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State of the Union (Chapter Cover)

Chapter 5[]

State of the Union - Book 2[]

Resaurius Keep, Tharkad
Donegal Province, Lyran Alliance
12th November, 3064

The Triad’s ballroom had been the site of both the previous Whitting Conferences and the layout had become something of a tradition already, with a podium and tables for the assembled lords forming a circle. That circle had grown a little tighter when the St Ives Compact was... reunited... with the Capellan Confederation and now another table had been removed with the reunion of the Lyran Alliance and the Federated Commonwealth.

The original six seats of the First Star League had probably been something like this, Peter thought, before they moved into the purpose-built chamber in Unity City. Back before the Reunification War. The next triennial Conference would take place only a few days after the five hundredth anniversary of the Federated Suns agreed to join the nascent Star League although the date it became official was either two or four years later: when the Draconis Combine agreed to join or the day the Star League Accords had actually been signed.

“I’m honored to be invited to return to command of the SLDF.” his brother said from the podium. He wore an AFFC Field Marshal’s uniform now - without prompting, wonders would never cease. “However, it’s been made clear to me that the problems of the Federated Commonwealth are in part of my making and I have a responsibility to make them right. As such, returning to the SLDF is something I couldn’t honorably do at this time.”

Victor bowed his head humbly. “I can assure you though, that Hohiro Kurita has done a fine job commanding the SLDF in my absence and I commend him to you as Commanding General in his own right.”

Peter glanced across the circle at Theodore Kurita and gave a slight nod, confirming that this was his position as well. The Coordinator glanced at his eldest son and then returned the nod.

“Shall we vote on the appointment?” asked Thomas Marik, looking around as he rather blatantly played arbiter of the conversation. “Or does anyone wish to speak on General Kurita’s qualifications?”

No one spoke up and the Captain-General cast his vote in favor, which made the matter a closed deal with both Peter and Theodore adding their vote. General Mansdottir voted in favor as well and Sun-Tzu abstained, which he’d done more often than not in the Conference. Peter took that to be a sign that Catherine was right about his moving to disengage the Capellan Confederation from the Star League now that he’d milked it for all the benefits he was likely to get.

Hohiro Kurita moved from the seat next to his father to replace Victor at the podium, the two friends shaking hands amicably before Victor moved back to sit in one of the chairs at the Federated Commonwealth table.

“Thank you for the vote of confidence,” Hohiro began, setting a noteputer on the podium. “I’m honored to be named as the Commanding General. I’d like to continue today’s discussions by touching on the expansion of the SLDF.”

Peter nodded. “Please continue, General Kurita.”

“The original intention for the SLDF was to gradually build up towards something resembling the organization of original SLDF - brigades, divisions and even corps of troops - a plan which would take a considerable length of time.” Hohiro cleared his throat. “After extended discussions with General Trevana, I’ve come to the conclusion that not only would the timescale for this be unrealistic but it would also fail to recognise both the very different logistical situation of the modern SLDF and the lessons all our militaries have learned through the Succession Wars and the Clan Invasion.”

“May I ask what you propose instead?” asked the Captain-General - who along with the bored-looking Sun-Tzu Liao hadn’t been consulted on this. To be fair, Hohiro hadn’t approached Peter either but Victor had filled him in.

“At the moment, the SLDF includes the Eridani Light Horse, the Royal Black Watch regiment and the First Royal BattleMech regiment, effectively six BattleMech regiments with varying degrees of conventional support. Over the next three years, I’m proposing to reorganize and expand this into a pair of Regimental Combat Teams, each made up of four combined arms brigades. Each of these brigades will be built around a BattleMech regiment - or at least a ‘Mech-heavy combined arms regiment  - a supporting infantry or at least infantry-heavy regiment and a support command of armor, artillery, aerospace and other specialized assets.”

“Much like a Draconis Combine combat brigade then?” asked Alys Marik from where she was seated next to her ‘uncle’.

“Similarly, Duchess Marik.” Hohiro inclined his head slightly. “The Eridani Light Horse would retain their traditional designation as the Third SLDF RCT, while the Black Watch and the First Royals will form the core of the First SLDF Royal RCT, joined by two additional brigades. In the long term, we envisage dividing the First RCT to create a Second RCT with one spearheaded by the First Royals and the other by the Black Watch.”

Peter rubbed his jaw. “I like it, the strong infantry contingent would serve the SLDF well in the peacekeeper roles they’ve been called on for in their recent history and the units are small enough to be strategically flexible.”

“Thank you, your highness.”

“How do you propose to pay for this expansion?” Sun-Tzu asked in a disinterested tone, as if he could barely be bothered to inquire. “I see no military threat to justify further contributions towards this military build-up.”

Peter restrained himself from a snort at the hypocrisy of the former First Lord who’d used the SLDF as peacekeepers in the neighboring St Ives Compact and then replaced them with his own troops in a creeping invasion.

If Hohiro felt similarly, the new Commanding General didn’t condescend to show it. “Over the last three years, much of the material budget of the SLDF has gone to replacing equipment lost in Operation Serpent… and similarly the personnel budget into rebuilding lost manpower. We’re now receiving a steady flow of recruits from the Focht War College on Tukayyid and our equipment stockpiles are sufficient to begin assembling the proposed Second BattleMech Regiment next year, with the Third to follow in 3066.”

“The College provides freshly trained personnel.” Ragnar Magnusson was seated next to his Regent at Rasalhague’s table but he’d spoken rarely so far. “Do you have enough experienced personnel to stiffen them in the new units?”

“In addition to the college, our recruiters have had an influx of new applications on Galatea and Outreach.” Hohiro tapped his noteputer, clearly changing pages. “The majority of the increase comes from former AFFC and LAAF soldiers discharged over the last twelve months.”

“Your soldiers are voting with your feet?” Sun-Tzu asked snidely.

“There are also a number of soldiers from worlds once part of the Sarna March who’ve chosen not to take Capellan service,” Hohiro continued, causing Sun-Tzu to subside and trigger some less than discreet snickers among those further from the tables. “While some additional training in SLDF doctrine and equipment will be required, we expect to be able to stand up the infantry regiments and most of the two support commands before the end of 3065.”

BattleMechs will take longer then?”

“Yes, Captain-General. The main restraint there is in purchasing new BattleMechs. We have sufficient funds but most major manufacturers are prioritizing their national militaries. With the exception of your own realm and Rasalhague, recent military action has left them rebuilding.” He paused. “It’s not clear why your own manufacturers are so heavily booked.”

“I’d imagine that with other nations restricting sales that we’re receiving increased demand from mercenary units.” Marik replied.

“If we can avoid further conflict amongst ourselves, I’d imagine the situation will stabilize in a year or two.” Peter folded his hands and lent forwards to rest his chin on then. “But it should be feasible for most of us to set aside a company or two of new ‘Mechs for the SLDF, surely. That should permit the Second SLDF BattleMech regiment to form on schedule.”
“Given your realm’s much vaunted military-industrial complex, I’m sure you’d like a larger share of the Star League tax money.” Sun-Tzu grumbled.

Peter didn’t bother to restrain his expression. “If I suggested that all five members provide twenty-four ‘Mechs you’d complain that I was putting disproportionate load on your realm, but if we go with proportions based on relative size then I’m pork-barrelling? There’s really no pleasing you, Chancellor.”

“That’s enough,” Theodore said firmly. “such squabbling ill-befits the Star League Council.” He looked back to his son. “If you could have the SLDF’s projected needs circulated to our staffs, each lord can see what they might be able to award priority with their native manufacturers.”

“Of course, sir.” Hohiro tapped once more on his noteputer. “If an agreement in principle can be agreed then purchasing officers could travel to each state along with the council delegations as they return home. The sooner the arrangements are locked in, the sooner we can begin bringing the Second SLDF brigade to combat readiness.”

Peter made a note to himself as well. Resupplying the AFFC was going well but replacing soldiers - both those killed and those who’d chosen discharge over continuing to serve or even retirement to their homeworlds’ militias - was going to be a slow process. Lowering standards could have sped the process up but the cost of that could be severe in combat effectiveness so it was looking as if it wouldn’t be until the current freshmen in various academies graduated that frontline forces would be back at their full notional strength.

As a result, finding a few companies of BattleMechs shouldn’t be impossible over the next year. He’d set working groups to assessing variants currently in production to try to cut down the enormous variety of designs being churned out and focus on ‘Mechs that had solid performance to back their use. The uncertainty over what they should be building had set some of the smaller manufacturers back so contracting for a few of what they were already building - and in the case of those competing for grants to set up secondary facilities, smooth feathers.

He’d see what Hohiro had in mind.

“Thomas is covering for something,” Victor murmured. “most of the mercenary commands these days are leaning on independent manufacturers like Outreach. If anything the League’s share of that market is diminishing.”

“So where’s the equipment going?” asked Peter quietly, half-turning as the Captain-General engaged Hohiro with questions about possibly seeing an SLDF deployment to halt the ongoing conflicts between the periphery states near his border. There wasn’t a chance in hell of that getting approved so it was almost certainly just playing for the holo-cameras.

Victor glanced significantly towards William Blane, the Blakist representation in the Free Worlds League delegation. “Even now that they control Terra, the Word of Blake is receiving a double-digit percentage of the League’s military manufacture.”

What were they doing with that? Peter wondered. Terra was by its nature a threat poised to sever the Terran corridor if the Blakists decided to turn against the Federated Commonwealth. And so little was known of their military strength that planning counter-measures was an exercise in speculation. In the worst case, adding ten percent of the League’s production to any factories restored on Terra could easily bring them up to the size of ComGuards given a few more years.

We need to know more, he decided. This isn’t something I can afford to ignore.

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