This week’s main UK defence and security news has been the announcement by George Osborne MP of £500m worth of upgrades to HM Naval Base Clyde. The Daily Telegraph reports that the Chancellor said the money would be spent over a decade to turn the base at Faslane into a “world-leading” facility that will be fit for purpose until at least 2067. New ship lifts, sea walls and jetties will be constructed as part of a major revamp of the site, which currently houses the four Vanguard-class Trident submarines, as well as three conventionally armed submarines and a mine-hunter squadron. Faslane is one of the UK’s three major naval hubs, alongside Portsmouth and Devonport, and from 2020 will be the Royal Navy’s “Submarine Centre of Specialisation”. Currently, the base hosts around 6,700 military and civilian staff and contractors, but this is expected to increase to about 8,200 by 2022.
Although Faslane will also house the Royal Navy’s entire conventional submarine fleet from 2020, Mr Osborne’s announcement gives the clearest indication yet that he regards the vote on renewing Trident as a formality regardless of who wins the Labour leadership contest. The Conservative majority in the Commons, combined with the support of pro-nuclear Labour MPs, means the Government is unlikely to lose a vote on the deterrent’s replacement. But the SNP accused him of “pre-empting a vote and actual decision on Trident”, the renewal of which is scheduled to be decided upon officially by MPs next year. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has branded the investment in the Faslane submarine base as “arrogant in the extreme”.
· Opinion piece by DPF Chairman published in Police Oracle
Opinion piece by DPF Chairman published in Police Oracle
Police Oracle has published an opinion piece by DPF Chairman Eamon Keating. Mr Keating argued that whilst much of the focus of the upcoming Strategic Defence and Security Review has been on overall spending levels, what this money is spent on is equally important. In focusing on this area, he states that the MoD must plan according to the risks the UK faces, recognise the unique assets at Britain’s disposal and protect them to the greatest extent possible. The capabilities of the MDP, Mr Keating argues, exemplify the type of unique, flexible, high-capability and cost-efficient asset that should have its funding protected. He added that it was also vital that the MDP workforce was protected through the provision of appropriate employment conditions, including measures that ensured that officers could retire at a point more in line with their Home Office colleagues. Mr Keating concluded by stating that should the MoD instead choose to make the MDP a target for further savings, there will be inevitable consequences for security and the wellbeing of individual officers.
Claims that police could lose 22,000 posts in new cuts
The Guardian reports that planned Government spending cuts will see at least 22,000 police jobs being lost, leaving the public protected by the lowest numbers of officers since the 1970s, according to a private estimate circulating among police chiefs. The figure is much higher than previously known, and means the number of police officers in England and Wales could fall to around 100,000. The estimate being provided to chief constables is based on the lowest expected cut of 25 per cent in the funding that Government Intends to allow for policing between now and 2020. At present, there are about 125,000 officers working in England and Wales.
After the budget in July from the newly elected Conservative Government, the Chancellor George Osborne told unprotected departments such as the Home Office that their cuts would range from 25 to 40 per cent. Police chiefs say policing will change, even more so if higher cuts in the next five years approaching 40 per cent are imposed, because there are no longer any easy efficiency savings to make. An estimated 17,000 officer posts were eliminated in the last round of cuts under the Conservative-led Coalition Government from 2010 to 2015.
Meanwhile, in a linked development, The Daily Telegraph reports that Chris Sims, the Chief Constable of West Midlands Police, has suggested he could take legal action over budget cuts after warning his force is “on the edge”. It comes after the country’s most senior police officer, Metropolitan Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, said the “time has come” to fight back over cuts.
US Government approves UK purchase of fifty AH-64E Apache attack helicopters
The Daily Telegraph reports that the US Government has approved a deal to modernise Britain’s fleet of Apache attack helicopters with the latest American technology, removing a major hurdle that could have otherwise seen the aircraft upgraded in the UK. The US State Department said it had approved a request from the MoD for a $3bn deal for the “remanufacture” of fifty Apache WAH-64 Mk 1 helicopters to turn them into advanced AH-64E Guardian models. Also approved was work to install upgraded engines, targeting systems, radar and sensors, along with spare parts and training and support.
The announcement comes as the MoD prepares to decide whether to buy off-the-shelf Apaches from Boeing as part of a larger order with other buyers, which would keep the price down, or paying more to have the work done in the UK by AgustaWestland, saving British jobs but coming with a much higher price-tag. The MoD is understood to be keen to buy the cheaper US option.
Help for dying RAF cadet delayed by 30 minutes, inquest hears
The Guardian reports that an inquest has been told that a 14-year-old RAF cadet lay dying for up to 30 minutes at a training camp while his teenage colleagues desperately tried to get help. David Efemena died in March 2014 during a night exercise at a defence training estate in Bramley, Hampshire, after becoming seriously ill in his tent. It took half an hour between David’s fellow cadets first trying to raise the alarm with the adult supervisors and them arriving from their camp just over a mile away. The senior coroner, Nadia Persaud, raised concerns that there had been no tests to ensure the radio the cadets were using to get help worked at that range and questioned why they had not had access to a mobile phone for emergencies. A post-mortem examination revealed David died from a “congenital heart anomaly” after an intense day of physical training. The inquest continues.
Army to trial flexitime to improve female soldier retention
The Daily Express reports that this month will see flexible working hours tested in Army units that are not in a high state of readiness for operations. The scheme could include holding morning parades later in order to allow parents to drop children off at school. Soldiers may be allowed to work in the evenings or at weekends to ensure that they and their partners can meet family commitments. They may also have the option to job share or work part-time. And couples who are both in the Army may be able to split childcare with either the husband or the wife allowed to reduce their working hours or stay at home. The scheme is the brainchild of the chief of the General Staff, General Sir Nicholas Carter, in the knowledge that the Army faces a demographic crisis: the UK’s changing population mean the traditional pool of recruits – young, white men – is shrinking. As a result, innovative measures are required to recruit and retain personnel.
Naval architects preview warship of the future
The Daily Telegraph reports that warships of the future could be built from ultra-strong plastic and graphene, armed with weapons that fire at the speed of light and operated by crews a fraction of the size needed by current vessels. The proposals are just some of the ideas from naval architects and engineers who were tasked by the RN and MoD to imagine how the future fleet might look.
The challenge was issued by Startpoint, the new procurement group which brings together experts in naval defence from government, military and industry to provide advanced technology against a backdrop of tightening budgets. Under the title “Dreadnought 2050”, the project sought outside the box ideas about systems future warships would be equipped with. Muir Macdonald, a Startpoint senior executive said: “While some of these technologies push today’s boundaries in science and engineering, there is no reason why elements could not be incorporated into future designs.”