Defence spending – time to spend some more on additional servicemen

Our British armed forces are held in high regard all around the world. Well trained, effective and with a command structure that is flexible to allow the most junior serviceman to take decisions.

When I joined the RAF in 1977 there were around 300,000 British servicemen. Today we would be lucky to fill two of the new stadiums in Brazil.

Is the world a safer place? Probably not. Do we face a significant homeland threat from extremists? Almost certainly. And yet the number of servicemen continues to fall.

Defence spending, whilst historically very low as a percentage of GDP, has been spent more and more on technology. This is great but it has been at the expense of the numbers of servicemen.

Technology cannot replace troops on the ground. Given the current main threat is ideological and religious large pieces of technology to attack small groups of people doesn’t make sense if you don’t have the people on the ground to follow up.

Supporters need to be reassured by troops in order to win hearts and minds. A large bang and a flash of light out of nowhere doesn’t do it.

We can learn a lot from The 1930s. As war seemed more inevitable leading politicians were urging France to cut back on its defence spending to make it fair on Germany. History shows this to be a complete none sense.

I’m not sure we now have the capability to protect the Falklands if they were to be invaded again. We are stretched and have been for some time on overseas action.

Our armed forces do everything we ask of them and more. They risk everything for us and yet increasingly I think we are taking them for granted.

I want the deficit to be reduced as much as anyone. I want taxes to be reduced. But we must correctly finance our armed forces. If this means cutting benefits further, rationing the NHS or other difficult decisions then so be it.

The first and top priority of any government has to be to protect its people. The top priority of the people is to ensure the armed forces have sufficient resources including troops to act on our behalf.

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