While global military spending seemed recession proof as it continued its upward climb in 2009 (see previous post), fiscal reality has finally closed in on the UK in 2010 – and the Ministry of Defence will not escape the consequences.
Military spending is to be cut by 8 per cent (well short of the average of a 19 per cent cut across all departments)[i] over the next four years.[ii] All the services – Air Force, Army, and Navy – are to see significant cuts, as will civilian staff. Notably, the final decision on the long-planned renewal of Trident nuclear forces has been put off to 2016, and in the meantime there will be a reduction of nuclear warheads from 160 to 120.
Commentators and analysts have been largely critical of a process that has reduced defence policy making to a budget making exercise, but the Guardian singled out the changes to the nuclear deployments as part of the good news: “CND [the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament] welcomed [Prime Minister Cameron’s] decision to reduce Britain’s stockpile of nuclear weapons by 25%. The delay in the decision to start construction of new submarines to replace the Vanguard class which carry the Trident nuclear deterrent is also welcome – but only as a precursor to scrapping these weapons, which even Tony Blair now acknowledges can never be used independently.”[iii]
[i] Thomas Penny and Gonzalo Vina, “Osborne to Slash Jobs, Tax Banks in U.K. Budget Cuts,” Bloomberg, 20 Oct0ber, 2010. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-10-20/osborne-pledges-8-billion-reduction-in-u-k-debt-costs-amid-spending-cuts.html.
[ii] “Defence review at-a-glance,” BBC News, 19 October 2010. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-11574573. Richard Norton-Taylor, “Strategic defence review means end of Iraq-scale military interventions,” guardian.co.uk, 19 October 2010. http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/oct/19/strategic-defence-review-military-cuts.
[iii] “Defence and security review: Groping for a strategy,” The Guardian Editorial, guardian.co.uk, 20 October 2010. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/oct/20/defence-and-security-review-strategy.