Transformation and the United Kingdom

By Dorman, Andrew | Joint Force Quarterly, April 2005 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Transformation and the United Kingdom


Dorman, Andrew, Joint Force Quarterly


The last decade has witnessed an academic and professional debate about the revolution in military affairs with a corresponding burst of doctrinal activity. A central theme is how an organization like the armed forces should undertake and manage change.

Prior to World War II, Heinz Guderian wrote of the problems of promoting change even as vested interests within the German army sought to maintain the status quo" "It is a love of comfort, not to say sluggishness, that characterizes those who protest against revolutionary innovations that happen to demand fresh efforts in the way of intellect, physical striving, and revolution." (1) In contrast, Douglas Bader was highly critical of the various "fighter attacks" developed by the British Fighter Command between the world wars because they ignored many lessons of World War I. (2) Both examples highlight the problems of applying new technology. More recently, Tony Mason warned against the military's tendency to favor all things technological: "Concentration on high technology should not lead to the disparagement of the simpler or even obsolescent weapons. The ultimate measure of a weapon's effectiveness is its value as a political instrument, which may not equate to its operational impact." (3) These observations highlight some of the dilemmas surrounding defense transformation and recognize that managing transformation is challenging and risky.

This article examines how London is approaching transformation. The United Kingdom probably ranks second to the United States in projecting military power. As a result, it has retained a broad range of capabilities. Secondly, like the Pentagon, Whitehall has retained a technological focus within its armed forces. Thirdly, its defense budget has been in steady decline since the Cold War, an ongoing financial pressure confronting the majority of forces in the process of transition. Moreover, the United Kingdom leads the way in innovative acquisition. Fourthly, it is ahead of other countries transforming their armed forces, with the exception of the United States. Additionally, it has had ongoing experience with terrorism because of the paramilitary groups operating in Northern Ireland. Finally, as the recent war with Iraq has shown, London remains one of Washington's closest allies.

This article is divided into four parts. The first considers how the defense context has changed for the U.K.--in essence why there is a requirement for change and what the government is trying to achieve. The second examines how the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and the armed forces have changed their approach to the new requirements and technologies. The third examines changes to the acquisition process, such as the extent to which new and existing capabilities are changing. Finally, there are conclusions about the nature of change.

Defense Context

During the latter Cold War, defense policy centered on the perceived Soviet threat and domestic terrorism. That led successive governments to focus on four elements: membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), close relations with the United States, an independent nuclear deterrent, and supporting civil authority in Northern Ireland. The end of the Cold War, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and a diminishing military commitment to Ulster as a result of the Good Friday Accord have allowed the policy to be redefined, culminating in the 1998 Strategic Defence Review (SDR), which was officially based on the requirement:

... to move from stability based on fear to stability based on the active management of these risks, seeking to prevent conflicts rather than suppress them. This requires an integrated external policy through which we can pursue our interests using all the instruments at our disposal, including diplomatic, developmental, and military. We must make sure that the Armed Forces can play as full and effective a part in dealing with these new risks as the old.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Transformation and the United Kingdom
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?