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Defence cuts are too much, too soon, worried MPs claim

The Government's planned spending cuts for defence are so deep they could jeopardise the armed forces' ability to maintain current military operations, MPs warned yesterday.

The Commons Defence Committee said the strategic defence and security review (SDSR) — which will determine where the spending axe will fall — was being pushed through so quickly that mistakes were bound to be made.

It expressed concern that the review could be dominated by short-term security issues and threats at the expense of the medium to long-term defence needs of the UK.

At the same time, the committee warned the prospect that the Ministry of Defence could have to shoulder the full costs of updating Britain's Trident nuclear deterrent could have “very significant” consequences for future defence spending. The SDSR is being carried out alongside the Government's overall comprehensive spending review (CSR), which is due to report next month.

While the committee acknowledged the need for ministers to move swiftly to tackle the deficit, it warned that the MoD was having to do “too much too quickly”.

“The rapidity with which the SDSR process is being undertaken is quite startling,” it said.

“A process which was not tried and tested is being expected to deliver radical outcomes within a highly concentrated time-frame. We conclude that mistakes will be made and some of them may be serious.

“We can understand that there is an urgency to the SDSR process, both in terms of alignment with a CSR intended seriously to address the deficit, and in terms of the pressing need for a defence review a decade since the last was undertaken.

“However, the department could end up with only short-term priorities, misaligned resources, a barely reformed acquisition process and a structure short of manpower to deliver good performance and improperly configured for its tasks.”

While the MoD's budget has received some protection, the committee said it was still facing cuts of between 10% and 20%, in contrast to spending on health and overseas aid which has been ring-fenced.

Belfast Telegraph


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