RAF NORTHOLT, UK — US President Barack Obama has given his seal of approval to Britain's Strategic Defence and Security Review, Prime Minister David Cameron said Monday morning.
"I talked to President Obama at the recent G20 meeting in Turkey and he was clearly delighted with the choices we are making," Cameron told Defense News in an exclusive interview. "I hope they will be pleased as they see their most capable European ally is investing in equipment which will be able to work alongside the Americans extremely well."
The prime minister, returning from an early morning meeting in Paris with French President Francois Hollande, said the review "absolutely" met the concerns voiced by senior US administration officials and military officers that Britain had been significantly weakened by capability cuts caused by severe defense budget cuts as Britain sought to repair its public finances in the wake of the financial crisis.
"I have never accepted the strategic shrinkage argument for a minute," Cameron said. "We needed to make sure we got our economy back on track but even so we have the second-largest defense budget in NATO."
The British prime minister said the SDSR "sends out a clear message that Britain is an engaged nation with global reach and global influence, not for national vanity but for reasons of clear-sighted national interest. We are a player in the world."
No other nation spends 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense and 0.7 percent of aid. "That gives Britain the claim to be 'the' engaged nation.
Cameron, speaking just after he had landed at the RAF Northholt air base just outside London, said the new SDSR showed there was going to be growth not just for the next five years but beyond that as two new Royal Navy aircraft carriers and additional F-35 strike jets for the warships come into service.
Key among the capability hikes revealed ahead of the SRSR's unveiling later Monday is a program to buy nine Boeing P-8 maritime patrol aircraft in a foreign military sales deal with the US.
Cameron said the decision to acquire the P-8 showed the SDSR was not just about combating non-state actors and the Islamic State group, but potential threats from state-on-state violence.
Asked whether US Navy P-8s with British crews might be used to plug the gaps in UK maritime defenses until the Royal Air Force gets its new jets, Cameron said: "We are now going to be talking to our allies about how to bring these aircraft into service and maintain our capability. All these things can be looked at, today is about the future capabilities we are ordering. We have always worked seamlessly with the US in these areas and I'm sure we will continue to do so."
Britain has found an additional £12 billion (US$18.2 billion) to increase the procurement and support budget to £178 billion over the next 10 years, the prime minister's office said in a statement released earlier Monday.
Cameron also said he would consider boosting British capabilities in the war against the Islamic State group in the event Parliament gave the government a mandate to attack targets in Syria. At the moment, the RAF is limited to hitting Islamic State targets in Iraq.
"Obviously if we do more in Syria we will ... obviously need to increase the capabilities we have," he said.
The British currently have eight Tornado strike jets, 10 Reaper remotely piloted vehicles and a number of support aircraft involved in the mission against the Islamic State group in Iraq.
Andrew Chuter is the United Kingdom correspondent for Defense News.