Former defence chiefs say MoD “disingenuous” over military spending

Written by Richard Johnstone on 10 May 2017 in News

Letter dismisses government's claim that it meets 2% NATO defence spending target as “accounting deception”

Ministry of Defence Photo: PA

Senior former military figures have said the Ministry of Defence is being “disingenuous” over levels of military spending and using an “accounting deception” to show the UK has met the 2% spending target.

A letter in The Sun signed by 25 military figures, including four former defence chiefs, called on the next government to properly fund the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review.

The signatories, who include former chief of the defence staff Sir David Richards, ex-commander of the United Nations Protection Force in Bosnia-Herzegovina Sir Michael Rose, former chief of the air staff Sir Michael Graydon and former first sea lord Michael Boyce, said the review had “charted a path towards our future security” at a time of increasing risk.

“But the necessary funding is simply not there to give it substance,” they warned.

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According to the chiefs, government's claim that it spends 2% of GDP on defence – in line with a target set by NATO in 2014 – was “widely criticised as an accounting deception”. According to the letter, “most analysts agree core defence expenditure for hard military power is well below 2%”.

In addition, the fall in the value of the pound following the Brexit vote would make buying military equipment more expensive, which could threaten the purchase of aircrafts, upgrading Apache helicopter and the buying missiles for submarines.

However, responses by the MoD to questions about the defence budget “have been disingenuous, quoting irrelevant financial statistics”, they said,

“The armed forces are having to seek further very damaging savings in manpower, support and training at a time when the likelihood of combat operations is increasing,” the chiefs stated. “These realities must be faced. They have been largely kept from public debate.”

It concluded that the MoD must fund the SDSR properly, adding that “if this means a commitment to increase expenditure over the lifetime of the parliament, do it”.

In a response to the letter, the MoD insisted the defence budget is rising from £36bn to £40bn by the end of the decade.

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Phil C (not verified)

Submitted on 10 May, 2017 - 18:17
The thing with retired arm chair generals and admirals is that they are quick enough to moan once they have completed their time and are collecting their pensions, but never offer so much as a squeak of protest when in office. If things are, and seemingly have been for some time, as dire as they say they are, why have we not seen a wave of resignations when they were in charge? Imagine the head of the Royal Navy and the head of the Army both resigning before they were due to retire because of a lack of funding and then complaining to the Sun! That would surely give them more impact - and support. That snipe aside, my gut feeling is, however, that they are right! The MOD budget is under frightful strain, not that the public or politicians seem to care, and this will always be the case whilst we retain pretensions of being a major global military player without the resources to do so. But the cracks are really starting to show now. For example, the Royal Navy will shortly be without any offensive anti-ship to ship capability in terms of missiles because it can no longer afford them. That the RN is to be for the first time without this capability is remarkable (imagine the battle of Trafalgar where the Navy had no cannon balls!) and embarrassing for a Service that purports to have blue water force projection capability. Perhaps we should re-label it as the "Royal Navy - the World's Best Maritime Drugs Patrol and Humanitarian Aid Relief Agency" rather than as a fighting force? Okay, I accept my jibe is unfair, but you can see where I'm coming from - and where our Armed Forces are heading to. The Government needs to either reduce its aspirations as to what our Armed Forces can do or put more money in. It can't achieve one without the other.

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