Politics

Armed Forces Chief: 'Painful Decisions' To Follow Defence Command Paper

General Sir Nick Carter spoke ahead of a publication on Monday outlining defence modernisation.

The head of the British military has previewed the contents of an incoming document on the modernisation of UK defence.

Following this week’s publication of the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy, the Defence Command Paper, due on Monday, is expected to offer more detail on how the UK might fulfil its global ambitions in a competitive age.

General Sir Nick Carter, Chief of the Defence Staff, says he believes personnel will be pleased with what the paper brings.

"For the first time in my military career, I think we can plan over the next 10 years with some confidence," he told Forces News.

"That’s a position that I can’t ever remember being in before. Now that means that, yes, we can take some painful decisions to remove capabilities that perhaps are less relevant for the longer-term future – but we can do so sure in the knowledge that we’ll have the money to be able to replace them with modern stuff that follows."

The publication of the Integrated Review on Tuesday laid out plans for a greater focus on cyber, artificial intelligence, technology, the Indo-Pacific region and an increasing nuclear capability.

The Defence Command Paper is expected to outline in greater detail how the UK might achieve these aims.

"What the Prime Minister announced on Tuesday gives one an indication for the sort of country that he wants it to be,” General Carter added.

"That’s a country, I think, that is going to be globally engaged. It’s a country that recognises that its prosperity is generated through that global engagement. It’s a country that therefore has to invest in the rules-based system that assures trade and everything associated with it."

British forces are expected to be “in use” more persistently around the world, the Chief of the Defence Staff acknowledged.

General Carter believes Boris Johnson sees the Armed Forces as an enabler - helping projected outcomes in the Integrated Review to “actually happen” and that an active military is an attractive proposition for those looking to join.

The modernisation of UK defence is being mapped in the aftermath of the Integrated Review (Picture: MOD).

When asked whether enhanced technology within the services could see a reduction in personnel numbers, he said: “We are often tempted, aren’t we, to judge capability on the basis of size and shape?

"I’d far rather we judge capability on the basis, first and foremost, about what the threat is and what you need – that capability – to be able to do in response to the threat.

"But equally, on its lethality, its relevance and its resilience," he added.

"My judgement is that we’ll have armed forces that will be matched to the threat that we anticipate over the course of the next 10 years," General Carter said.

When prompted to comment on what those key threats may be, he continued: "I’ve always maintained, in my time as Chief of the Defence Staff, that the most dangerous thing for us is miscalculation from one of our more assertive, authoritarian opponents or indeed some form of regional conflict that blows out of proportion.

"As time goes on and people become less familiar with the threat of war and what that looks like, the risk of miscalculation becomes greater."