January 14, 2010
SOME QUESTIONS ARE SO EASY THEY DEFY ASKING:
The Tory defence policy will be simple: cut, brutally (Max Hastings, 1/14/10, The Spectator)
This week, Professor Malcolm Chalmers of the Royal United Services Institute offered a projection that, if the MoD takes its share of pain in the new world of Britain’s colossal fiscal deficit, numbers of uniformed service personnel might fall by 20 per cent to 142,000 within the space of six years. He also believes the defence budget will fall by between 15 per cent and 20 per cent over the same period. As General Lord Guthrie points out, the armed forces are already so shrunken that further cuts will be imposed upon a perilously low base.
Even if a new Tory defence secretary — almost certainly Liam Fox — displays the wisdom of Socrates, he cannot escape doing harsh things. He is stuck with some massive commitments. The RAF is buying 232 Typhoon Eurofighters at a cost of £20 billion. Many are likely to go straight from the factory into mothballs, for lack of cash to man or fly them, but the contract is too expensive to cancel.
The Royal Navy took a perilous gamble by staking its future upon two big new aircraft-carriers, with 150 American-built F-35 aircraft to fly off them, at a total cost of over £20 billion. The money is simply not there to finance two behemoths without crippling the army. For present and likely future tasks, combating piracy not least among them, the navy needs more small, cheap-and-cheerful frigates. The most obvious single step towards closing the defence funding gap is to cancel the carriers and accompanying aircraft.
Opponents of draconian cuts in navy and RAF strengths cite the importance of a balanced strategy, which addresses potential future threats as well as current commitments, dominated by Afghanistan.
Why does England need any more than a token rapid deployment force? Posted by Orrin Judd at January 14, 2010 9:08 PM