Westminster’s Defence Select Committee has just published its report into the Government’s Integrated Defence and Security Review, which was published back in March 2021 before the withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Their report is highly critical of the Review in several areas. First and foremost it notes that it has not been updated in light of recent events and continues to call for cuts in personnel and vehicles whilst focussing on information and cyber warfare. All the evidence from Ukraine suggests that numbers do matter and it makes little sense to reduce the army to 72,000 soldiers and 148 tanks in the face of renewed conventional warfare in Europe. As Chief of the General Staff General Sir Patrick Sanders, Britain’s senior soldier, famously commented recently, “you can’t cyber your way across a river”.
The Government has said that it will increase the UK’s defence spend to 2.5% of GDP by 2030 but many see that as too little too late and have called for an increase to 3% as soon as possible, plus a sizeable cash injection immediately to reverse the cuts of recent years. There seems to be considerable resistance to this from the Treasury. Nor are there any plans currently to increase troop numbers despite many senior officers now saying that the British army is now too small to be credible in a general war scenario.