The British coalition government has implemented a series of austerity measures. The axe continues to cut services, and one cause for concern is the military. Saturday, UK Defense Secretary Philip Hammond promised to limit any further cuts to the military. But is that possible?
According to a BBC report, Hammond said that things were "extremely taut" after the biggest cuts since 1991, and that he would be "fighting the corner for my budget and defense."
UK Chancellor George Osborne will deliver his spring budget on March 20. The budget will give a roundup of the current state of the British economy and present any proposals. These are usually negative changes, such as an increase in taxes, but the budget sometimes includes relatively good news. Last year, there was an increase in the personal allowance received before a person pays tax.
Of course, the problem often is that what the chancellor gives with one hand, he takes with the other.
The military is cutting jobs and spending, but Hammond believes any further cuts would affect the forces capabilities. The Ministry of Defense said that "[w]hile budgets for 2015/2016 onwards had yet to be set, it had been promised a 1 percent annual increase in equipment spending," the BBC reported.
The British economy looks set to enter a dreaded triple-dip recession. As the economy flounders, the value of the pound continues to fall dramatically. Since the UK's credit rating downgrade a little over a week ago, the value of the British currency has dropped even further. Good news for some, such as the US and foreign tourists, but bad news once more for Britons and our economy.
In 2009, Osborne verbally attacked then-Labor prime minister Gordon Brown when there was a hint that the UK would lose its coveted AAA rating. Now that it has happened on the chancellor's watch, all he and Prime Minister David Cameron can do is make excuses.
All of this means that Osborne will need a magic wand to protect the military from further cuts. Osborne has warned that the military will not be immune from further spending cuts later.
The government plans to use its volunteer Territorial Army to fill regular army gaps, but that may not work. For it to work the TA will need more volunteers prepared to take on responsibility, too.
As British troops leave Afghanistan, at least one US official has spoken of hopes that the money saved will be ploughed back into the military. Politicians at home, though, will want to use this money elsewhere.
Ivo Daalder, the American ambassador to NATO, warned in January that UK under-investment in its military would leave too much for the US.
Well, as the US led the UK to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, many Brits will say, "So what?"
Many countries have a commitment to NATO budgets. Interestingly, NATO countries are supposed to commit 2 percent of their GDP to defense spending, but Daalder said only three countries—the UK, Greece and Macedonia—keep to this agreement. He said that the US accounted for 75 percent of the NATO budget and spent 4 percent of its GDP on defense.
That leaves some obvious conclusions:
One thing Hammond has said is that welfare budgets should be cut rather than the military. The problem with that statement is that welfare budgets have been cut to the bone. He and other Tory Ministers have shown they are incapable of balancing budgets. Their aim now is to make sure the poor pay for everything whilst the elite are protected.
With a general election in the UK in 2015, Osborne will want to win votes. This will affect where his axe will fall. The chancellor will try not to alienate or anger core Conservative voters. This could leave him in a quandary as far as the military goes.
We are left wondering: Should military budgets be cut? And if they are, will it make Great Britain vulnerable to attack?
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