Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Armed Forces morale 'badly damaged'

Defence Secretary Liam Fox rejected the conclusions of a leaked Ministry of Defence document

The confidence and morale of Britain's Armed Forces has been "badly damaged" by the Government's handling of the defence review, according to a leaked Ministry of Defence document.

Defence Secretary Liam Fox said the document - seen by the Daily Telegraph - was an unauthorised assessment drawn up by "a junior official" and rejected its conclusions.

But the newspaper said the highly-critical analysis - marked "restricted" - was drawn up by "a board of military officers and senior officials" chaired by strategy director Tom McKane.

As well as attacking a failure to keep the forces informed of where the axe would fall, it complains that international allies were not properly consulted and that the process was rushed.

Prime Minister David Cameron revealed last month that warships, fast jet fighters and thousands of soldiers, sailors and airmen face the axe in a bid to slash defence spending. The cuts - which have come under repeated fire from ex-military chiefs - were the result of a strategic defence and security review (SDSR), carried out alongside the spending review.

Tensions over the process were exposed in a previous leak - this time of a letter from Dr Fox to Mr Cameron warning that it was "less and less defensible" and of "grave consequences" of severe cuts.

According to the Telegraph, the document concluded that, "by general consensus, internal communication of the final decision was badly handled".

"The combination of well-sourced media stories on final decisions (e.g. on Nimrod or Ark Royal) and these restrictions on internal communications have badly damaged the confidence and morale of our personnel and created a poor baseline for implementation," it concluded. "In retrospect - and as advised by the Chain of Command at the time - the restrictions on internal briefing were clearly a mistake."

Dr Fox said: "This is not an official document, I do not agree with its conclusions. A junior official drafted a document which was not authorised, requested or seen by any MoD Minister. While I am not going to comment on the details of a leaked document, the SDSR process and its outcomes have been supported throughout by myself, my ministerial team and the service chiefs.

"The SDSR will deliver a modern Armed Forces fit for the range of tasks that we face. It was based on a rigorous assessment of our priorities, proper consultation with allies, and thorough discussion with the chiefs and their services."

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