IPPR report fails to address underlying issue in UK defense, says industry

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The Society of British Aerospace Companies (SBAC), the UK's aerospace, defense and security trade association has commented on the IPPR report "Shared Responsibilities" about UK defence and security policy.

Ian Godden, SBAC Chief Executive, said: "The IPPR makes a welcome contribution to an important debate. However, like so many other commentators, it focuses on proposing cuts to current programs for budgetary reasons rather than fully-argued national security needs or UK industrial and economic priorities. What the country badly needs is a fully-costed plan to protect our citizens and their interests around the world from the real threats of the 21st century. Industry therefore does support the IPPR call on the Government to start a Strategic Defense Review to develop such a plan as soon as possible.

"The future defense and security needs of the UK must be determined by a threat assessment looking far in to the future that provides us with sufficient capability to address all of these potential threats. It is absolutely vital that the country debates these needs and this report from a well-respected think tank is an important contribution to that debate. In addition, two factors need to be added to the debate. Firstly, the fact that defense has already been squeezed financially for the last two decades while the social and financial sectors have been generously funded. Secondly there will be serious economic impacts from cutting a world-leading high value manufacturing and engineering sector.

"We now spend around 2.3 per cent of GDP on defense, half as much as 20 years ago. Therefore, the argument about which programs to cancel or which area of equipment spending we should cut misses the main issue. If we adequately funded defense we could afford to supply our armed forces with all the tools required to do the tough job that we ask them to do on our behalf.

"Once defense spending has been restored to a more sustainable level the debate can then begin on the appropriate means with which to protect the nation and its interests. The UK defense industry, which employs over 300,000 people across the country, would then be able to make the right long-term investments with which to support our troops in the knowledge that the uncertainty surrounding defense spending over the last two decades had come to an end."

The issue is not whether or not the country can afford the weapons system, as far as the SBAC is concerned but the fact that their members might not be able to make huge profits.

Our fighting men and -women need proper equipment, but this equipment is not Trident missiles nor huge aircraft carriers. The equipment the grunts need is the right kind of armor, including body armor, the detection equipment, the proper radio kit and such. That is what is needed for the kind of conflicts and wars that they are asked to fight at the moment and also, so it would appear, in the future. The time of the huge weapons system of mutual assured destruction should be a thing of the past, and, in fact, it is.

There is no way that you can use Trident again terrorists nor is a huge floating airport any good for that – unless as a base far out at sea from which to launch assaults with helicopters and Warthog-style aircraft.

That is not something that, as we can see, interests the defense industry and the military industrial complex. Their aim is to sell the most expensive systems to the Ministry of Defense in order to make maximum profit. Greed, as per usual, leads.

© 2009