LONDON — Britain needs to rebuild conventional military capabilities lost since the end of the Cold War in order to deter further threats on Europe's eastern border, the parliamentary defense committee has warned the government.
"The current national security strategy is no longer adequate for this changed world, nor is the future force structure. It will be necessary to continue to commit to 2 percent of gross domestic product to enhance the NATO alliance and retain US involvement in Europe," said the lawmakers.
To bring the UK military into line with future needs, the committee said the government needed to build a closer coalition with the US and France, develop new asymmetric warfare capabilities, and develop the capacity to respond to the expanding challenges outside Europe.
Rory Stewart, the committee chairman, said the current SDSR had been overtaken by events and the military had to change to adapt to the new security situation.
British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon dismissed the committee's recommendations, saying the government is already Europe's biggest defense spender and was committed to spending over £160 billion (US $239.1 billion) on equipment and support over the next 10 years.
"The suggestion that we need to rebuild our defense capabilities is nonsense. Under this government we have gone from the £38 billion black hole in the defense budget that we inherited to a properly funded £34 billion annual budget. That means we have been able to commit to spending over £160 billion on equipment over the next decade to keep Britain safe — including new joint strike fighters, hunter killer submarines, two aircraft carriers and the most advanced armored vehicles.
"The UK has the second largest defense budget in NATO and the largest in the EU. We are the US's largest partner in the coalition air effort against ISIL, bearing more of the load in terms of strikes in Iraq than we played in either of the gulf wars," said Fallon in a statement.
"As US Defense Secretary Ash Carter told me earlier this month, 'the UK military has the ability to act independently, to be a force of its own in the world'. Our response to events in the Middle East, Sierra Leone and Ukraine recently highlight that the flexible strategy adopted under the 2010 SDSR and Future Force 2020 is working," he said.
The Conservative Party and it's political rival's have been under increasing pressure in recent weeks to commit to the NATO spending requirement after the end of the 2015/16 budget that comes into force next month.
So far none of the leading parties have pledged to retain the spending limit, mainly because, analysts and others reckon, that even without any further cuts to defense spending it would cost Britain a further £6 billion a year by 2019 to maintain the NATO spending requirement.
Much of the talk here though is not about meeting NATO spending targets but about further cuts to the defense budget as part of a wider austerity plan to reducecut public debt.
Analysts, politicians and some in the military already reckon achieving the Future Force 2020 strategy on current funding will be touch and go. Some people here are calling it Future Force 2020s or Future Force 2025.
The Conservatives cut 7.5 percent from the defense budget in 2010, as well as fixing the so-called £38 billion black hole left in unfunded commitments by the previous Labour administration, and few people think the military will get off scot free this time round.
The last round of defense spending cuts saw capabilities and programs abandoned and military and civil service numbers at the MoD slashed.
Andrew Chuter is the United Kingdom correspondent for Defense News.