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Committee: More Cuts Would Endanger UK Army Restructuring

Mar. 5, 2014 - 03:45AM   |  
By ANDREW CHUTER   |   Comments
A British Army restructuring plan could be in jeopardy if further defense cuts are enacted, according to a defense committee.
A British Army restructuring plan could be in jeopardy if further defense cuts are enacted, according to a defense committee. (Agence France-Presse)
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LONDON — Plans for a radical restructuring of the British Army by 2020 would be in danger of failing if the government inflicts further cuts on Defence Ministry budgets, the parliamentary Defence Committee has warned.

“The Army 2020 plan would unravel in the face of further MoD budget reductions or reductions in personnel,” the committee said in a report being released in London Thursday.

The Conservative-led coalition government has imposed a string of heavy defense cuts since coming to office in 2010 and late last year imposed new cuts in the 2015/16 defense budget.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, though has warned that further heavy reductions in public spending will be needed after next year’s general election, some of which is likely to fall on defense.

The government has promised a 1 percent per year increase in the defense equipment budget for the period beyond 2015-16 through to 2021, but it remains to be seen how much cash that actually generates for new programs, particularly as service chiefs try to better balance investment in people as well as kit.

“It is essential that the MoD’s budget settlement allows for the delivery of Army 2020,” said the committee.

The British lawmakers said that even if the funds are available, they are unconvinced the Army 2020 restructuring plan presents a blueprint for a land force that can effectively counter future uncertain threats and unforeseen circumstances.

The plan imposed by the Conservative-led coalition government following the austerity-budget driven 2010 strategic defense and security review is aimed at creating five multirole brigades plus one air assault brigade.

Most crucially, Army 2020 will see regular Army personnel numbers cut from 101,000 to 82,000 by 2018, with reserve force numbers stepped up to 30,000 to fill the manpower gap.

The committee said its recruitment of regular and reserve troops had gotten off to a bad start and it remains concerned that targets may not be met.

That’s borne out by disappointing recruiting figures.

“The MoD has failed to communicate the rationale and strategy behind the Army 2020 plan to the Army, the wider Armed Forces, Parliament and the public. Our concern is that the financial driven reduction in the numbers of regulars has the potential to leave the Army short of key personnel until sufficient additional reserves are recruited and trained,” said James Arbuthnot, the committee chairman.

The report on Army 2020 said it was concerned the plan was put together to fit a financial envelope and not the other way round.

“We are concerned that this consideration took primacy over the country’s abilities to respond to the threats, risks and uncertainties contained in the national security strategy. We are also concerned it was the MoD’s permanent secretary who told the chief of the General Staff [ Britain’s top professional soldier] the future size of the Army,” said the Defence Committee.

The committee said the MoD should lay before Parliament an annual report on the Army’s ability to fight based on its physical and conceptual components ability. ■

Email: achuter@defensenews.com.

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