2016 has been a busy year for UKNDA and I should like to thank all of you who have worked hard on our behalf, particularly our CEO, our Secretary, the Board of Directors and the Advisory Council.
It has been something of a mixed year for defence, starting with some encouragement from the tone of SDSR 15, but ending with the feeling that the government still doesn’t appreciate the importance of properly balanced armed forces.
The chart on the Home Page of our website clearly shows that spending has come down sharply over the years to 2% of GDP, rather than the impression the government likes to give which is that it has risen to that level. Not only that, but it was some careful accounting, rather than new money, that allowed us to reach that figure. After earlier defence cuts we have a lot of catching up to do in equipment, manpower and skills, so spending is going to need to rise. A percentage of GDP is all very well as a base, but it does not take into account the safety and security needs of our country.
As far as NATO is concerned, it is worrying that the majority of members are not contributing their agreed share. This has to be addressed as a matter of some urgency.
There were, of course, other developments in 2016, a couple of which made me think. It was the first year since 1982 that patrolling the Falklands was left in the hands of a ship smaller than a frigate or destroyer. It was also the year that an EU military exercise took place on Salisbury Plain, with the EU flag prominent on military vehicles. Whatever the outcome of the Brexit talks, an EU Army is surely a complete waste of time and money.
Finally, looking forward to next year, do not forget the Richard Holmes Memorial Lecture on 24th May.
I wish everyone a Happy Christmas and Peaceful New Year.