In Focus: UK defence policy and the role of the armed forces

Featured in House of Lords

UK Military


In January 2023, the House of Lords International Relations and Defence Committee published a report entitled ‘UK defence policy: From aspiration to reality?’. As part of its inquiry, the committee considered the issue of the size of the army. The report noted that some witnesses had expressed concern about plans to reduce the number of army personnel. ... However, the committee noted that some of its other witnesses did not see the size of the army as the best measure of the army’s capabilities. For example, the committee quoted Professor Malcolm Chalmers, deputy director-general of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), as saying “it is unfortunate in today’s world that the main metric we use for army capability is the number of people … If you are saying that you want a bigger army but you want them less well equipped, I would say no”. The committee also heard evidence from Professor Michael Clarke, a former director-general of RUSI, who said that the appropriate size for the army would depend upon its purpose. He agreed that the government’s target may be sufficient if it was to “provide one really good combat division”. However, he argued that it could not possibly be large enough if it also wanted “to do other things and operate from global hubs”.