Letter: Forces in unison

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The Independent Online
Sir: The overall structure, process and purpose of the UK's armed forces is ripe for redefinition. The capacity to defend the realm must take precedence. The capacity to project force is secondary. The non-defence role of the armed forces and their relationship with civil entities is little explored. The desirability of preserving defence industries can be made a virtue.

There is obvious scope for unifying the recruitment, basic training, career direction, technical and craft training, command and communications networks, transport, infrastructural elements and much else of the Army, Air Force, Navy, Police, Fire, Ambulance, Air/Sea rescue, Mountain Rescue, Civil Defence and Coast Guard.

A national system of civil support/defence could subsume all of those named above in one sleek, integrated and cost-efficient mechanism, where all of the different arms act in support of each other as the necessity arises. Force projection beyond our boundaries could be made a field for those with a proven aptitude for warfare and who volunteer to serve the nation where national survival is not at stake.

Armed forces with second rate equipment are of limited value. British arms manufacturers need to be allowed to be world leaders by providing the best to our own forces first. Exports of proven materials can benefit the Exchequer and there is a ready market for surplus or superceded equipment.

Piecemeal consideration of the issues at stake and continuous top slicing of budgets serves only to degrade capacity to act and crush morale. Boldness and a larger vision could yield unique solutions and great benefits.

Yours sincerely,

STEVEN FORD

Haydon Bridge,

Northumberland

18 October

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