The Crisis Facing Our Armed Forces; Services Let Down by Under-Investment and on Dangerously Unsustainable Course, Says Think Tank

Article excerpt

Byline: By Urmee Khan & Catherine Shanks

BRITAIN'S armed forces are facing a crisis, according to an influential report written by a North academic.

Men and women fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq are being starved of resources, it warns.

The report from think tank Demos, cowritten by Prof Anthony Forster from Durham University, says the British armed forces are on a dangerously unsustainable course.

They are being let down by "under-investment" and an "unfocused brief" and unless pay, terms, housing, training and recruitment are sufficiently resourced, the future for the armed forces looks bleak, according to the report.

Prof Forster said: "We hear much about a looming crisis for armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan - but the crisis is now. If the Government continues to ignore the armed forces, they will not be fit for purpose.

"Despite sterling service in Iraq and Afghanistan, UK armed forces are over-stretched, under-resourced and under tremendous organisational strain.

"It is time for a new, pragmatic and public debate on UK defence; one that is honest about current economic, organisational and societal constraints. It will require a more open-minded and flexible approach from senior military commanders; and a willingness on the part of the Government to face up to the contradictions that lie at the heart of British defence policy."

Based on extensive research and consultation, the report analyses the new security challenges from serious and organised crime, international terrorism, religious and ethnic conflict and makes recommendations on how to meet them.

Prof Forster, an expert on military international affairs, said: "We must deal with issues such as housing for the armed forces and the state must be more involved in the welfare of soldiers when they return home.

"The number leaving the armed forces is increasing rapidly and that is because soldiers are doing their fourth tour in Iraq. We have a shortfall already of 6,000 in the armed forces. We need to ask why a private in the army is on pounds 15,000 when the police get pounds 20,000 and a training fireman is on pounds 20,000, and the private faces severe risks in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"The reality is low pay has demoralised people and they are voting with their feet. We want a defence review to look at our commitment to the armed forces. We are overstretched."

Less than a week away from this year's Remembrance Sunday, the report also warned public support for the armed forces could not be taken for granted. …