Defence ministry rules out fresh troop, arms cut
LONDON BRITAIN’S Defence Ministry has “balanced the books”, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said on Sunday, and does not expect to make further cuts to the size of its armed forces or its equipment programmes.
The ministry is one of the government’s most heavily criticised departments, and a 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) was meant to bring order to its chaotic and expensive weapons programmes and rationalise its budget.
The review heralded deep cuts to the size of the military and the scope of its weapons projects, moves the government said were necessary to fix a 38 billion pound ($61.1 billion) “black hole” in the defence budget.
Britain’s defence budget this year is 34.4 billion pounds. “In the next few days we will be in a position to make the grand announcement that I’ve balanced the books,” Hammond told Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper.
“We’ve also put a sizeable contingency into the equipment plan, which has never been done before, so that if we do have a problem .... we can manage it without destroying the rest of the programme or running crying to the Treasury,” he added.
He later told the BBC that previously announced manpower cuts are “as far as we need to go” to balance the budget.
The Defence Ministry said the contingency fund meant it was “confident” that it would not have to make further cuts to personnel and equipment programmes for the “foreseeable future”.
The next SDSR is due in 2015. Under current plans, navy and air force personnel are set to fall by 5,000 each, while 12,000 will be cut from the army’s numbers, 5,000 more than a figure outlined in 2010. Critics said the 2010 review was rushed and illconsidered, and last week rising costs and delays forced the government to make an embarrassing U-turn on the type of jet fighter it would buy in a multi-billion dollar weapons programme