Trident and the Armed Forces.


The defence budget having to be split between conventional forces and the WMD ‘deterrent’, the armed forces have never been keen on our costly nuclear weapons programme. The full cost of Trident, as revealed by the Nature article, is staggering, and if it were more generally realised that we cannot even use Trident without United States’ permission to use their guidance system, the objections by the service chiefs would become stronger still.  Meanwhile, our military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan are stretching resources to the point where it is alleged that the safety of our soldiers is being put at risk. 

Sometimes even basic equipment has been in short supply.  Note the incident of the soldier killed in Iraq after he had lent his body armour to a colleague who was judged to be more in need, because there were not enough suits to go around.  To quote from a recent (20/8/06) Observer article (Townsend and Brooks) : A recent report by an all-party parliamentary committee concluded that British troops are having their safety compromised by ageing or inadequate equipment which urgently needs replacing.

Politicians contemplating a military adventure consult service chiefs, the latter’s advice being no doubt restricted to the practicalities of the venture.  But there is pressure on service chiefs to go along with politicians despite some private reservations (army chiefs must have had doubts concerning the recent deployment of British troops to Afghanistan, for example).  According to a former British officer Michael Moriarty writing in the Guardian 29/8/06, a kind of Parkinson’s law operates within the armed services, in that chiefs feel they must spend their annual allocation ‘for fear that if they are not seen to use what they have, funding will be cut’.  Moriarty comments that this has therefore encouraged a willingness to take part in operations requested by politicians, ‘which in turn has served to feed the government’s appetite for military interventions’. A vicious circle indeed!  

Without the bleeding of the defence budget occasioned by our ‘nuclear deterrent’, the forces could be better funded, tensions between government and the armed forces would be eased and relations put on a more frank and open basis, to the benefit of all concerned.