All NATO members have agreed to spend 2% of GDP on defence. Does this mean that the defence of our country will be assured if we spend that amount? Of course not and, if you want proof, you need look no further to the present state of the armed services now that we have worked our way down to that figure. The government is treating the figure as a target, but it was designed by NATO as a minimum contribution to the safety of all. More worryingly, the government seems set on the idea that spending 2% automatically means that we have sufficient defences.
In an ideal world, we would assess our defence priorities and needs and spend the money to achieve them. Cloud cuckoo land probably, but isn’t that the reason the SDSR system was established? It most definitely was not designed to be used as a cost cutting exercise as in 2010. What happened then was a complete disgrace and has led to many years of a dangerous lack of capability.
The 2015 review was a step in the right direction, but has done very little to repair the damage of 2010.
What can we do?
We must rid ourselves of the 2% syndrome, it is too low. We should not have a specific target; it makes a nonsense of the, not so often quoted as before, adage that Defence and Security are the first priorities of government. What we need to spend will automatically be larger than the NATO commitment.
Whatever we spend must be spent wisely. This has been stressed in our various publications recently and we shall be pursuing the subject further. We need to concern ourselves about who is making the spending decisions. There have been far too many cases of waste and overspending in recent years, but no one seems to be held responsible. Are the service chiefs happy with what has been happening recently? Unfortunately, they are not in a position to say. The Americans can, so why not us?
There is real frustration about our defences and the general public should be concerned. The government do a good job in convincing us that they neither know, or care, much about defence. Surely if they did, we would not be in the position we are in now?