The future shape and utility of the British armed forces will be decided by the actions a new government takes over the course of 2015, the country’s top military officer said.
The next 12 months will be “hugely important in setting ourselves up for success over a much longer period,” the chief of the UK defence staff, Gen. Sir Nick Houghton, warned in a Dec. 17 speech to the Royal United Services Institute in London.
Britain’s defense sector faces what may be a near-perfect storm in 2015. A general election in May will be followed by a review of government spending, which is expected to see the military face new demands for budget cuts. A strategic defense and security review (SDSR) will complete the year.
“I am not so blunt as to boldly state that defense needs more resources,” he said. “I would, though, remind the next government that the force structure, which this government has done so much to preserve, was predicted to need real-terms growth in defense funding, if it was going to be realized.”
The Conservative-led coalition government cut defense spending and military capabilities soon after coming into office in 2010 as part of wider austerity measures and a need to control unfunded spending commitments.
The outcome of 2010’s SDSR was a plan known as Future Force 2020 for a restructured and diminished armed services.
Senior military officers previously said Future Force 2020 would only be attainable if defense budgets were at least flat-lined in the next few years.
Defense could be in line for sizable cuts regardless of who is elected in May as further austerity measures are taken to restore public finances.
Commentators have put the possible extent of the defense cuts at 7.5 percent or more after the 2015/16 fiscal year.