The recently published Working Paper (No 7) from the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) written by Professor Malcolm Chalmers paints a pretty bleak future for the UK's defence capability into the future.
Malcolm Chalmers knows what he is talking about. He is Professorial Fellow in British Security Policy at RUSI and Visiting Professor of Defence and Foreign Policy in the Department of War Studies at King's College London. He was a member of the UK Defence Secretary's Advisory Forum on the 2010 Green Paper 'Adaptability and Partnership', and has been Special Adviser to Jack Straw MP and Margaret Beckett MP when they served as Foreign Secretaries.
The paper points out that with the current government's commitment to increased funding in real terms on such things as the NHS and meeting the needs of the disadvantaged education the unprotected budgets such as the armed forces, police, prisons, foreign affairs and transport will have to take the brunt of the costs. Then when one considers the social impact of cutting those unprotected budgets that of the armed forces, which is the largest, looks the most vulnerable.
The report has a central theme that there will need to be cuts of 10-15%, but also refers to estimates from the Institute of Fiscal Studies that puts the figure nearer 25% and The Financial Times with 23%.
The report also says that continual internecine feuding over inter service budgets will not serve the country or their own needs well when considering needs well into the future.
Amongst the key findings are we should expect:
• A reduction in ground force units (battalions etc) from 98 to about 80.
• A reduction in major naval vessels from 57 to 45.
• A reduction in aircraft numbers from 760 to between 550 and 600.
• Ground force personnel numbers would also be reduced by some 20%.
• A possible reduction to one aircraft carrier (the UK currently has two on order).
• A possible restructuring of the Trident replacement timeline.
But the reduction in capability will be matched by other European powers so our relative position there will remain the same but will decline when measured worldwide, especially with China and India.
The report can be found here – www.rusi.org/downloads/assets/FDR7.pdf