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Defending Our Nation, Supporting Our Veterans

Despite the ever-present threat to our safety, our Armed Forces  have been cut to the bone. UKIP will spend a genuine two per cent  of GDP on defence, increase the number of those serving in our armed forces by 20,000, properly equip those on active service, and look after those who are prepared to put their lives on the line for our country,  in service and when discharged.
US President Theodore Roosevelt said the key to success in foreign policy was to “speak softly but carry a big stick.” In the modern era, British politicians have all too often shouted loudly while carrying a matchstick. 
In 2010, the new Conservative-led government began including the Single Intelligence Account, Armed Forces pensions and Trident in the defence budget, rather than accounting for them separately. This sleight of hand budgeting allowed them to claim they were still meeting our NATO obligation to spend two per cent of GDP on defence, when in fact our armed forces were being steadily depleted. Tory cuts to the equipment programme and manpower have been deep: they have put our national security at serious risk.  
THE ARMY The Conservatives ignored their manifesto pledge to keep army numbers above 82,000: reductions imposed on the defence budget since 2010 have shrunk the Army to 78,000, its smallest size since the Napoleonic Wars. Main battle tank strength has been cut by 40 per cent and there has been a 35 per cent cut in self-propelled artillery. The government’s ambition to recruit 30,000 personnel to the Territorial Army to address the shortfall in regular army manpower was a fatally flawed concept and undeliverable from the start. Regulars and Territorials are not interchangeable. 
THE ROYAL NAVY In 1982, the Royal Navy sent 115 ships, including two aircraft carriers carrying jet fighters, plus 23 destroyers and frigates, to retake the Falkland Islands from Argentina. Today, after decades of cuts, the Royal Navy is a shadow of its former self. The surface fleet is currently down to just 17 frigates and destroyers. The Navy’s Harpoon missiles will retire from the fleet’s frigates and destroyers in 2018 without a replacement, and there will be a two-year gap without helicopter launched anti-shipping missiles. The Royal Navy has shed people faster than ships: we had 39,000 sailors in 2000; now they number only 29,000.  The Strategic Defence and Security Review of 2015 vowed to stop cutbacks on the fleet, but the damage has already been done.
The two new Queen Elizabethclass aircraft carriers will not be operational before 2020.  Even then, serious questions remain about whether the Royal Navy will be able to man, operate and protect them. It would take nearly every ship in the current surface fleet to form an effective carrier group so they could be deployed. Moreover, it has been widely reported that each carrier will routinely deploy with only a dozen F-35B 
aircraft. In comparison, the two Royal Navy carriers involved in the Falklands Conflict carried twenty-odd Harrier jump  jets each. 
THE ROYAL AIR FORCE The Royal Air Force is shedding one sixth of its staff, some 7,000 personnel, and 295 aircraft. By then, the RAF will have fewer than 200 fighter planes for the first time since the beginning of World War I. Despite Russia probing UK air space on a regular basis, we no longer have any maritime patrol aircraft. In 2015, the UK found itself in the embarrassing position of having to call upon surveillance assistance from US, Canadian, French and German aircraft, more than 20 times.
Many frontline pilots have  been on active combat operations for more than a decade. Combat fatigue has taken its toll and experienced aircrew are leaving the service. The weapons officers who fly behind the pilot in the twoseater Tornado are particularly in short supply. After decades of Treasury-driven budgetary cuts, the RAF finds itself in the unhappy position of doing less 
with less, with no prospect of an upturn in its fortunes. 
A GENUINE COMMITMENT TO OUR NATO OBLIGATIONS The Tories have threatened our security by leaving huge holes in our national defences.  They have failed the British people, who must remain well protected in an increasingly dangerous world, and those who put their lives on the line for us, who must be properly equipped. 
Britain must have a well resourced, properly manned, fit-for-purpose armed force, one with the capability to defend simultaneously Gibraltar and the Falklands Islands, contribute to one major theatre operation and several peacekeeping missions. 
UKIP will spend a genuine two per cent of GDP on defence, and scale up defence spending by an additional £1 billion per year by the end of the parliament. UKIP will reverse the demilitarisation of our country and rebuild our Armed Forces. 
DEFENCE PROCUREMENT UKIP will overhaul the wasteful defence procurement process. 
46 |  UKIP Manifesto 2017 
It has lacked proper scrutiny, been based on protectionism rather than on the needs of our Armed Forces, and is subject to inappropriate lobbying and cronyism on a massive scale.  Even Gordon Brown railed against the  “incestuous relationship between the Ministry (of Defence) and the arms world,” although he did nothing about it.  
Defence contracts regularly run massively over budget and over time. Botched projects have become the norm. Despite the fact that Defence Equipment and Support (the organisation responsible for purchasing equipment) employs 12,300 people, one for every six full time soldiers in the British Army, it has failed to deliver value  for money for taxpayers and has left service personnel at risk. 
UKIP will end the cosy relationship between ministers, officials and arms firms that lies at  the heart of poor defence procurement  decision-making.
DISCHARGED FROM SERVICE: A NEW MILITARY COVENANT FOR OUR HEROES The political class has got its priorities so wrong. In February this year, Theresa May announced MPs would get a £1,049 pay rise. Meanwhile, she capped pensions for 140,000 British war heroes and widows, giving them  just £1.10 per week.
In 2015, UKIP promised to create a new Veterans’ Administration, organisationally independent and financially separate from the Ministry of Defence. This is still a priority for us: Britain must do more  for veterans.
THE VETERANS’ ADMINISTRATION:  KEY ROLES  The Veterans’ Administration will have its own minister and work with existing veteran services and charities. It will provide a single point of contact for veterans in a range of fields: health care, housing, counselling, education and  training, rehabilitation, hospital care, access  to financial services, benefits and memorials.  The department will also have responsibility for issues such as bereavement support, homelessness, drug and alcohol abuse and veterans’ mental health. 
The Veteran’s Administration will issue a veterans’ service card to ensure fast-track access to NHS and mental health care, and award a National Defence Medal to all veterans, irrespective of rank or length of service. 
HOSTELS FOR HOMELESS VETERANS No veteran should be homeless, let alone have to sleep rough on the street, yet this is happening because the Government is not enforcing a law stating military heroes must be offered homes. 
UKIP will enforce this law, and build eight halfway house veterans’ hostels, each with  200 rooms and modelled on similar hostels already in operation. We will also assign  500 affordable rent homes every year to  ex-forces personnel.
GUARANTEED JOBS FOR EX-SERVICEMEN AND WOMEN UKIP will guarantee a job in the police service, prison service or border force for anyone who has served in the Armed Forces for a minimum of  12 years. Our ‘Boots to Business’ policy will help exservice personnel set up their own businesses by offering loans, grants, free professional advice and mentoring to any veteran who wishes to pursue an entrepreneurial career after leaving the forces.  
ENDING LEGAL HARRASSMENT OF  EX-SERVICE PERSONNEL  UKIP will not allow veterans to be chased, harassed and intimidated by over-zealous human rights lawyers, most of whom are unlikely even to begin to comprehend the pressures of the battlefield. We will bring forward legislation preventing veterans from being pursued for years by police and prosecutors for actions taken whilst in the service of the Crown. We will not permit veterans to be tried over allegations of misconduct dating from half a century ago under any circumstances. 
Veterans should not be sleeping in the streets or consigned to the dole, nor hounded for doing their jobs. UKIP is determined they will get the help, care and respect they deserve.
• Create an over-arching role of Director of National Intelligence, who will be lead a new, single, unified intelligence service
• Revise the Armed Forces’ terms of service, to ensure personnel on operational duty overseas do not pay income tax
• Oppose any form of military integration with the European Union.