BRITAIN’S defence and security department is no longer the ‘basket case’ of Whitehall, a government minister has claimed.
Armed Forces Minister Penny Mordaunt, the Portsmouth North MP, has reassured the nation’s defence personnel that the impending 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) will be ‘less painful’ than the one in 2010 which was criticised by many for failing to anticipate uprisings and subsequent conflicts in the Middle East.
Ms Mordaunt made her comments during a speech to the Atlantic Council think tank in Washington.
In it, she described the 2010 budget review as a ‘pretty dire situation’ and said: ‘That was a pretty brutal time and understandably the focus on it (the SDSR) was on kit and equipment and we had some very painful decisions to make.’
The MP told reporters at the meeting that one of the main criticisms of the previous review was that it hadn’t been ‘particularly strategic’.
‘We are in a different position now,’ she claimed. ‘In the last five years through really tough reforms we have brought into defence we are now no longer that basket case.
In the last five years through really tough reforms we have brought into defence we are now no longer that basket case. We are the top performing Whitehall department.Penny Mordaunt, Armed Forces Minister
‘We are the top-performing Whitehall department.
The Armed Forces Minister’s comments have been welcomed by Portsmouth’s dockyard union official, John Ferrett.
Mr Ferrett, who is a negotiations officer for The Prospect Union, said: ‘It couldn’t have been any worse than the last strategic defence review given that the last one left us without any aircraft carrier and without the Harrier jump jets and got rid of the Nimrod.
‘It’s reassuring that it’s not going to be worse than the last one.
‘However, we’re still concerned that there may be further cuts.’
During her time in the US capital Ms Mordaunt also said that the reliance on the UK’s reserve military forces would also increase.
The minister, who is herself a Royal Navy reservist, said: ‘We’re facing massive challenges in other areas of defence as well and we are going to have to do more with what we have got.
‘The reserves are absolutely fundamental and key to enabling that to happen and that’s not just a way of keeping the numbers up.
‘It’s how each individual service is going to use them.’
She also stressed that overall recruitment strategy would be a key issue going forward, and highlighted the need to be able to ‘retain the best people’.