Summary: UK Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has said that he wants an “adult conversation” with Chancellor George Osborne over further cuts to the MOD.
Mr Hammond, who has yet to agree on cuts to his department’s budget following announcements that Mr Osborne has agreed 10% reductions in seven other departments, said that he wanted to ensure that there was a difference between efficiency savings and cuts which would hit frontline capability.
Mr Osborne is seeking £11.5bn of further savings for 2015-16 on top of the billions already agreed for the current four-year spending review ending in 2015.
Mr Hammond stated that he had no issue with cuts which “are painless in terms of the impact on the front line”, but that aggressive cutbacks would require “proper and mature consideration across the Government about the impact that they will have on our military capabilities.”
Britain spends around £34bn a year on defence. Around 20% of army personnel are set to lose their jobs by 2020, as numbers are cut to about 82,000.
The Defence Secretary denied that he was obstructing progress in the matter:
“I’m not a hold-out. The review will conclude over the next couple of weeks and then I expect to sit down with the chancellor and the chief secretary and have an adult conversation about how we go forward on the basis of that independently chaired review of what we can do.”
As previously outlined on the DCI blog, Whitehall sources have suggested that new defence budget cuts could reduce British defence spending to less than 2% of GDP, the level regarded by the United States as the minimum in order to be considered a serious military power.
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