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Friday, 30th September 2011

Looking into the Black Hole: Is the UK Defence Budget Crisis Really Over?

Source: Royal United Services Institute (UK)


Upon coming into office in May 2010, the government identified a large ‘funding gap’ in plans for defence. This briefing paper assesses whether this gap has now been closed.

Out of a projected ten-year funding gap of £74 billion, almost two-thirds (£47 billion) is a result of cuts in the projected Ministry of Defence budget, including a real terms cut of 8.6 per cent between 2010/11 and 2014/15. The remainder (£27 billion) is a result of inherited commitments that were unaffordable even if the core budget had continued the rate of growth that it had enjoyed since 1999. Two rounds of cuts – the October 2010 SDSR and the July 2011 ‘Three Month Review’ – have followed. As a result, numbers of regular service personnel are now set to fall by around 20 per cent by 2020, with MoD civilian personnel falling by almost 40 per cent.

The decision to reduce the size of the regular army, made more palatable by increased investment in reserve forces, has restored some credibility to the commitment to a balanced posture. While the MoD’s books may be balanced on paper, the work needed to turn assumptions into detailed plans has only just begun.

In areas as diverse as equipment programmes, pay levels, service accommodation, boarding school allowances and regimental identities, hard battles remain to be fought in order to achieve projected levels of saving.While the government is now planning for a 1 per cent annual real growth in the equipment budget after 2014/15, it cannot guarantee what its successor will decide in the 2015 Spending Review. The drawdown from Afghanistan could weaken the MoD’s bargaining position, especially if current efforts to reduce the nation’s fiscal deficit have not yet fully succeeded.

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Having begun his career in academic libraries, Adrian Janes has subsequently worked extensively in public libraries, chiefly in enquiry work as an Information Services librarian. In this role he has had particular responsibility for information from both the UK Government and the European Union. He wrote a detailed report on sources for the latter which was published by FreePint in 2007, and has contributed articles to FreePint and ResourceShelf. He is involved in training in information literacy and the use of online reference resources.

A Contributing Editor to DocuTicker, he also write reviews for Pennyblackmusic.

More articles by Adrian Janes »



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