ANONYMOUS A Royal Scots Dragoon Guard takes a break in the turret of a Challenger tank after a long night of fighting in Southern Iraq during Iraq War 24032003 CREDIT PA.
Politics

Sitrep: Integrated Review Must Address 'Over-Stretched' Armed Forces

Defence Select Committee chair Tobias Ellwood said the review must not be about "telling people to start saving money".

ANONYMOUS A Royal Scots Dragoon Guard takes a break in the turret of a Challenger tank after a long night of fighting in Southern Iraq during Iraq War 24032003 CREDIT PA.

The Chair of the Defence Select Committee has said he shares Defence Secretary Ben Wallace’s concerns that the UK Armed Forces must reform and modernise in order to be able to meet emerging threats.

Tobias Ellwood told the BFBS Sitrep podcast the upcoming Integrated Review should not be conducted by "telling people to start saving money".

He continued: "We have a fantastic Armed Forces, they're extremely professional but they are over-stretched.

"The Air Force, the Army, the Navy - we ask them to do an awful lot. I hope this Integrated Review will firstly recognise that, but also conduct things in a sensible, chronological order."

He stressed the importance of finding the answers to other, more pressing questions.

Mr Ellwood continued: "We should be first asking ourselves, 'What is Britain's place in the world? What do we need to make sure that we can defend our values, we can actually advance our interests, who our friends are, what the threats are?'

"We're seeing a rising China, we're seeing Russia ever-resurgent, we're seeing other chances, opportunities but also threats in the Middle East as well. What do we want to do? What do we want to achieve, and who with?

"Until you've answered those, you can't really start looking at your Armed Forces and saying, 'we're going to need this many tanks, we're going to need this many aircraft'. It shouldn’t work that way.

"That's the exact mistake that previous defence reviews have fallen into."

Tobias Ellwood speaking at Veterans' Mental Health Conference at King's College in London 140319 CREDIT PA
Mr Ellwood, a former defence minister, said the Armed Forces are "over-stretched" (Picture: PA).

Mr Ellwood added he would also welcome the Defence Secretary's Defence Industrial Policy, which is to be published alongside the wider review later in the year.

He also stressed the need to adapt to the ever-changing nature of conflict, highlighting cyber and space as potential areas of importance.

"Both Russia and China are now seeing space as integral to any of their military capabilities, we should be doing the same," he said.

Mr Ellwood was also asked whether he is concerned over Government plans to amend the UK’s Brexit deal with the EU with a new bill, which Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said would "break international law" in a "specific and limited way".

Stressing that he supports the Government and wants the best deal for the country, Mr Ellwood added that "without the rule of law, Britain is nothing" and that he thinks "it's a very dangerous precedent to set".

He added: "How do we look China in the eye and complain about their actions in Hong Kong, breaching that Treaty, if we’re willing to do the same overseas? It would set a very different precedent.

US fire mission at Qayyarah West Airfield, Iraq 100919 CREDIT US Dpt Defense
Mr Ellwood said the US and its partners must not leave a power vacuum in Iraq, following Wednesday's withdrawal announcement (Picture: US Department of Defense).

"Our soft power comes about because we are trusted, we are seen as influential, we are seen as a force for good and we’re seen to have the moral high ground.

"As soon as we’re seen to be willing to ignore international laws, where does that take us?"

Mr Ellwood also discussed the reduction of US troop presence in Iraq this month from 5,200 to 3,000.

He explained the US and its partners must make sure it does not leave a "vacuum", saying: "We do not have a good track record of, once we’ve defeated the enemy, of enabling the locals, the indigenous people, to stand on their own two feet."

He added: "When we commit to these interventions, we must be there for the long term.

"We must absolutely make sure there is a structure of governance that works. It doesn’t mimic the West, which is inappropriate."

Cover image: PA.