Fox trims top-heavy armed forces

By Alex Stevenson

Defence secretary Liam Fox is launching a bid to reduce rivalry between the RAF, Royal Navy and Army, as part of a major shake-up of the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

The defence board, which makes key decisions within the MoD, will be streamlined with only one military officer, the chief of the defence staff, present.

The heads of the services will receive more decision-making and budget responsibilities, but the number of senior officers – what Dr Fox calls the "star count" – will fall.

A new joint forces command is being established to oversee joint military capabilities, including cyberwarfare and military intelligence, between the three services.

"None of our positive vision for the future can be achieved if we don't tackle the drivers of structural financial instability and the institutional lack of accountability throughout the MoD", Dr Fox told the Reform thinktank in central London this lunchtime.

Proposals from Lloyd's of London chairman Lord Levene on the internal workings of the department announced today are forming the basis of streamlining reforms.

Dr Fox said Lord Levene's assessment found the MoD had "overly bureaucratic management structures, dominated by committees leading to indecisiveness and a lack of responsibility".

The MoD will introduce 'joint personnel management' for senior military officers and create a simpler structure, with fewer senior posts.

"We need to prepare military structures for future roles and challenges," the defence secretary told the Today programme.

"I want to create new career structures and opportunities as well as having better streamlined management, because we've allowed costs to escalate and projects to run over in the most appalling way. We need to bring that under control."

Efficiency savings are essential following last year's comprehensive spending review, however. The MoD plans to make 25,000 job cuts among civilian staff over the next four years.

Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy claimed spending cuts which influenced last year's strategic defence and security review had created a black hole in the MoD's finances, however.

"Ministers sought efficiency savings they could not find and are engaged in events they did not foresee," he said.

"We need clarity on the scale of the mismatch between the MoD's assumptions and the spending settlement and whether there are set to be more cuts to programmes in this parliament."