Senior army officer condemns plans to cut troop numbers, saying it is not a 'sensible military option'


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A senior British army officer has condemned plans to cut troop numbers, saying it is not a "sensible military option".

Brigadier David Paterson, the honorary Colonel of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, said he was “bitterly disappointed” by proposals to slash the battalion’s troop numbers, which are likely to be cut from about 1,100 to 600.

In a letter to General Sir Peter Wall, Chief of the General Staff seen by the Daily Telegraph, Paterson wrote: “I, as Colonel, have the duty to tell my men why it is their battalion, which at the time of the announcement will be the best manned battalion in the Army, with recruits waiting in the wings, was chosen by CGS.

“I will then also have to explain to my Fusiliers in a fully manned battalion why they are likely to be posted to battalions that cannot recruit. This will not be an easy sell.”

On Thursday, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond is expected to confirm to Parliament the scrapping or merger of dozens of Army units. Roughly a fifth (20,000) of Army personnel are set to lose their jobs by 2020 as numbers are cut to about 82,000.

A Ministry of Defence spokeswoman said: “We don't comment on leaked documents. The CGS has held a number of discussions about the restructuring of the Army with senior officers. We have always been clear that more than one set of criteria is used in determining the future shape of the Army as it is restructured to become an integrated regular and reserve force by 2020.”

In his letter, which is thought to have been written last month, Brigadier David Paterson said: “I would not want you to have even the slightest impression that I am challenging your orders…If challenged or scrutinised by, for example the media, it cannot be presented as the best or most sensible military option.”

He also criticised the short amount of time, about 24 hours, which unit commanders will have to digest news of the cuts before they announce them.

“This is not long enough for my commanding officers to brief their men and cannot be right.”

Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy called Brigadier Paterson’s letter a “serious criticism” of the government’s military changes.

“The government is presiding over an erosion of trust and a decline in military morale. The impact on capability and the criteria used for Army changes must be clearly explained,” he said.

“Tough decisions are necessary, but ministers' continued speculation and delay has only heightened uncertainty and a sense of disarray.

”The government must ensure that anyone made redundant is provided with post-service opportunities, including for service families.“