miércoles, 18 de mayo de 2011

Armed Forces face billions of pounds of further cuts in additional MoD cost review

Armed Forces face billions of pounds of further cuts in additional MoD cost review

The Armed Forces face another wave of cuts in the next financial year as the Ministry of Defence seeks to make billions of pounds in further savings.

HMS Ark Royal's last remaining sailors march to a decommissioning ceremony for the axed airc<a href=raft carrier at Portsmouth Naval Base: Armed Forces face further cuts in additional MoD cost review"/>


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HMS Ark Royal's last remaining sailors march to a decommissioning ceremony for the axed aircraft carrier at Portsmouth Naval Base Photo: PA

Harrier GR9: Armed Forces face further cuts in additional MoD cost review


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The Harrier fleet has been scrapped Photo: EPA

7:51AM BST 16 May 2011


A three-month study, reporting in July, will consider how more personnel and equipment programmes could be axed.

It follows October's controversial Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) which outlined measures to slash thousands of personnel, scrap the Harrier fleet and Nimrod spy planes and retire the HMS Ark Royal aircraft carrier.

Potential targets reportedly include HMS Illustrious, Britain's last surviving aircraft carrier, which is due back from a refit next year.

A £2billion plan for a new fleet of armoured vehicles could also be singled out for the axe as well as a £16billion plan to buy a new generation of jets.

The Ministry of Defence insisted it was not reopening the SDSR but said it was looking at balancing "defence priorities and the budget over the long-term".

"The three-month study is part of that work to ensure we match our assumptions with our spending settlement," a spokesman said.

"We have made it clear that while the SDSR had made substantial inroads into the £38billionn funding deficit, there is still more to be done."

Armed Forces heads have warned that resources are already stretched with conflicts being fought in Afghanistan and Libya. The Army is likely to bear the brunt of further cuts after the Navy and RAF saw the largest squeeze in the initial SDSR. The war in Libya has demanded the use of naval and and air assets while the death of Osama bin Laden has left the Armed Forces looking exposed.

A defence industry source told The Times: “[The cuts are] going to be a bloodbath. The black hole is still there and billions more need to be cut. The Army has got to be where it comes from but that is political dynamite.”

The deep cuts unveiled last year set out the future shape and size of Britain's armed forces.

Under the proposals, the defence budget is to fall by 8 per cent over the next four years. The MoD is to cut its civilian personnel by 25,000 by 2015; Army numbers will be reduced by 7,000 to 95,500; Navy manpower will be cut by 5,000 to 30,000; RAF forces will be reduced by 5,000 to 33,000 and tanks and heavy artillery numbers will be reduced by 40 per cent.

However, the MoD now wants to make further savings for the financial year ending in March 2012.

The review comes as Defence Secretary Liam Fox prepares to unveil the new military covenant which promises extra help for the armed forces and will enshrine their rights in law.

Dr Fox is expected to set out a number of enhanced services for the military, such as doubling the rate of council tax relief to 50 per cent for those serving overseas, a £3 million boost for schools with high numbers of children from forces family and making it easier for seriously injured service personnel and veterans to access cut-price public transport.

Despite current planned cuts, in addition to efficiency savings and planned reforms the MoD is facing a shortfall of more than £3billion over the next three years. The figure is expected to be considerably higher in the nine years to 2020. The government must decide whether to increase defence spending in 2014 or continue to push through budget cuts.

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