Page 3 Profile: General Sir Nicholas Houghton, Chief of the Defence Staff


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The Independent Online

The new head of Britain's armed forces?

Yes, Sir! He will take over from General Sir David Richards as Chief of the Defence Staff in July. David Cameron said: "He has got a difficult job, but I think Nick Houghton will make an excellent job of it. He has been working very closely with me to expand the Territorial Army, to expand our reserves... and I want to make sure we deliver on what we have promised."

And what exactly have "we" promised?

The Oxford graduate, who was the senior British military representative in Iraq between 2005 and 2006, will need to drive through the Government's "radical" reforms to the Ministry of Defence. The Armed Forces are undergoing considerable organisational change, and the regular Army will decrease in size to 82,000 by 2020, leading to the loss of thousands of jobs. To support this shrunken force, reservists will be given extra training in a move critics described as a "military gamble". In addition, Sir Nicholas must deal with questions over whether the Navy can afford two new large aircraft carriers. Perhaps most importantly, he must manage the withdrawal from Afghanistan. The majority of British soldiers will be pulled out by the end of 2014.

Is he the man for the job?

Sir Nicholas was responsible for the strategy for withdrawing 8,000 British troops from southern Iraq, so you would hope so. And he's certainly on-message: he has admitted that the Ministry of Defence couldn't be spared budget cuts at a time when the economy is still reeling.