Former paratrooper now Labour MP, Dan Jarvis has responded to the announcement from the Defence Secretary that the Army is to be reduced to its smallest number in over 200 years.
Writing for the The Guardian, Jarvis explained, “The cynical and deliberate political manoeuvring that has preceded today’s announcement has had real impact on the morale of our soldiers and their families. However, the long-term danger for Britain is the effect that a reduction in the Army of 20,000, based on savings rather than strategy, will have on the security of our nation and our future ability to leverage influence in the world.
“The Government’s plan for a sustainable and flexible force relies upon a large expansion of the Reservists. This carries significant risk. Reservists have been used as backfill to compliment the regular forces, not replace them. The Defence Secretary is proposing they form their own units which will be deployed as a company or platoon in future conflicts – a major cultural shift in the way we operate in the field.
“Modernisation is of course necessary, and whilst we must be mindful of resource it should also be respectful of our history – a history that tells us that the only certainty is uncertainty. Our Armed Forces have been and should be our insurance policy – today, this Government has downgraded our national policy from ‘fully comp’ to ‘3rd party fire and theft’.
“We also shouldn’t overlook the historical implications of today’s announcement. The loss of many units, such as 3rd Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment, with a history that dates back to the days of Napoleon, when it was formerly known as the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, will be painful.
“What has been lost in the debate around the removal of battalions like 3 YORKS is the fact that this identity matters to people. Today and tonight, our soldiers in Afghanistan will be facing lethal threat. They will no doubt be scared and they will be battling their own personal demons. Frankly, they’re not doing it for a greater Afghanistan. They’re not doing it for the Prime Minister or even for the Queen and a safer United Kingdom. They are doing it for the soldiers in front of them and the soldiers behind them. They’re doing it for their mates in the Regiment because it matters to them.
“The Government’s credibility to manage and shape future military capability has been stretched to the limit following the flawed Strategic Defence and Security Review of October 2010. If the Government had been clear in their vision from the outset and embraced a debate about global influence and reach versus a reduction in military capability, then we would be closer to a more strategic arrangement for the Army. Instead, there has been a fundamental failure on the part of the Government to analyse what we need and what we can convincingly aspire to do.”