Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Cuts on the Home Front undermining morale

A 'leaked' memo from General Sir David Richards, Chief of the General Staff, has pointed out the blindingly obvious: that returning home from a hard-fought tour in Afghanistan to sub-standard living quarters back in the UK is not good for morale.

And it had all seemed to be going so well: Project Slam developments completed at Northwood, Catterick and Perham Down, upgraded family quarters at Blandford, funds even being brought forward from future years to speed up the refurbishment programme. However the latest cuts to the Armed Forces budget is putting paid to all that.

Gen. Richards' memo flagged up that reductions in the Armed Forces budget have caused the refurbishment programme to stall and and improvement plans to be postponed. Cuts are having "a cumulative and corrosive effect on our soldiers and their families. ...... As Chief of the General Staff, I register an early concern about the impact on morale, the potentially severe downstream impact on retention, and our ability to sustain the campaign in the long term."

The General's comments came after he'd seen the results of an internal survey carried out at 'home' bases in the UK, Germany, N. Ireland and Cyprus. This survey showed the effects that the recent £100m cuts, and the diversion of resources to fund the war in Afghanistan, were having on morale across the Service Community. The survey highlights that there is a real feeling that Service personnel consider themselves undervalued by the government.

And its not only the poor state of military accommodation that is fuelling this feeling of neglect. Shortages in training and IT equipment, the axing of events like the annual Aldershot Army Show, the undermining of the harmony guidelines, extended times away from home between deployments, the threatened 20% cut in numbers, shortages of medics, etc are all compounding the problem.

Another concern is that after two or three successive deployments to the warzone, coupled with the sheer intensity of the fighting and the relentless pace of operations, there is an increasing incidence of both physical and psychological injury for the guys serving out there.

General Richards is perhaps unexpectedly broadcasting exactly the concerns of his predecessor, General Dannatt: that you can't fight a war with the funding profile of a peace-time budget. Last August Gen. Richards was characterised as being a subtle, behind-the-scenes political animal. Today, however, he may be turning out to be the vociferous champion that the Army badly needs.

The Mail: Troops' morale is in crisis at defence cuts, says Army chief