This week’s main security and defence news has been the election of Donald Trump to be the next President of the United States. The BBC reports that Donald Trump will become the 45th US president after victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton. The Republican President-elect said he would serve all Americans and called for the country to unite, following a divisive campaign which saw him beset by controversies. Outgoing President Barack Obama has congratulated his successor.
When Mr Trump is sworn in as President in January, he will have the benefit of a Republican majority in both Houses of Congress, as the Party unexpectedly retained control of both the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Republican nominee defied pre-election polling to claim swing states, winning the key battlegrounds of Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. The President-elect told cheering supporters that Americans must now “bind the wounds of division”, after a gruelling, acrimonious electoral battle. “I want to tell the world community that while we will always put America's interests first, we will deal fairly with everyone,” he said.
While Mrs Clinton was slightly ahead in the popular vote, in the US electoral college system which determines the presidency, what matters is winning individual states. As poll counting went late into the night, it was Mr Trump's shock victory in Wisconsin that put him over the 270 out of 538 electoral college votes needed to win the White House. Minutes after Mrs Clinton called him to concede, the US President-Elect took to the stage with his family at his victory rally in a New York hotel ballroom and paid tribute to his rival.
It is currently unclear what impact a Trump presidency will have on UK security and defence policy, despite his repeated scepticism about the role of NATO. As regards the deterrent, the UK has purchased the current Trident missile system under the 1958 Mutual Defence Agreement and the 1963 Polaris Sales Agreement, initiatives that are separate from NATO. There is no reason to believe that these agreements – which also facilitates the purchase of the weapons and launch systems for the new-generation Dreadnought-Class submarines – will be cancelled under Trump’s leadership.
- MoD publishes defence estate rationalisation plan
- Civil service leader notes importance of pension deal
- Question on Defence Fire and Rescue Service pensions answered in the House of Commons
- Man arrested after Hull explosives find
- Operation Midland police fell for 'false claims' of VIP abuse, report says
- AWE staff to take strike action over pension row
- Army put on flood alert standby
MoD publishes defence estate rationalisation plan
The MoD has release a review outlining the further rationalisations to the defence estate. The report, A Better Defence Estate, outlined the disposal plans for 91 sites, together with details of how some of the units currently housed at these locations would be re-deployed. Locations to be placed up for sale include the Woolwich barracks in London, Fort George in the Highlands and several Royal Marines bases, including Stonehouse barracks and the Citadel in Plymouth, as well as Norton Manor Camp near Taunton and Chivenor in Devon. Sir Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, said the estate was too big and costly to run and the closures paved the way for a more modern military. Last year's SDSR outlined the MoD's aim to reduce the size of its estate by 30 per cent before 2040.
Of greatest relevance to the MDP is the sale of Fort Blockhouse, which hosts an MDP compliment, in 2020. The report also notes that MDP Wethersfield is scheduled to be disposed of in 2020 – and that the MDP HQ will be relocated to Bassingbourn Barracks in Royston. The report additionally highlights the disposal of RAF Mildenhall in 2022 and RAF Alconbury in 2023, although the departure of US forces from these bases had been previously announced.
Bassingbourn Barrack’s local newspaper, The Royston Crow, reports that locals have welcomed the news that the facility will be re-activated to house not only the MDP, but also units including the Ministry of Defence Guard Service, the Band of the Queen’s Division and the Operational Training & Advisory Group.
The DPF will seek to engage with the MPs whose constituencies house the Fort Blockhouse, MDP Wethersfield and Bassingbourn Barracks to ensure they are briefed on the key issues of importance to the MDP.
Civil service leader notes importance of pension deal
Civil Service World has carried an opinion piece by FDA civil service trade union leader Dave Penman, in which he gives his views on the negotiations over the Civil Service Compensation Scheme. Mr Penman stated that he is proud of the deal the FDA struck with the Government, and that it was right to challenge attempts to water down civil service redundancy conditions. The original Cabinet Office proposals, he says, would have meant that most civil servants facing redundancy would get no more than 12 months’ redundancy pay, access to early pension restricted and the abandonment of agreements regulating the approach to avoiding redundancy.
He then detailed that the agreement reached with the Government sees the maximum award increases to 18 months from the original 12, and early payment of pension protected and improved through a flexibility to maximise the value of payment up to the £95,000 cap. In addition, he notes that the protocols for avoiding redundancy have been retained.
The DPF played a significant role in these negotiations.
Question on Defence Fire and Rescue Service pensions answered in the House of Commons
SNP spokesperson for the Armed Forces and Veterans Kirsten Oswald MP has had her question, asking what terms of reference have been set for the review of Defence Fire and Rescue Service pensions by HM Treasury; and what consultation took place with the relevant trades unions when framing those terms of reference, answered in the House of Commons.
Responding, Defence Minister Mark Lancaster said that the Cabinet Office and Treasury are undertaking a review of the Effective Pension Age (EPA) for Ministry of Defence Police Officers, and that they are not conducting a review of the EPA specifically for Defence Fire and Rescue personnel. However, he noted that the outcome could influence discussions with the relevant Trades Unions, and that, as a result, discussions with the trades unions have been put on hold until the outcome is known. He concluded by stating that the MoD is expecting a decision on the review for the MDP officers by the end of the year.
Man arrested after Hull explosives find
The BBC reports that a 24-year-old man has been arrested after “a number of explosives” were found at an industrial unit in Hull. Humberside Police said it had carried out a raid in conjunction with MDP officers at a property on Hawthorn Avenue. The force said it was investigating “the alleged sale of MoD prohibited items”. A bomb disposal unit attended the incident and nearby properties were evacuated.
This incident highlights the value of the MDP in collaborating with the Home Office constabularies – in this instance with a case related to MoD equipment theft.
Operation Midland police fell for 'false claims' of VIP abuse, report says
The Guardian reports that senior detectives fell for “false allegations” from a man who claimed VIPs had sexually abused and killed children, and then misled a judge to get warrants to search the homes of innocent members of the establishment, distressing them and their loved ones, a report has found. The report into Operation Midland by Sir Richard Henriques, a retired judge, said one of the reasons detectives blundered was because they had to believe the victim under a policy originally aimed at stopping officers hiding the scale of sexual violence.
The main complainant, known as Nick, is now under investigation by Northumbria police for allegedly perverting the course of justice. Nick’s claims led to the Met investigating public figures including the former military chief Lord Bramall, the former home secretary Leon Brittan and the former Tory MP Harvey Proctor.
AWE staff to take strike action over pension row
Get Reading reports that staff at Aldermaston’s Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) will take strike action later this month to protest against a “derisory” pension scheme. In October, members of the trade union Prospect voted to take part in a 24-hour walkout because AWE is planning to replace the defined benefit pension scheme with a defined contribution scheme. Unite the Union then announced its members had decided to join the walkout. Both trade unions say more than 85 per cent of members who took part in the ballots voted in favour of the walkout, which will begin at 12.01am on Monday, November 14.
An AWE spokesman said the company respects the unions' decision to take industrial action. “We can reassure the public the company has in place procedures to ensure the safety of our operations can be maintained at all times and we will continue to meet our regulatory requirements.” He added “We are working closely with the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Defence Police whose responsibility it is to secure the AWE Aldermaston and Burghfield sites.”
Army put on flood alert standby
The Guardian reports that Theresa May has placed three battalions of up to 1,200 soldiers on 24-hour standby to help if England suffers flooding this winter. Last winter torrential rain affected thousands of families, resulting in criticism of the government. The storms forced the evacuation of homes and caused severe damage across the north of England. Somerset was badly affected by floods a year earlier.
An MoD spokesperson said “There are three standby battalions deployed at bases around the UK, which rotate every three months. For security reasons, it would not be appropriate to disclose the identity or location of these units.”