Sir: Paul Vallely ("How Blair can save billions on defence", 10 February) may well be right to say that substantial savings in the defence budget would be possible if Britain either faced up to its dependence on the United States or joined up to a common European defence policy. However, neither option appears realistic, certainly in the near-medium term.
I disagree with Paul Vallely's conclusion that there are "not many more efficiency savings to be made". Significant delays and massive cost overruns in the procurement process persist, and poor MoD management still wastes large sums.
But the more fundamental issue Labour's review would need to address is the balance between commitments and resources. If our armed forces are overstretched and becoming "hollow", and we are not going to increase their numbers, then we must reduce their commitments. If Britain wants an army rather than a gendarmerie it must allow it the opportunity to train as such: if it wants to sustain high morale amongst service personnel, it must honour minimum standards of intervals between operational duties.
There is a danger that we are concentrating too heavily on high-profile new pieces of hardware and neglecting the essential support of that equipment in warfare. What is the point of sustaining hundreds of shiny new tanks if the minute you need to actually use them three-quarters of them do not work, as was discovered before the Gulf War?
Dr STEPHEN PULLINGER
International Security Information Service
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