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6 Nov, 2014 17:35

UK defense cuts will harm next govt’s military capability, forces chiefs warn MPs

UK defense cuts will harm next govt’s military capability, forces chiefs warn MPs

Cuts to the defense budget will harm the UK’s military capability, armed forces chiefs have warned. Senior military officials believe the next government in 2015 will not be able to maintain British deployments if current budget cuts are implemented.

Speaking to the Commons Defence Committee, the heads of the Army, Navy and Royal Air Force (RAF) and the head of the Joint Forces Command said the current cuts to the UK defense budget would be unsustainable for the next government.

First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff Sir George Zambellas said “we would be very quickly in a position where we could not deliver [the strategic plan].

If we do not [stick to current spending] then we would return to the government and say we can’t do what we are asked to do and what do you want us to give up.”

Military chiefs believe that current cuts to the defense budget would jeopardize the effectiveness of the “future force 2020” plan. The plan was created to address the need for spending cuts in essential military capabilities, while maintaining an effective force.

The next parliament after May 2015 may struggle to continue implementing cuts to the military, experts warn. Even if the current budget is maintained, defense spending is forecast to fall below the NATO benchmark target of 2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

Sea Lord Admiral Sir George Zambellas.(AFP Photo /Tim P. Whitby)

There are further concerns that current military projects have not yet been fully costed, and the full expense of projects, such as the UK commitment to purchasing four new F-35 fighter jets, would need to be factored into the 2015 Strategic Defense and Security Review.

The review is due to be published weeks after the 2015 general election.

Concerns have arisen as the UK further commits to significant domestic and overseas military projects and expenditures.

On 28th October, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon announced Britain’s first shipment of Lightning II fighter jets, which cost over £70 million each to produce. Fallon welcomed the agreement, saying the requisite training and infrastructure would create many UK jobs.

Britain has also committed troops to the Middle East to participate in the training of Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and in operations against Islamic State (also known as ISIS, or ISIL).

Fallon announced on Wednesday that UK forces were “already taking part in airstrikes across Iraq and carrying out training for Kurdish forces in the north of the country.

“It is right that we do more to help Iraqi forces take the fight to ISIL on the ground, which is why the UK is offering the further training, support and assistance I have outlined today.”

Fallon further said Britain would increase the number of reaper drones to the region to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to the Iraqi army.

Proposed defense cuts also came under fire in March 2014 when the Commons Defence Committee said in a report said that it had “considerable doubts” about the ways in which the budget cuts were developed and tested.