Updated Integrated Review will make 'only a tiny difference' to Britain's Armed Forces, retired General says

Watch: Former British Army General Richard Barrons gives his opinion on the "long-awaited" refresh of the Integrated Review.

A former British Army General says "only a tiny difference" has been made in terms of money following the refresh of the Integrated Review.

Richard Barrons, the former head of Joint Forces Command, spoke to Forces News after the "long-awaited refresh of the Integrated Review", with a particular interest in any big shifts following the invasion and war in Ukraine.

He said: "Many of us were looking to see what difference that made. And, certainly, in terms of money, it's made only a tiny difference, with essentially the big decisions about how to rebuild the Army, and to make the Navy and Air Force more resilient have all been shoved out to about 2025 and another review."

The former British Army General told Forces News earlier this month that the military needs billions of pounds to stop what is been dubbed the "hollowing out" of Britain's Armed Forces.

General Barrons highlighted that the Government often points to the military's world-class equipment and its huge budget – the second largest in Nato. 

But he said even that is not enough to overcome the damage that has been done by decades of underfunding.

"The Army at current rates of investment needs at least five years, and more likely 10 years, to be rebuilt in terms of a deployable division, with the people, the equipment, the training and the stocks, to be effective in the face of a confrontation with Russia."


Watch: The description 'hollowed out' has become increasingly familiar in describing the state of Britain's Armed Forces.

Following Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's promise of an extra £5bn for the military over two years, Gen Barrons believes it is only really buying two things, but "they both matter".

He said: "The £5bn is coming over two years, so it averages an extra £2.5bn per year and that's important.

"It's buying really only two things, and they both matter, it's buying the submarine programme in unison with Australia and the United States, that's really important for our own submarine programme for the security of Asia Pacific and for our high-tech industrial base, and that's why I think it's very attractive to the Government."

The retired general added: "About half a million pounds is going on buying munitions to replace those that have been sent to and expended in Ukraine.

"That's really good news. Ukraine will need ammunition for some time to come and our own Armed Forces need their own shelves replenishing."

However, he added that "it will take, in most cases, around about a year to begin to see a big difference from that sort of investment even if the contracts are signed very quickly".

'It could have been worse'

The former British Army general, in response to being asked to give his initial thoughts on the defence investment, said that "in many ways, it could have been worse".

"The extra £5bn means that that is £5bn over two years that's not having to be found from elsewhere within in the defence budget, which would have been a possibility."

However, the retired general did note that "many people like me [were] really looking to see if the UK would emulate what France and Germany are doing in quickly ramping up spending on their army, navy and air force in face of the world we now live in, in terms of a confrontation with Russia and a harder relationship with China, even if it need not become a war".

"And really that's not happened, what the Government is saying is [we're] going to think about this, we've tried to get to 2.5% spent on defence of GDP at some point, it doesn't say when.

"And pushing big decisions to 2025, and everybody knows that means after the next general election."

Impact on defence

With decisions being pushed back, Gen Barrons believes that "for the Army, there will be greater disquiet".

He noted that "the Army is going to continue to get smaller, as was decided in the 2021 review, the Army will not get recapitalised much quicker than towards the end of this decade and that's been made worse by giving a lot of working equipment to Ukraine.

"One of the things we are now going to be looking for is, will the Ministry of Defence (MOD) be able to buy the Army more artillery and more new tanks and other equipment to make up for what it has given away?"

Gen Barrons added: "If it doesn't get that sort of relief then the Army is going to bump along without much equipment and without much training for another couple of years."

He did however say that this was "not the end of the world" unless that is "you are serving in the army right now, in which case it will feel terrible given Russia is so distracted".

Watch: Tank numbers on the agenda for new defence review refresh.

Revitalising the tri-service

"There is a big question mark over precisely when and how the Army, in particular, will get revitalised and the other two services, well they need more people, more engineering, more ammunition, and, already, there isn't anything in this outcome that says they are going to get it soon.

"That's all to come in decisions to be made in a year or two."

Gen Barrons added: "I think all three of the Armed Forces are in the same boat, in that they find themselves in big handfuls at the bottom of a trajectory of more decline and hollowing out which you can track back for 30 years."

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