Defence cuts will force the British Army to rely on foreign forces and private contractors for support and supply operations, Philip Hammond will say today.
The Defence Secretary will say that reforms in the Army structure due soon will focus the shrinking force’s resources on its combat units.
The Army’s “combat service support” operations including logistics will increasingly be provided by other organisations, he will say.
Reforms will also mean that regular Army units will always deploy to the frontline with troops from an enhanced Territorial Army.
The British Army is being cut from 102,000 soldiers to 82,000, with the latest round of redundancies due to be announced next week.
As well as shedding personnel, the Army is also restructuring, meaning that “some units inevitably will be lost or will merge,” Mr Hammond will confirm.
The regimental restructuring plan has raised fears for long-standing infantry units like the Black Watch
In a speech to the RUSI Land Warfare Conference, the annual forum for debating the future of the Army, Mr Hammond will insist that the restructuring will retain the basic regimental structure of the Army.
The changes will “maintain the ethos, traditions and connections that are part of what makes the British Army so effective – particularly, a regimental system and regionally-focussed recruiting.”
He will insist that ministers “value the history and the heritage because they deliver tangible military benefits in the modern British Army.”
However, he will warn that a smaller Army will mean making “difficult decisions”, decisions that mean the Army remains“capable and agile” in the years to come.
A significant part of the reform will be to focus resources on the “teeth” of the Army, the units that are trained and equipped for combat. The cost of that focus will be reductions in “tail” units providing supply, logistics and transport capabilities.
Those capabillities, he will suggest, will be increasingly provided by private contractors and Britain’s international allies.
The Army, Mr Hammond will say, must be “thinking innovatively about how combat service support is provided. Using more systematically the skills available in the Reserve and from our contractors. Working closely with partners to operate logistics more rationally through Alliance structures. Looking to others to provide the tail, where Britain is concentrating on providing the teeth.”
As the regular Army becomes smaller, ministers want to make more use of the TA.
To maintain the Army’s ability to carry out its existing military tasks, ministers have said that the capability of TA reservists will be increased so generals can rely on 30,000 deployable reservists by 2015.
Regular Army commanders have cast serious doubt on that target, questioning the training and commitment of some reservists.
However, ministers insist it will be realised and Mr Hammond will tell Army chiefs today that the TA will become a “permanent” part of the Army’s strength.
“The integrated Army concept means that light infantry battalions will be reinforced on deployment through a permanent partnership with reserve battalions,” he will say.