Thu, Aug 04, 2011 - Page 6 News List

UK defense cuts trigger concerns

AFP, LONDON

Cuts to Britain’s defense budget could leave its armed forces below the “minimum utility” required to “undertake all that is being asked of them,” a government report published yesterday warned.

According to the defense select committee report there is “mounting concern” that the loss of aircraft carriers, planes and 30,000 front-line troops could lead to “strategic shrinkage” of the military.

“We are not convinced, given the current financial climate and the drawdown of capabilities arising from the Strategic Defence and Security Review, that from 2015 the armed forces will maintain the capability to undertake all that is being asked of them,” the report said. “Given the government’s declared priority of deficit reduction we conclude that a period of strategic shrinkage is inevitable.”

British Prime Minister David Cameron’s coalition is trying to make government-wide savings, and claimed it was left a £38 billion (US$61.9 billion) “black hole” of unfunded defense spending commitments when it took office last year.

As part of the 8 percent cuts, the Royal Navy’s flagship HMS Ark Royal has been scrapped along with Britain’s fleet of Harrier jets.

In a direct attack on Cameron, the lawmakers concluded: “The prime minister’s view that the UK currently has a full spectrum defense capability is rejected by the committee.”

The report expressed “major concerns” over Britain’s ability to continue to fight effectively in Afghanistan and Libya in light of the severe cuts.

“This is a clear example of the need for savings overriding the strategic security of the UK and the capability requirements of the armed forces,” Conservative MP and committee chairman James Arbuthnot said.

British Defence Secretary Liam Foxsaid the review had put the Ministry of Defence “back on a stable footing,” adding: “I am pushing through radical reform to ensure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated.”

Chief of the Defence Staff General Sir David Richards said: “We have had to take some tough decisions, but ... we will remain a formidable fighting force on the world stage ... We will remain capable of sustaining our operations in Afghanistan and Libya before rebalancing will give us the flexibility to maintain our ability to project power across our spheres of interest.”

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