So, a Defence Review has been set in motion even though the Government has for a long time said they would hold off from ordering such a study. But with the operational pressure growing, the financial situation dire, and clamour from the likes of George Robertson and Paddy Ashdown for a security rethink, the Government has been left with little choice.
Kick-starting the review process also has the advantage of robbing Liam Fox, should he become Defence Secretary, of a "Bank of England moment" – i.e. a quick, early governmental decision that delivers some new momentum for Team Cameron. And Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth needed to do something to stem the growing scepticism with which his appointment has been met.
But despite – or perhaps because of – these reasons, I’m not jumping for joy. As I told Parliament’s Defence Committe, what is needed is a National Security Review, from which can flow a Defence Review.
The reasons are simple. Most security challenges, even those that involve large-scale combat, can only be met with the use of both military and civilian instruments. But both have been underfunded. Taking a comprehensive look across all security-related insitutions, looking at gaps and suggesting needed restructuring would seem a more modern way forward. Only this way can it be ascertained whether civilian or military departments need to be the ones that deliver aid in the world’s hotspots – or whether the military needs to be cut drastically and the security services expanded.
Any defence review also needs to look at past reviews. Some, like the one in the first Blair government, were very important. Ordered by George Robertson, it may have been part of a historical process started by the Major government, but it had structural and funding consequences in its own right. The subsequent "New Chapter" and the Future Capabilities reforms were undermined by the military’s unexpectedly high operational tempo and the Treasury’s parsimoniousness. Looking at what worked and what didn’t in the past will be key.
But what do you think the new defence review should say? Grow the army and cut the RAF? Build a specialised Stabilisation Brigade? Or perhaps, like the Australians, move to a one-service structure above Colonel-level? Re-examine the UK’s basing structure, as the US does regularly and the French have done following publication of their Livre Blanc? What about equipment? Should the Navy be forced to live without as many carriers? Or cut standing commitments, say, to the Allied Rapid Reaction Corp. Finally, what about Trident?
Tell us what you think. It is, after all your money, your military and your name in which they fight.