The size and cost of Wales' armed forces

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The size and cost of Wales' armed forces

Post  MH on Sat 4 Oct 2008 - 2:36

This post was original made on the walesonline.co.uk forum on 4 September 2007
http://forums.icwales.co.uk/viewtopic.php?p=16591#16591


The first thing to say is that we already have an Army! Welsh regiments play their full part in the British Army now. So when the UK breaks up (or if, for those who still doubt what I think is inevitable) they will naturally form the base of our own Army, just as the Scottish regiments will form the base of the Scottish Army. The bases, barracks, firing ranges etc, that are in Wales will be ours, together with our 5% share of the moveable ordnance, supplies and equipment.

Obviously the upper level command structure (and the supply infrastructure) would need to be modified. But we won't be starting from Square 1 on the chessboard ... we'll be starting from around Square 57!

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The second question will be how we afford it. And the answer is, very easily indeed! The UK defence budget is quite large. £28bn in 2004 (which are the figures I used when I last did these sums) but a bit more now. We in Wales are already paying our share of this through taxation. Our "straight" 5% share of this would be £1.4bn ... but obviously we have to adjust this to account for the relative percentage of tax Wales contributes to the UK Treasury.

As we've mentioned, the Treasury doesn't publish these figures, but if we work on the basis of GVA (Gross Value Added, which is now preferred to GDP in statisics) Wales' GVA per head is about 80% of the UK's. So it's a fair assumption that Wales contributes about 80% of the £1.4bn ... or £1.12bn of the UK's defence budget. So what sort of level of armed forces could we get for that money? An awful lot ... in fact, far more than we need!

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So the third question is what operational size we need. This is somewhat harder, because it involves making assumptions. But I'll say what my assumptions are, and you can take issue with them as you wish. Taking a very broad brush approach, I would split the UK's defence into 4 parts: the Army, the Air Force, the Navy and nuclear weapons.

I don't think anyone would advocate an independent Wales having its own nuclear weapons. Neither do I think that Wales has an especially strong national naval tradition (although I'm sure that on an individual basis that will be different). We have no naval bases since Pembroke Dock was downgraded, and we have a very small sea area to defend. We have nothing that opens onto open international waters. Ireland and Cornwall are both closer to the open Atlantic than we are.

Therefore two parts of the UK's defence system are hardly needed by us at all. But the Army and Air Force are a different question.

To consider what size Army would be appropriate for Wales, it's best to compare us with other countries in Europe. I want to look at the current UK, Ireland (because it is our closest independent neighbour) and the Baltic States (because they are of similar size to us).

UK: There are about 108,000 personnel in the British Army with 38,000 in the TA. About 10% of the regular force is recruited abroad. So Wales' pro-rata 5% would round out to about 5,000 regulars and 1,900 reservists.

Ireland: The regular army of Ireland has 10,500 personnel, plus a reserve army of 13,000. The Republic's population is 4.25m. Surprisingly, this is more per head than the British Army. Wales' population is about 2/3rds the size of the Republic, which would equate to 7,000 regulars plus more than 8,500 reservists.

Lithuania: Has a population of 3.6m. The army has 5,800 personnel.

Latvia: Has a population of 2.3m. The Army has 4,800 personnel plus a 11,600 strong "volunteer paramilitary organization".

The regularity of this pattern seems to suggest that Wales would have an Army of say 6,000 regulars (which is not so far off what we have right now) but maybe quite a few more reservists than we have now.

The Irish Air Corps has 930 personnel and 39 aircraft. The Latvian Air Force has 247 personnel and 8 aircraft. The Lithuanian Air Force has 1000 personnel and 23 aircraft. So I would guess a Welsh Air Force of about 1000 personnel and 40 aircraft (helicopters would probably be part of the Army).

Just to round off, the Irish Navy comprises 8 patrol vessels and has 1,000 regulars and 400 reservists. They have a huge area of the open Atlantic to patrol. We probably need only half a dozen. Pro rata that would mean say about 750 (+300) personnel in the Welsh Navy. For comparison, Latvia has 800 personel. Lithuania has 700 personnel.

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Now the $64,000 question. How much would this cost? The best thing is to look at what it costs our neighbours in Ireland. It will cost them just over €1bn for 2007, which is £670m.

http://www.defence.ie/WebSite.nsf/Release+ID/82D0A9B1C27B30AA8025722800530AB7?OpenDocument

This figure is just over half of the £1.12bn that we in Wales were paying in 2004. But Ireland has a population of 4.25m. So if we factor in population size we'd be talking about Wales paying £450m for the same personnel levels as Ireland. But because Ireland has a much larger Army relative to the current UK, we would probably end up paying less than £400m if our armed forces included an Army of 5-6,000 regulars.

This is very easily affordable. It's just about a third of what we're paying now!
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Re: The size and cost of Wales' armed forces

Post  sionnyn on Wed 13 May 2009 - 21:14

These figures are compelling as they stand. But if you factor in the savings of refraining from illegal foreign adventures, grandiose nuclear ambitions, and 'Empire' delusions, I'm sure we could come up with an even more palatable budget.

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Re: The size and cost of Wales' armed forces

Post  LordBute on Sun 5 Jul 2009 - 23:04

M H's thougts on the size of a Welsh States armed forces is about right. I doubt if the Welsh government would think it is 1909 and see a need to send gun boats to sort out the natives in remote parts of Asia as do the current deranged clowns in London.

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Re: The size and cost of Wales' armed forces

Post  penddu on Thu 6 Aug 2009 - 9:55

While I find MHs logic very compelling, I still think that this might leave us with an Armed Force which is still too big - All dressed up and nowhere to go.....

Maybe we need to consider just what we would use these forces for - Air Sea Rescue, Mountain Rescue, Border Security, Police Support, Ceremonial Duties - that is about it inside Wales, but I assume we would also provide troops to international forces (for justifiable NATO & UN operations). But is still seems a big force.

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Re: The size and cost of Wales' armed forces

Post  JD on Tue 10 Nov 2009 - 17:32

penddu wrote:While I find MHs logic very compelling, I still think that this might leave us with an Armed Force which is still too big - All dressed up and nowhere to go.....

Maybe we need to consider just what we would use these forces for - Air Sea Rescue, Mountain Rescue, Border Security, Police Support, Ceremonial Duties - that is about it inside Wales, but I assume we would also provide troops to international forces (for justifiable NATO & UN operations). But is still seems a big force.

Yes, I can just picture them shooting at tin cans and doing figure-of-eight skids on Mynydd Epynt...

And we're looking at only about fifty classified roads that cross the border anyway (it's a little complicated by things like &searchp=ids.srf&mapp=map.srf]Pentreheyling and &searchp=ids.srf&mapp=map.srf]Lower Harpton); as a ball-park figure, 300-600 men could easily make it look as border-like as was politically desirable. My instinct is that we need an army of about 2000 men -- which roughly moves us from being in synch with the USA, Burma, and Pakistan, to being in synch with the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, and China. Or there is the Costa Rican solution, which appeals to my pacifist instincts, but would probably be politically impossible.

I'm particularly not keen on foreign adventures. I don't see what we'd gain from NATO, other than an irritating pressure group for increased military expenditure. Austria, Cyprus, Finland, Ireland, Sweden, and Switzerland are not members of NATO, although Finland and Sweden have sent a significant number of troops to Afghanistan (about 200 and 500 respectively).

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Re: The size and cost of Wales' armed forces

Post  Gwas-noweth on Sun 11 Jul 2010 - 23:25

Or there is the Costa Rican solution, which appeals to my pacifist instincts, but would probably be politically impossible.

Wales needs an army, even if its mainly symbolic (i.e. even if it's weak and would be trampled in a day). Police can't handle everything, and a country at least needs to put up some sort of a fight if its being invaded.
Costa Rica, Iceland and the other countries with no armies rely on one thing - powerful allies or neighbours which won't want to see them invaded.
So think about it for a second, that would mean Wales would still be independent on England, NATO and America for defence - why? Because we all know England would never want Wales to be invaded by anyone (apart from itself), so in other words anyone who wanted to invade Wales would have to "go through a hostile England first".

This situation might be OK if you could live with knowing that, but seriously, wouldn't it just feel like the same old system, with Wales under England's "sphere of influence", or "thumb"?
Wales needs its own military, even if it were small, at least Wales would stand a better chance during invasions and would be able to acknowledge the fact that it wasn't just relying on England to defend it.


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Support for Armed Forces Veterans in Wales

Post  sonia2010 on Thu 12 Jan 2012 - 11:48

This submission largely, although not exclusively, focuses on issues which involve some cross-border responsibility or where this has been fully been devolved.

· There is a need to ensure veterans in Wales are able to make use of their right to priority access to medical treatment.

· The Welsh Government must ensure that a transition protocol is developed for seriously injured veterans in Wales.

· The Welsh Government must consider the recommendations of Andrew Murrison’s Prosthetics Review.

· Consideration should be given to increasing the resources available to the All Wales Veteran’s and Health and Well-being Service.

· The Welsh Government and local authorities should ensure that sufficient funding is available to provide the disabled facilities adaptations required by veterans.

· The DWP must ensure that compensation payments made to veterans in Wales continue to be disregarded when assessing for assistance with housing costs.

· The Welsh Government, Department for Communities and Local Government and local authorities should continue to fully disregard compensation payments made to veterans in Wales when assessing for assistance with council tax costs.

· The proposed enshrining of the principles of Armed Forces Military Covenant in law will require, through the Annual Covenant Report, the MOD, other departments and the Welsh Government to demonstrate how they are ensuring the Armed Forces and veterans are receiving appropriate and fair support. For more info:

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