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1967 - Healey Review

A major internal review was undertaken in the early sixties, leading to the Mountbatten-Thorneycroft reforms and the Ministry of Defence Act 1964, which created an integrated MoD. The newly elected Labour government launched a defence review in 1965 under the Secretary of State for Defence, Denis Healey. The Healey Review was, in essence, a series of separate studies undertaken by different bodies using different methods. It initially reported to Parliament in a White Paper of February 1966, but was not completed until mid-1967. The process did involve a review of foreign commitments, but that followed after the decisions to make substantial savings by cancelling major equipment orders and reorganising and reducing the Territorial Army. Its numbers were halved to 45,000, and the dissolved units were 'cadreised' into nuclei from which they could supposedly be rebuilt-which in practice meant that they were reduced to an almost notional existence.

Although the 1967 White Paper announced continued commitments East of Suez (though with 40,000, at half the previous manpower levels), it warned : "Defence policy can never be static ... This Statement ... describes the framework of policy within which further decisions will be taken in the years ahead."

By 1968 a further White Paper, in an attempt to stay within a 2 billion cash limit, proposed accelerated withdrawal from Singapore and Malaysia as well as from the Persian Gulf (all to be completed by 1971). The review also signalled the abandonment of further aircraft carrier construction. The rationale behind the new strategy was, the White Paper explained, that : "Long-term planning is essential in defence. An advanced weapons-system may take up to ten years from its conception to enter service and, in some cases, may then have a further twenty years of operational life. If we are to have forces with the right balance of skills and ages, capable of giving a worthwhile return on their expensive training, we need a stable long-term programme for manpower and recruiting ... substantial uncertainties remain, particularly in the fluidity of the international situation, the development of military technology, and the allocation of roles between allies. In these circumstances, the Government must strike a balance between the best estimate it can now make of Britain's probable defence requirements and the degree of flexibility it can afford as an insurance against the inherent fallibility of judgement." Again, these words would not have appeared out of place in the 1998 White Paper.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:08:05 ZULU