Whilst many of you have written in support of withdrawing our army from Germany, some have expressed the conventional objections that we need to use the housing in Germany, and we need the tank training that the German facilities permit. These responses ignore the most important point that I was arguing – we should give up our commitment to helping police or enforce the borders of European continental states, which has caused us so much grief in the past. Surely it is time to leave this to the continental countries themselves, and the UN and NATO led by the USA? Of our four main military tasks, (European,maritime,expeditionary,home defence) this would seem to be the obvious one to remove.
This would allow us in due course once our forces are out of Afghanistan and current soldiers have completed their full contracts, to have a smaller army suited to our current needs. It should also allow us to improve the forces housing position. I have written before on how we could encourage and support soldiers in buying homes of their own whilst in the army, so we do not make them homeless when they retire at a relatively early age from the service. Soldiers should have a UK home base for their families, just as sailors do.
Coming out of Germany would stop the costs in Euros we are incurring, and put that money into circulation into the Uk economy. We would be spared the costs and be able to release the cash from facilities in Germany which the UK rents and owns. There is land and opportunity to train with tanks in the UK as well.
The UK does need to provide the manpower and the military equipment for its maritime and expeditionary roles. Helping police the world’s sea lanes is important to a maritime power so dependent on overseas trade and investment as we are. The naval and air force resources could also be used in home island defence if ever need arose. The expeditionary capability – which has been used too much in recent years – requires good joint working by all three services. There needs to be a well equippped and trained army to move into trouble spots quickly. There needs to be naval and air support, and good heavy lift capability for a speedy transfer.
Any serious naval power needs aircraft carriers to be part of its fleets to provide air cover. Our current policy of ordering two large ones leaves us limited in what we can do, especially if there has to be a lot of down time for refitting and maintenance. Getting the right balance between naval and air power will be crucial to success in the future. Defence of the home islands should always be the overriding priority. That requires good air cover to prevent or limit aerial attack, and good naval and air cover on the seas around our shores to prevent seaborne invasion. More of the capabiliy can be provided by drones and other remotely controlled devices, to lower the risks to manpower, and to cut the costs of some of the machinery needed. Procurement of weaponry and transport needs to be sharpened up so we buy more with less. The Uk ends up redesigning the wheel at great cost on too many programmes.