It should not be news to anyone that the Defence budget was a shattered ruin by the beginning of 2010, when the Gray report revealed an unfunded 10% budget deficit over the coming decade, in addition to Treasury insistence on Defence funding of the acquisition costs of the Trident replacement which represents a further 2.5% cut, and, a Treasury demand for a 7.5% reduction as part of the Defence contribution to balancing the country’s shattered public finances. And yet people are surprised at the huge number of capabilities and platforms that got axed at the SDSR……….
Why? Did we not all spend the preceding twelve months consuming a non-stop diet of horror stories?
Think Defence very thoughtfully provided a list of the ‘culled’ resulting from the SDSR here and it and it makes grim reading:
- Reducing the planned purchase of 22 Chinooks to 12
- Delaying Trident for political reasons that will cost billions
- Cancelling Nimrod MRA4
- Reducing armour and artillery, if reports are to be believed, to the bone
- Reducing surface vessels
- Reducing Tornado
- Withdrawn Harrier GR9′s
- Withdrawing Sentinel
- Slashing allowances and expenses
- Setting up the armed forces for a post Afghanistan change in terms and conditions of service
- Implementing a 2 year pay freeze
- Reducing pensions
- Reducing service personnel by 17,000
- Reducing the MoD Civil Service by 25,000 which will likely result in more work for service personnel
- Removing the External Reference group from reporting on the Military Covenant
- Trying to convince everyone that the SDSR was a considered and balanced review (thats my favourite joke of the year)
What must be remembered here is that the Defence settlement was reduced by only 7.5% against a department average of 19%, and yet this apparently minor cut led to the loss of all of the above!
There are only two possible conclusions:
Either Fox went hatchet crazy with the result that Defence will soon be sitting on a massive and growing budget surplus as a result of unallocated budget, or;
Defence planning was utterly wrecked by ten years of budget priority free-fall whilst being embroiled in two wars whose endurance and intensity exceeded the planned operational tempo, and which the government paid for by hacking out chunks of the core Defence budget for operational costs, and accepting procurement programs which were completely unfunded.
Given that RUSI are warning that Defence will have to make further cuts of between £1bn and £2bn to prevent further overspend this blog is fairly certain which of the two possibilities above is more conceivable.
One can make honest and principled arguments against the rational for cuts in the already stretched Defence budget, this blog would wholeheartedly agree.
One can likewise proffer sensible arguments against specific cuts including the broader thrust of what those cuts will leave behind, though this blog would reservedly disagree.
However, what does not make logical sense is shock and horror that so many people, platforms, and capabilities have been axed as a result of the SDSR, this was always going to be a bloodbath if we are determined to stop playing budgetary musical chairs.
The coming horror was spelt out quite clearly nearly a year ago.