Letter: The future of defence

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ADMIRAL Sir James Eberle's letter ("Foreign policy will determine military goals", 8 April) gave a thoughtful analysis of the main issues of the Strategic Defence Review.

I can reassure him that rather than being overlooked, as he feared, the starting point for the review was indeed a thorough forward-looking reassessment of our foreign policy and security objectives. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Ministry of Defence worked together to establish a foreign policy framework to underpin the detailed review work.

Admiral Eberle is right to point out that it is the unparalleled professionalism and commitment of our service men and women that makes them so respected around the world. As I said in my speech at the Royal Institute of International Affairs on 12 March, past reviews have concentrated on equipment issues, sometimes at the expense of people. I want this review to give people their proper place. Our armed forces are busier than ever before and I am determined that we must work to resolve the problems of overstretch and undermanning that put such a strain on service personnel and their families.

Our forces must be structured to enable them to meet the challenges of today's and tomorrow's world - not the Cold War world of yesterday. I wish to ensure that we can rapidly send them, use them, and support them, wherever in the world they are deployed. In the new strategic setting there is much greater scope for the armed forces to be able to operate together. Increased joint service co-operation is therefore a major theme of the review, albeit not at the expense of the unique and distinctive contribution each service makes.

The Government will now decide, collectively, on the final outcome of the review. I am confident that it will provide the armed forces with a coherent and stable planning base for the 21st century.

GEORGE ROBERTSON

Secretary of State for Defence

London SW1

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