The Royal United Services Institute’s (RUSI) recent appraisal of defense spending in the UK paints a bleak picture; one that will force the UK government to make hard decisions on its’ global military posture moving forward.
In many parts of the world, the true impact of the global financial crisis hasn’t been felt, for the fiscal boomerang of spending out of a recession has yet to swing back in the form of a crisis in government finances.
The boomerang has started to swing back towards the United Kingdom, however, as the government now finds itself burdened with a projected budget deficit of 12 percent through 2011. With elections looming in 2010, it is unlikely that any political party will opt to slay the sacred cows of healthcare or education in order to plug the hole in state finances. This leaves the Ministry of Defense as an open target for drastic cost cutting.
The MoD makes for a good target, because it presides over a plethora of expensive procurement and development projects that are increasingly incompatible with the reality of the United Kingdom’s place in the global military pecking order. The United Kingdom’s historical experience contributes to a political desire to maintain an expeditionary military capability as well as an independent nuclear deterrent, but both are becoming oppressively expensive.
For example, the MoD has contracted out the construction of 14 Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft at a cost of £12 billion. The planes are meant for a support role, mid-air refueling, which places their primary function well outside the scope of European defense. Britain’s force projection capabilities are similarly being pushed forward by the Future Carrier program, which will produce two new aircraft carriers at a cost of £5 billion.
The UK government’s annual budget deficit reached £90 in 2009; a figure so high that cutting both of the aforementioned procurements would do little to stem the financial bleed.
It follows that a substantial reduction in defense spending in the United Kingdom is not just likely, but absolutely necessary. These new cuts will continue a post-Cold War trend of demilitarization between 1989 and 2009, when real defense spending fell by 9 percent, effectively slashing the number of aircraft and major vessels in the British armed forces by about half.
The RUSI report predicts that an additional defense spending cut of 11 percent would further shrink the UK military to the following size by 2016: 46 major vessels (down from 108 in 1989), 615 aircraft (down from 1250 in 1989), and 79 ground formations (down from 134 in 1989).
The future of the United Kingdom’s military is set to be determined by the Strategic Defense Review of 2010-2011. While drastic spending cuts should be expected, it’s far less likely that the review will produce a new strategic posture that complements a smaller military.
The writing on the wall is quite clear: the United Kingdom no longer has the public finances necessary to project military power around the world. However, British politicians will be slow to scuttle any symbols of British global power, resulting in a schizophrenic and ultimately ineffective defense policy over the next five years.
SUMMARY OF EVENTS
January 11th - January 18th 2010
President Obama has decided to seek a tax on big banks to recoup up to $120 billion that the government expects to lose from bailing out the financial system, automakers and some troubled homeowners.
U.S. taxpayer profits from bank bailout investments are being offset by estimated losses from American International Group and automakers and mortgage payment cuts for struggling homeowners, a U.S. Treasury report showed on Monday.
American researchers suggest the melting season for Arctic sea ice is growing faster across much of the Canadian Arctic than anywhere else in the world.
Tony Blair's ex-spokesman Alastair Campbell has said he "defends every single word" of the 2002 dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
The British armed forces could be forced to shrink by up to a fifth because of a lack of money, a military think tank has predicted.
The severity of the H1N1 outbreak was deliberately exaggerated by pharmaceutical companies that stood to make billions of dollars from a worldwide scare, a leading European health expert has claimed.
Yemen's Shia fighters in a Tuesday statement rejected reports that Saudi forces had taken a small border village, which was controlled by the Houthis since November.
Yemeni security forces killed a man suspected of leading a Qaeda cell and captured four other militants Wednesday morning, hours after two soldiers were killed by Qaeda members in a neighboring district, Yemeni officials said.
An influential Yemeni cleric has warned the country not to allow "occupation" by foreign powers as it co-operates with the US in counter-terrorism.
Saudi Arabia's fighter jets are still attacking northern Yemen, carrying out more than 18 airstrikes only on Sunday, Yemeni Houthi fighters say.
President Barack Obama says he has "no intention" of sending US troops to fight militants in Yemen and Somalia and that Al-Qaeda's activities are still centered along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
The United States has developed contingency plans to address Iran's nuclear ambitions if negotiations falter between the Islamic republic and Western nations, a top US general said Sunday -- raising questions again over the US military's secret strategies on Iran.
A committee of the Iranian parliament has made a rare official criticism of treatment of opposition detainees held in the wake of the disputed election.
A group of Iranian MPs is demanding that the country cut its diplomatic ties with Britain in a sign of the country's deteriorating relations with the West.
Turkey has accepted an official apology from Israel over the treatment of its ambassador, with the Israeli prime minister expressing the hope it would end the latest row between the two countries.
A US drone attack Sunday killed 20 militants in an area of Pakistan's northwest tribal belt where Pakistan Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud reportedly escaped death days ago, officials said.
Washington said it would help Islamabad secure liquefied natural gas supplies if it backs away from the planned IPI pipeline from Iran's giant South Pars field.
Leader of the Pakistan Taliban, Hakeemullah Mehsud, who had accepted responsibility for the deadly suicide attack on a CIA base camp in Afghanistan, appears to have been killed in a drone attack in South Waziristan, a senior security official said.
The suicide strike on the key U.S. intelligence base in Afghanistan had hallmarks of an operation carried out by a national intelligence service, a leading U.S. think-tank has said, apparently hinting that it could be the handiwork of Pakistan’s ISI or its rogue elements.
Tehran Times quoted a senior official with the National Iranian Oil Company as saying that Iran, Pakistan and Russia are scheduled to meet in January to discuss Russian Gazprom's cooperation in the IPI pipeline project.
Six international soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan, Nato officials say, making Monday the deadliest day for foreign troops there in two months.
The United States said Friday that it will formally ask the Chinese government in "the coming days" for an explanation of China-based cyberattacks on the Internet giant Google.
China's central bank has stepped in to curb lending in its banking system.
China's Defense Ministry on Friday expressed strong indignation and firm opposition to the U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, urging the U.S. to respect China's core interests and immediately withdraw related arms sales items.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada failed to reach a deal on Tuesday on a dispute over a U.S. military base, but pledged not to let it derail the broader relationship.
A leading figure in Japan's governing party, Ichiro Ozawa, says he will not resign despite a growing scandal over political funding.
A radical Somali Islamist group fighting to overthrow the government in Somalia says it is exchanging fighters with rebels in Yemen.