Sir: It is regrettable that the headline you used in the article about the Strategic Defence Review ("Forces in revolt over cost-cutting review", 22 January) gave such a misleading impression of the story below. The fact is that the criticisms detailed in the article, many of which are neither new or surprising, are directed not at the Strategic Defence Review but at the problems which we identified in opposition. I launched the review precisely to deal with these problems.
I will not comment on the details contained in the leaked document, except that it demonstrates the truly open nature of the review process. I said last year that we would consult widely and listen to what people said. That is what we are doing. No punches are being pulled in this review.
The feedback it has received underlines that we were right to make the review a foreign policy rather than a resource led process. This is not a cost-cutting exercise but a re-examination of our defence requirements from first principles. Indeed, one of the main issues at the heart of our work is the need to address overstretch on our personnel and the shortfalls in military capability inherited by this government, after very deep cuts by the last one.
The Prime Minister rightly said at the Lord Mayor's Banquet last November that we must always look for efficiency in money spent on defence, but we must not reduce our capability to exercise a role on the international stage.
The messages we are receiving from our personnel, both military and civilian, are that they want vision for defence into the next century, that people matter and that they believe the review must address these issues. I agree entirely with them. The review will provide the vision needed to underpin strong and relevant defence, based on the clear belief that people are our most important asset.
Secretary of State
Ministry of Defence