Tuesday, 20 January 2009

General Dannatt demands the resources to do the job

According to reports in most newspapers today, General Sir Richard Dannatt, Chief of the General Staff, has again expressed his anger at the pressures being put on service personnel and their families by the demands being made of them by their political masters. "We have seriously stretched our soldiers to the very limit. Many families and marriages have unfortunately fallen victim to the relentless pace of operations."
He also expressed his obvious exasperation at the delays and recently announced postponements in the delivery of new equipment to the guys fighting on the frontline.

Harmony Guidelines
The welfare of thousands of British troops is being endangered because the Army is breaking its own rules which guarantee them two years rest between tours of duty. Figures released by the MoD show that 46% of all Army units are now in breach of the "harmony guidelines".The number of soldiers thought to have been affected by the breach is estimated at 10,000! Sometimes there was just a year between the end of one operation and the start of another and much of that was taken up by training and preparing for the next operation, Gen. Dannatt said. Particularly liable to abreviated recuperation periods are military specialists such as signals and intelligence experts. Gen. Dannatt's planned restructure of the Army, dividing it up into six "manoeuvre brigades" and two specialist units, would enable the gap between operations to be extended to 30 months.

Equipment delays
Gen. Dannatt warned that "There must be no further delays in critical equipment programme". This follows delays in the Army's £multibillion (FRES) programme to replace ageing troop carriers and reconnaissance vehicles, described by Dannatt today as the potential "mainstay of the army's manoeuvre capability". Although the Treasury has spent hundreds of millions of pounds from the government's contingency reserve on "urgent operational requirements" for British troops, soldiers do not have enough modern equipment to train between operations. In the most outspoken speech since he became Chief of the General Staff in 2006, Gen Dannatt said more equipment was needed for training. He criticised the policy of taking specialist kit off soldiers when they returned from operations to give to those deploying abroad. The policy had affected tactics and morale and was both "counter-intuitive and counter-productive" with soldiers "wasting time retraining" on different equipment.

Gen. Dannatt identified undermanning as being the main cause of the stresses being felt in the Army. Not only is there a shortfall of 4,000 soldiers in the Army's current strength, but the General also argues that the overall size of the Army should be increased from 102,000 to 130,000 to meet the demands placed on it by the Government or to lower "the tempo" as he calls it.

Coincidentally the House of Commons Defence has just launched an inquiry into "Readiness and Recuperation". It will be interesting to see whether their recommendations are in line with The General's views.

Sky News: UK Soldiers To Get Longer Breaks
The Times: Troops get longer breaks to save marriages
Ananova: Operations 'Destroying Marriages'

They Work For You: Armed Forces: Manpower - required v actual
Aquilavictrix: Policy - Give the guys a break! [16/01/09]
Aquilavictrix: Policy - Commons inquiry into Readiness & Recuperation [16/01/09]