While the pandemic has upended public finances since then, the decision that the Army will shrink its staffing target by around 10,000 troops by 2025 is a clear repudiation of that pledge. From an “established strength” of 82,000 troops, it is intended personnel numbers will be reduced to 72,500 by 2025 – albeit from the position that there are currently only 76,500 soldiers presently in the ranks.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has set out plans for a £3bn investment in new vehicles, long range rocket systems, drones, electronic warfare and cyber capabilities but as Tory backbencher and former Army captain Tobias Ellwood has argued, this appears to come at a “huge price” given the substantial cuts in troop numbers that will be dropping to their lowest levels since 1714.
The move does not seem to tally with the Government’s recent reversal of a plan to decrease the number of nuclear warheads in its stockpile or Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab’s accurate warning that democracy is “in retreat” across the globe as autocratic regimes grow in wealth and power.
It is only right to take advantage of the latest technology in a changing world to equip the military. But equally, well-trained, well-equipped, compassionate and fast-thinking foot soldiers will still be required in strong numbers to defend the nation for generations to come.
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