Dominic Cummings sends message to military by brandishing historic letter by US military strategist

The historic letter was written to David Packard, who carried out a review of defence spending for president Ronald Reagan

The 1986 letter was written by the former US air force general Bernard Schriever
The 1986 letter was written by the former US air force general Bernard Schriever Credit: Chris J. Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Dominic Cummings sent a message to military chiefs as he strategically brandished a historic letter from a leading US military strategist ahead of the looming defence shake-up.

Boris Johnson’s chief adviser was photographed holding the letter, dated 1986, from the former US air force general Bernard Schriever, one of the leading figures of the US missile and space programmes, as he entered Downing Street on Tuesday morning. 

The document, which appears to rail against the "blizzard of legislation" around defence procurement and accused the system of "inhibiting technological innovation", was written to David Packard, who carried out a review of defence spending for president Ronald Reagan.

Mr Cummings, who holds a lead role in the integrated defence review,  has previously hailed General Schriever, as a "phenomenally successful" manager for his work on rapidly deploying intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

In the letter General Schriever wrote: “I strongly believe that the wise and timely application of technology to provide qualitatively superior weapons, second only to people, is the most important ingredient to our national security.” 

It comes after the Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace, said earlier this week that Britain's armed forces will be reshaped to be "fit for tomorrow's battles, not fighting yesterday's".

 A close up of the letter Dominic Cummings was seen holding outside Downing Street Credit: PETER NICHOLLS/REUTERS

However, many have expressed concern over what a reshaped Armed Forces could look like.

Last month the former Chief of the General Staff spoke out over proposals to scrap tanks as part of the review, which he said would be “dangerous thinking”.

General Lord Dannatt previously told The Telegraph: “Dominic Cummings is clearly driving a lot of things at the heart of Government but I don’t think he has a particularly well developed understanding of the requirements of defence.” 

Meanwhile concerns were also raised by naval sources as this newspaper revealed that anti-submarine warships could be cut down to single figures following the review, with the potential for the UK’s existing fleet of frigates to be reduced from 13 to just eight. 

It comes after the Defence Select Committee was warned by defence experts that the proposed number of F-35 fighter jets, which are also to be debated during the review, are not enough to aid the three armed forces. 

Appearing before the committee, Justin Bronk, Research Fellow in Combat Airpower and Technology, Royal United Services Institute, said: “There is a huge reliance being placed in all three of the armed services on what the F-35 Lightning II fighter jets can bring. There is far too few of them to cover all of that.” 

It has been suggested that Britain could buy only half its target of 138 F-35s.  

Mr Bronk added that the review needed to make clear whether the jets were to be used exclusively for the aircraft carriers, or if they were wanted to do other things, in which case the number of fighter jets procured would “have to go really significantly above 70”.