year we’re not just looking back
…to the Anglo-French efforts on the Somme
…but looking forward…with the successful testing of our Combined Joint Expeditionary Force.
And beyond that, I want Army 2025 to be the partner of choice for smaller nations.
…giving us greater options for a sharper and speedier response against our adversaries.
That’s a network that is being strengthened and expanded all the time
…through our Specialised Infantry Battalions
…through our culturally-aware regional specialists
…through our world renowned military courses
…and the events we hold …such as the conference we’re in with you today
Above all…through the routine engagements of our troops throughout the year… throughout the world.
This year there have already been more than 100 such tasks ranging from Belize to Burkino Faso…from Ethiopia to Egypt…from Sierra Leone to Singapore.
Just this week British troops deployed again on exercise in the Ukraine .
So that’s my vision for Army 2025.
And I need only add that this is a force whose diversity of allies
…needs to be matched by the diversity of its own personnel.
By 2020, as you know, we want 10 per cent of new soldiers to come from an ethnic minority background.
We want more than 15 per cent to be women.
And we want them…in both cases…not simply to make up numbers
…not simply to meet a Government target
…but to bring their skills and their talents to every part of the Army
…and to every corner of the world in which our people serve.
These are the people with the talent that takes them to the very top.
And this will be a force
…that represents the nation
…that enjoys…as it did last week…the nation’s wholehearted support
…and a force that is admired worldwide for the values that it embodies.
So let me conclude by saying…that is the Army 2025 that I want to see in the coming years.
A stronger, forward leaning force, leading a more secure, more prosperous and more confident country into the future.
And though we don’t know today…when and where the British Army will be deployed next… I do know that where it is deployed it will be used successfully.
…not just because of the building blocks are already in place
…not even just because we are now putting our money where our mouth is
…but above all because of the iron will and determination
…that once drove those heroes on the Somme
…to preserve the freedoms we cherish against the forces of aggression and intolerance and injustice
Because that determination and iron will
…after all these years
…the driving force of our militarily today.