Secretary of State for Defence, Dr Liam Fox, has written a message to all military and civilian personnel setting out his objectives, priorities and intent for how policy will be translated into action in the months ahead.
Dr Fox's full message to all military and civilian staff follows:
"Following discussions with my MOD ministerial colleagues, PUS [Permanent Under Secretary], CDS [Chief of the Defence Staff], and other members of my top team, I have agreed the following objectives and priorities for the remainder of 2010.
"Afghanistan will remain the top priority. Our people in theatre must get the best possible support. Counter-insurgency needs strategic patience but by the end of the year I expect that we can show significant progress with the mission, building on previous achievements, consolidating ISAF's hold in central Helmand, and accelerating the training of the Afghan security forces that is already ahead of target.
"Achieving success in Afghanistan must not prevent us from conducting our other operational commitments effectively or from preparing to meet other contingencies, particularly in the Middle East. I shall be conducting a thorough stocktake of our contingency plans in the months ahead.
"The focus for many of us in the next six months, and my second priority, will be on conducting a cross-Government, policy-led, resource-informed Strategic Defence and Security Review [SDSR]. I am determined that this exercise will bring defence policy, plans, commitments and resources into balance, and produce over time a transformative change to British Defence. This will not be a salami-slicing review but one which provides coherent long-term policy direction and takes the tough choices required to produce the Armed Forces and wider defence capabilities the country will need in the decades ahead.
"One reason why tough choices are needed is that the Government has inherited a forward defence programme that is simply unaffordable against likely future resources. We need to break out of the culture by which key equipment programmes are regularly delayed for affordability reasons. I have set in hand work to review all the major equipment and support contracts to ensure the future programme is coherent with future defence needs and can be afforded.
"At the heart of the SDSR will be a thorough examination of our force structure, looking at the overall shape, size and role of Armed Forces personnel and MOD civil servants, including the Reserve Forces. I am, however, determined that the Armed Forces and the MOD Civil Service should continue to employ high quality people. We will need to ensure we motivate the people who will continue to provide the core of defence capability. In recognition of the demands the country places on our Service personnel, I will also look to improve the package of welfare and healthcare for those who serve, particularly in the area of mental health, and to make improvements to accommodation wherever possible within budgetary constraints.
"In every aspect of Defence, and particularly in the support area, I shall be looking to bear down on costs, seeking improved value for money and greater efficiency wherever possible. As part of this work I intend to follow through on the commitment in the Coalition Agreement to reduce the MOD's running costs by 25 per cent. This will require some tough decisions with impact in many areas of the Department.
"The SDSR will inevitably impact on how Defence is structured and organised. I intend to establish a Defence Reform Unit to help plan and implement these changes. Mindful of the scale of other challenges, this work will proceed on a separate track with a view to completion by this time next year, though early high level findings may have to be woven into the SDSR.
"Internationally, the core of UK security must remain NATO, which should be our instrument of first choice for collective security challenges. The US will be our major partner but we will also step up bilateral co-operation with France and other partners, and revitalise a broad programme of defence diplomacy. I also intend to revitalise our approach to defence exports. This has the potential to both increase UK influence and safeguard UK defence jobs. Within NATO, I shall be arguing the case for accelerating the process of reform, giving the alliance a more robust new strategic concept, and taking a more strategic approach to European burden-sharing.
"Finally, I expect also to reset the MOD's relationship with the defence industry to reflect our changed economic circumstances and push ahead with the process of acquisition reform. More than ever the focus will in future be on getting the Armed Forces the equipment they need when they need it, at a price we can afford. To that end I intend to update and improve the Defence Industrial Strategy.
"The year ahead promises to be very challenging for all of us. The operational tempo looks set to stay high and there is a real prospect of having to deal with additional contingencies. We will need to complete the SDSR in less than half the time it took to conduct the last major defence review. And the global and national financial situation provides a stark backdrop.
"But I hope that, like me, you also regard the period ahead as an opportunity to put Britain's defence on a stronger, more stable footing. You will all have the opportunity to contribute to this programme of change. My ministerial team and I have been greatly impressed with the professionalism and frankness with which we have been welcomed into the MOD, and find the bravery, dedication and capability of our personnel to be genuinely inspiring. What you do matters to every man, woman and child in the United Kingdom.
"I look forward to working with you in the period ahead."