There is plenty of debate surrounding defence. There are some who want Trident scrapped. Some want its budget to be cut. Those in the ‘defence community’ want a larger budget. I intend to avoid that debate.
But on 20th July, the MoD published their Annual Report and Accounts 2017-18. In it, they highlighted their achievements over the past year, including the staggering deployment of 2,100 personnel to support hurricane relief in the Caribbean. The Report also documented that military aid to civil authorities was provided on over 130 occasions including in response to the chemical attack in Salisbury, and the fires on Saddleworth Moor. In the past year alone, the UK has doubled the number of troops it deploys on UN Peacekeeping Missions. We have also offered 2,240 International Defence Training places to other nations.
Most staggeringly, Daesh has lost more than 98% of territory they controlled in Iraq and Syria in the past 3 years, thanks – in large – to the leadership the UK has shown in the coalition and our training of 72,000 Iraqi Security Forces.
Three Army battalions totalling up to 1,200 soldiers remain on 24-hour standby on an enduring basis and can be called upon by Government Departments, should The Cabinet Office require emergency support (flooding, fires, a public sector strike).
In 2017-18, Explosives Ordnance Disposal (EOD) teams responded to 448 Improvised Explosive Device Disposal incidents and 1,882 Conventional Munitions Disposal Incidents, including a high profile incident when a legacy World War II munition was found in the Thames near the City Airport in February 2018. These are incidents too severe to be dealt with by the Police Force.
The UK’s contribution to the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) is now at full strength of 380 troops, with engineers in Malakal and Bentiu, and a field hospital in Bentiu. This means that, in the last year, the UK has now more than doubled its commitment to UN peacekeeping with deployments to South Sudan.
After Hurricane Irma, the UK deployed 2,100 military personnel and transported 109 tonnes of aid. The MoD worked alongside other government bodies to ensure the re-electrification of Anguilla within three months of Irma passing in September 2017.
The UK currently has 85 Defence Attachés deployed around the world, supporting fragile governments and agencies with advice and decades of experience.
Bilateral relationships with Germany and France have undoubtedly been strengthened, with several high profile personnel exchanges and exercises. Most recently, the UK has supported the UN and France in Mali by deploying 3 Chinook helicopters to support the counter terrorism operation there. Similarly, in Columbia, the UK supported the UN Mission monitoring the implementation of the FARC peace process.
Whatever one may think of defence in the UK, it is difficult to avoid the overwhelming contributions it has made not just domestically, but to other countries too. Sure, we followed the US into the Iraq War. Sure, some people think politicians lie about defence. But the vast majority of the stigmas people have against it originate from poor political decisions. Indeed, we cannot forget that the personnel employed by the defence sector are outstanding, courageous and a constant symbol of the indomitable British spirit. It is for this reason, then, that they must continue to be appreciated for their invaluable service.