Cuts 'risk failing the military'
Cuts to the armed forces may leave them unable to deliver what is asked of them after 2015, an influential House of Commons committee has warned.
In a serious rebuke to David Cameron, the Defence Select Committee said it rejected the Prime Minister's assurance that Britain retains a "full spectrum" defence capability.
And a toughly-worded report warned that without firm commitments to improved funding in the very near future, Britain's politicians risk "failing" the country's military.
The committee warned that the National Security Strategy, unveiled with much fanfare last autumn, was in danger of becoming no more than a "wish list" unless the necessary money was committed to deliver the future armed forces envisaged for 2020 and beyond.
October's Strategic Defence and Security Review outlined plans to reduce the Army by 7,000 and the Royal Navy and RAF by 5,000 each as part of a cost-cutting exercise which also saw the cancellation of equipment including Nimrod MRA4 reconnaissance planes and the early withdrawal of HMS Ark Royal and Harrier jump-jets.
Defence Secretary Liam Fox had announced last month that spending on equipment will increase by 1% above inflation each year after 2015 to pave the way for the so-called Future Force 2020. But the Defence Committee said it was "not convinced that, given the current financial climate and the draw-down of capabilities arising from the SDSR, UK armed forces will be able do what is asked of them after 2015".
A spokesman for the MoD said Dr Fox's announcement of a 1% annual real-terms increase in the military equipment budget was not merely an aspiration, but represented Government policy.
"As the committee rightly acknowledges, dealing with the deficit was a national security imperative," said the Defence Secretary. "The committee is also right to say that Future Force 2020 is only achievable with extra funding. Our future equipment programme is no longer an unfunded aspiration but one that provides real money for real equipment."
The UK's most senior military officer, Chief of the Defence Staff General Sir David Richards, said: "The SDSR was based on an assessment of the threats we face now and in the future. We have had to take some tough decisions, but as we move towards Future Force 2020 we will remain a formidable fighting force on the world stage.
"We will remain capable of sustaining our operations in Afghanistan and Libya before re-balancing will give us the flexibility to maintain our ability to project power across our spheres of interest.