The F35 fighter jet is a key part of the Modernising Defence Programme (Picture Ministry of Defence/Crown Copyright).
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Government Considers Speeding Up Armed Forces Restructuring

An update on the Modernising Defence Programme says elements of a programme may need to be accelerated.

The F35 fighter jet is a key part of the Modernising Defence Programme (Picture Ministry of Defence/Crown Copyright).

The F-35 is a key part of the UK's defence future. (Image: Crown Copyright).

The Government is considering speeding up a restructuring of the UK's Armed Forces in order to meet "increasing threats".

In the first significant announcement from the Modernising Defence Programme (MDP) states that "the key design principles of Joint Force 2025 are right", but goes on to say that the Government may "need to accelerate elements of the programme to meet the most acute threats sooner".

However, the update makes no firm pledge over possible cuts to personnel and equipment.

In what are described as three "headline conclusions", the Defence Secretary writes that the British military must be ready to "match the pace" of adversaries, that the country needs a "fighting force fit" for the 21st century and that defence needs to be reset in order to make it "better value for money".

Gavin Williamson's MDP statement has been criticised by Shadow Defence Secretary Nia Griffith, who says:

“It is disappointing, although somewhat unsurprising, that the Government have failed to publish anything substantive or detailed from the Modernising Defence Programme in spite of previously committing to do so by the Summer Recess.

"I hope that this delay means that the Review will be well thought out, really gripping the issues faced by MoD and properly funded.

"Anything less than that will simply not be acceptable to Parliament, our Armed Forces or the nation."

In the latest update, the Defence Secretary suggests the way British personnel conduct operations could be altered, due to enemy forces having "learned a lot about how we operate" and how they "disrupt" methods of working.

"I could have written that two years ago" - Lord West on the MDP update.

Mr Williamson also confirms that a "Space Strategy" will be published, to enable the UK's military to work in space and stresses the importance of an "information advantage" to win conflicts.

He concludes by stating that he will work with the Prime Minister and Chancellor throughout the next stage of MDP.

Lord Alan West, a retired Royal Navy senior officer and Labour minister, said he was very disappointed in the review as it didn't move forward at all. 

He said: I could have written that two years ago really because those were all things we needed to look at, ways we needed to go. There’s no rocket science in there."

“It doesn’t help us in terms of actually moving forward and ensuring our forces stop being hollowed out," he said.

“There’s nothing in there that is actually tangible," Lord West added, "Nothing that has actually increased the capability of our defence force.

"It’s lots of talk but actually showing nothing that’s being delivered.”

He lamented that the MDP was a fantastic opportunity for the Government to show it understands the growing multitude of threats and increase defence spending.

He said: “I think there’s a battle going on between the MOD and the Treasury. The Treasury don’t get it – they don’t understand grand strategy and that is a real, real problem.”

Former Chief of the General Staff, Lord Dannatt, says he is "not surprised" the full MDP report has not been published.

Recently, Mr Williamson called for extra funding to be awarded to the MoD to help complete the Modernising Defence Programme. 

Lord Dannatt said a number of issues needed to be addressed in the MDP.

He said: "One ofcourse is the ongoing size of the defence budget. We rather hoped that something might transpire around the time of the recent NATO summit but it didn’t.

“The other issue which the Defence Secretary and the Prime Minister have got to consider is the pay rise for the armed forces. Normally we would have expected to have that announced by now.

"I think there’s every reasonable expectation of a two or three per cent rise, I think that’s entirely justified. But how can it be afforded from the current defence budget? That’s the problem.”

Lord Dannatt believes there will be a series of announcements “in a little while but not just yet.”

Earlier this year, it was revealed that the MoD could face up to a £20bn shortfall in relation to a ten-year Equipment Plan.

In June, Defence Select Committee Chairs Meg Hillier and Dr Julian Lewis wrote to the Prime Minister regarding their increasing concerns about the "severe budgetary pressures" faced by the Ministry of Defence.

MPs On MDP

Forces News have spoken to four MPs who feel they know what needs to be done:

An Update - But On What?

By Forces News Westminster Correspondent, Laura Makin-Isherwood

This was the update many had been waiting for. Direction from the government as to what the Modernising Defence Programme had found.

In Gavin Williamson’s written statement to the Commons today, he did not give much away.

Three key aims have been identified he said: that the Armed Forces need to be faster, fit for the 21st Century and run as an affordable business.

But didn’t we know that before?

The Defence Secretary says that progress will now be made, though with summer recess just a few days away, there is unlikely to be any further movement or announcements until the autumn.

Mr Williamson says he will tell MPs as and when any decisions are made. But without securing any further cash from the Treasury, many fear that those decisions could actually be cuts.

We will just have to wait.