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Operations in Iraq: Lessons for the Future


Key Lessons

  • The production of a rehabilitation directive was a useful tool and its wider utility for future operations will be considered.
  • The recuperation process is well underway through a graduated and cost-effective refurbishment and replacement programmme.
  • Re-balancing of our support priorities has allowed the UK to maintain its forces at a readiness to meet its existing commitments and respond to emerging crises.


12.1 UK forces began to withdraw from the Gulf theatre of operations in early May 2003, with the original 46,000 personnel reducing to some 10,500 over a period of around three months. To facilitate this drawdown of forces, PJHQ produced a rehabilitation directive to direct priorities and activities for unit rehabilitation, informing both continuing operations in Iraq and preparation for redeployment back home. This proved to be a useful tool and provided timely direction.

12.2 On their return, those who had served during the operation underwent a programme of recuperation including post-operational leave before they restarted training and other routine activity. A small proportion also had to focus on further planned operational deployments, both in Iraq and elsewhere. We are using the King's College Hospital, London study described in Chapter 9 to identify any post-operational medical problems.


RMP sergeant at re-opening of Basrah school where she led a refurbishment project
RMP sergeant at re-opening of Basrah school where she led a refurbishment project

12.3 After the end of the major combat phase, significant quantities of equipment, vehicles and stocks were shipped back to the UK. A rigorous inspection programme then began to assess maintenance requirements after the equipment's exposure to harsh conditions during active service in the heat and dust of southern Iraq. An assessment of the quantities of stores and supplies consumed on the operation was also set in hand so that stockholdings could be restored to their pre-operational levels or in accordance with revised target levels. Initial inspections are for the most part now complete, and the recuperation process is well underway through a graduated and cost-effective refurbishment and replacement programme.

Costs of the Operation

12.4 Under long-standing Government arrangements, operational expenditure is met from the Reserve on the basis of net additional costs (in other words, excluding costs that would have been incurred anyway, such as Service salaries). This was the first major operation to be costed under full Resource Accounting and Budgeting principles, which created some additional challenges for finance staff.

12.5 Early in the operational planning process the requirement was identified for additional expenditure in a range of areas: Urgent Operational Requirement (UOR) equipment enhancements, increases in some logistic stock levels, pre-deployment training, contracts for infrastructure including satellite communications, and the charter of strategic air and sea lift (the UOR process is described in Chapter 2).

12.6 Close consultation between MOD and the Treasury on the resource requirements of the operation started early in the planning process and has continued on a regular basis. The Chancellor announced in his pre-Budget Report to Parliament in November 2002 a "1 billion special reserve in 2002-03 to ensure that resources are available to meet overseas and defence needs in the fight against global terrorism". In March 2003 the Chancellor increased this figure to 3 billion, to take account of the military campaign and the need for immediate humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people.

12.7 Our latest estimates suggest that the cost of equipping and deploying our forces to the Gulf up to the point of starting active operations was close to 700 million. The costs of the actual conflict include the large quantity of equipment (including guided weapons, munitions and bombs) and a huge range of other stores deployed to the Gulf.

12.8 The cost of the conflict (including combat operations up to 31 March 2003) was 847.2 million (this includes the 700 million above for equipping and deploying our forces). It will take time fully to assess the costs of stock consumption, and of damage and losses to equipment. However, initial estimates suggest that the cost of recuperation may be in the region of 650 million; this figure will be subject to revision as the inspection and maintenance programme continues. For Financial Year 2003-04 MOD intends to seek a further 1.2 billion in the Winter Supplementary Estimates to cover the likely costs of the operation. This will cover, primarily, the cost of post-conflict operations and associated UORs. It does not include the cost of recuperation of MOD's operational capability mentioned above. These sums are analysed in more detail in the table below.

  2002-03 2003-04
Service and civilian manpower costs 34.6 195.1
Accommodation (includes IT and communications) 83.6 77.2
Defence equipment, plant machinery and vehicles 160.6 167.5
Air and sea charter 89.6 108.9
Stock consumption 170.2 243.2
Depreciation and write-off of fixed assets 73.9 83.1
UORs and other capital items 217.7 219.9
Other costs (Op Welfare, currency gains/losses) 17.0 92.7
Total 847.2 1187.6

12.9 MOD was allocated 30 million for immediate humanitarian aid to meet our national obligations in the interim period before the security situation became sufficiently stabilised to 7273allow representatives from other Government Departments and civilian agencies to take on humanitarian responsibilities. The additional 10 million for Quick Impact Projects was discussed at paragraph 11.9. However, it is too early to estimate overall post-conflict costs at this stage.

A. Updated chronology
B. List of forces deployed
C. Statistics

 Chapter 11 - Post Conflict Operations
Annex A - Chronology 

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