Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Peter Wall, has given his keynote speech to the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) Land Warfare Conference held in Westminster last week.
RUSI Land Warfare Conference 2012
CGS keynote speech - Army 2020
Ladies and Gentlemen good morning.
First may I add my welcome to all of our international partners, and it is also good to see so many of our own younger officers here – those who are the future we are discussing today..
A big thank you from the Army to RUSI and AUS(A) and your sponsors.
An especially warm personal welcome to so many of my personal friends and comrades from:
Brazil, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Qatar, Spain and of course USA
I want to thank our Secretary of State for his key point speech which has set the scene very clearly for this important conference. This is the British Army’s annual opportunity to discuss the fundamentals of land force operations with international partners. This year the focus is on the design of our Army as we look beyond Afghanistan to the latter half of the decade. This is a decade which seems sure to contain some turning points for our institutions and for our profession.
I will explore two distinct issues: first the context in which we are redesigning out Army; second the outline concept that is the product of our design work.
It is arguable that 21st Century warfare has yet to reveal its true character because the aftermath of the events of 9/11 has dominated our lives for the past dozen years. We will see the extent to which these have been an aberration or they are actually indicative of things to come.
Either way the mood is changing. Economic austerity is forcing us to redesign our structures to seek to deliver as much with less, albeit with a lower political expectation of committal to any protracted land operations. This is a perfectly understandable correction to what many have seen as awkward campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade. But it pre-supposes some predictability around world events at the onset of what may be a fresh era of uncertainty.
First and foremost let me be clear that the Afghan campaign has some way to run for us, between now and late 2014, let alone our contribution thereafter. Despite the Army’s natural wish to focus directly on the future and the implementation of Army 2020, the campaign will remain our primary operational pre-occupation for the time being: a great deal has been achieved there and momentum continues to build, but much remains to be done with our Afghan partners and ISAF allies. The most significant changes in that campaign may still be ahead of us, and the hard earned learning culture we have acquired in recent years may yet be further tested. So there is no scope for complacency: Operation HERRICK, our contribution to the ISAF effort, remains our top priority. We will be judged as an Army by the effectiveness of our military contribution.
However, this conference is not so much about operational delivery as about thinking ahead to the military demands of the post-Afghan era, towards the Army of 2020 and beyond. Some commentators suggest that:
- the bar is set very high for commitment to new military operations especially those involving boots on the ground
- we will initially seek to partner with proxy forces to do our bidding if ground engagement is unavoidable
- where there is no alternative to employing our land forces we should do so for as short a duration as possible
I am the first to recognise the genesis and attraction of such approaches today. After all we should only put our soldiers in harm’s way if all other alternatives have been exhaustively explored. But there is a danger that today’s perceived certainties become tomorrow’s flawed assumptions.
The task that came our way from the announcements last July was that of designing an Army some 20% smaller in regular terms, augmented by a much increased dependence on an expanded Reserve, to be capable of delivering outputs akin to the level of capability and capacity set out in the SDSR of 2010.
This challenge is coupled with the recognition that we face an era of unpredictability, where conflict is, if anything, going to be more demanding. Not so much in terms of its scale as in its potential variety and complexity , although there can be little doubt that mass will continue to bring a quality of its own. Various domestic considerations such as the ambition to rebase the balance of the Army from Germany into UK are also important factors in our future design. Common to any option is the assumption that we should invariably operate with Allies, whether under NATO, in a coalition of the willing – potentially US led - or with bilateral partners.
So we are seeking to create an Army that is sustainable in resource terms which could be employed with strategic precision to offer genuine political choices in the prevailing operating context.
Cognisant of the manner in which the Army had handled such fundamental changes in the past, the Army Board gave General Nick Carter the task of forming a small select team to undertake root and branch analysis to design an Army structure that would meet these novel and demanding parameters.
In parallel we asked some notable academic friends for their analysis of what had worked and what hadn’t in previous attempts to reform the Army over history. Professor Hew Strachan, who knows us well and is renowned for his tough love, provided his analysis at last November’s Army Conference at Sandhurst. He pointed out that such exercises had historically got this spectacularly wrong not least because of too much deference to conventional wisdom. I hope I covered this point earlier. But where it had worked well in the past Professor Strachan cited political endorsement and an effective engine for debate and open discussion as two key ingredients for success, coupled with the readiness to grasp ideas from the junior echelons.
Against this backdrop the Army 2020 team has delivered a seminal piece of work, about which we in UK can both enthusiastic and proud, notwithstanding the awkward reality of shrinking our regular manpower.
This will see the removal from the order of battle of famous and close-knit battalions and regiments from across the Army. It will entail many of the soldiers and officers of the current ‘warrior generation’ departing the Army on redundancy terms. Looking after those people and their families as they transition into civilian life is one of our key priorities.
The Army 2020 structure, which will be revealed in some detail later this morning by General Carter, is as imaginative as it is pragmatic. It has been examined in fine detail at every stage by the Army Command Group and approved formally by the Army Board. The Armed Forces Committee and the Defence Board have both given it their strong endorsement. Perhaps as important, within the bounds of information security, it has been derived from significant consultation within the generation that matters in the Army: those who will fight the new structure once it has been implemented, if and when the call comes.
Having scrutinised it in some detail the Secretary of State has lent his full endorsement, for which I am extremely grateful. It now awaits some final work before a formal announcement.
So what does Army 2020 look like? It is a concept for an Army structure which sets a direction of travel for the modern era, designed to be resilient to any further changes in the strategic context including economic shocks. There is of course an initial force structure which is our aiming mark under prevailing assumptions.
But adaptation is our watchword so we must respond vibrantly in future to shifting circumstances: this is nothing new, but on some occasions in recent years we have been more agile than on others. And if we are to derive agility from a tauter structure then we must design it in from the start and imbue our people with a quest for learning and adaptation through an enlightened education system.
The structure delivers variable geometry forces, which are adaptable to a range of roles. It assumes that we will need to be prepared for the full spectrum of operational tasks - as conceptually demanding as we have faced in any past era. But it also takes account of our inability to predict at this stage where, how, with whom and against whom we will be committed to operations. There is nothing new in this for a standing professional Army, but it is a contrast to our experiences of the past decade
In the Army 2020 structure, Reaction Forces provide a modified air assault brigade with its integral attack helicopters and three armoured infantry brigades – each with resilient peacetime establishments and equipped with upgraded Challenger tanks and Warrior infantry fighting vehicles, and the new Scout vehicle - to produce VHR and HR force elements at prescribed levels. A high bandwidth network has to be provided to service the information and intelligence demands of the future battlespace.
At the top end this envisages a war-fighting division at best effort, given strategic warning. These forces will be the mainstay of the Army’s contingency and conventional deterrence posture: the nation’s key insurance policy for decisive military action on land. Readily compatible with a range of partners to operate within a NATO construct and within a US-led land component.
In a separate and novel echelon seven infantry brigades of varying sizes within an Adaptable Force will be comprised of paired regular and reserve units. I will leave General Carter to cover the detail, but the dependence on the reserve contribution will be significant. These formations will be configured for UK operations and UK engagement, for capacity building, upstream prevention and wider engagement overseas, and to with warning to provide the additional brigade-size elements of an enduring operation, as and when they are needed. UK’s standing garrison tasks in Brunei, Cyprus and the Falklands Islands, will be found from the Adaptable force as will public duties and state ceremonial. For the first time our lower readiness deployable forces and our regional footprint will be found from the same command structure.
Force troops will support both reaction and adaptable forces with artillery, engineer, surveillance and intelligence, logistic, and medical brigades, amongst others. This too is a novel departure. It will ensure we provide our manoeuvre support and logistic support as efficiently as possible.
The Joint Helicopter Command remains an integral element of the land force, building on its success over the past decade of operations.
The Army 2020 construct will be a fully integrated regular-reserve force. It will increasingly be relocated in the UK. It will capitalise on the powerful merits of a modern regimental system that has delivered such robust fighting power in recent years. We will be moving to this new structure gradually over the next 5 years with the most significant changes at unit level occurring in the 2014-16 timeframe.
Implementation of the Army 2020 concept depends upon a number of issues that are still work in progress:
- Basing and infrastructure plans are still evolving. Until they are finalised we cannot reposition regular and reserve units, fully define their roles, and identify the partnering arrangements that will be critical to delivering this integrated force structure.
- Reform of the terms of service and employer relationships for a radically different reserve force is high priority work. The levels of training and commitment we shall be calling for to make the integrated operational force structure a reality will be built on the superb contribution being made by the reserve on operations today. But a quantum shift will be needed to generate collective capability at sub unit and potentially unit level rather than the individual contributions that are most commonplace nowadays. I am confident that with bold changes we can deliver this.
- Clear definition of how we implement a total support force comprised of regulars, reserves, MOD civilian experts, and contractors. Especially so for the more enduring situations when support demands become more predictable. Thus enabling reductions in the regular logistic structure.
This conference is designed around the changes I have outlined. There is much to discuss with our international partners who are undertaking similar transformations in varying degrees – as we shall hear later. So don’t hold back - there is a debate to be had here now.
In concluding let me focus my remarks on the UK audience and especially the more junior cohort. Army 2020 is an ambitious vision for unpredictable times. It will demand resilience, flexibility and genuine adaptability from talented and committed officers and soldiers. In return it will provide challenge and opportunity in abundance. Soldiering in this Army will continue to be an exacting and rewarding vocation.