Kevin Tebbit: We need a flexible Army for the 21st century

From a speech at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, by the permanent undersecretary at the Ministry of Defence
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The Independent Online

The international community needs to confront the threats from international terrorism and WMD. An imperative to intervene in states on humanitarian or peacekeeping grounds, even where the UK is not directly threatened, has also emerged - witness, Kosovo, Macedonia, East Timor and Sierra Leone. Our armed forces are facing a wider range, frequency and duration of tasks than we had previously envisaged - to meet them will demand a range of responses bound in ever more flexible forces.

To achieve this, a rebalancing is required. We need armed forces structured and equipped to deploy rapidly at small and medium scale; that optimise platforms and units so they have increased effectiveness across the range of desired military effects, from war deterrence, to war fighting, to peace support.

What does this mean in practice? We are looking to restructure the Army to make it better suited to expeditionary operations. We have so far announced the creation of a new light brigade, and the reduction of one armoured brigade (from three to two). This will enhance our existing light forces by offering a third choice in addition to 3 Commando and 16 Air Assault Brigades.

Our armed forces have no option but to adapt if they are to be best placed to meet the security challenges of the first part of the 21st century. But this is nothing new; our armed forces justifiably have a proud history of adapting successfully to meet the changing threats with which they are confronted.

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