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UK government defends strategic review

11th March 2011 - 13:26 GMT | by The Shephard News Team


The UK needs to ensure that when it procures military equipment there is also a ‘real budgetary line’ and consider unfunded projects as ‘simply a wish list’, defence secretary Liam Fox told the House of Commons Defence Committee on 9 March.

Fox said the government is looking to pull out of projects in the future that it thinks will not come to fruition if there is no money to pay for them.

Four MPs gave evidence to the committee on the National Security Strategy (NSS), the new National Security Council and the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) that was released in October.

The SDSR process is looking to clarify what the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is committed to and define how much of its budget is an aspiration and how much is already committed.

‘We do need to have land, sea and air assets that are widely deployable,’ Fox said.

When making decisions with regards to assets, Fox said, the MoD used a model by which it asked how quickly and cheaply a capability can be regenerated if necessary after it had been removed.

When questioned about defence budget commitments and the forecast £38 billion ‘black hole’ that resides over the UK’s defence budget, Fox estimated that about £8 to £9 billion was already contractually committed to procurement projects. He said that 90% of this year’s budget is already allocated.

Fox was probed on whether the MoD needed to find an extra £1 billion per year in order to fund these commitments but he said that until ‘missing receipts’ from the Eurofighter Typhoon contract are available, he did not know.

Fox also agreed that the UK should move towards a more balanced capability model, akin to the one the US seems to be adopting. The defence secretary argued the ‘adaptive posture’ the SDSR took did not lean too heavily towards anything in particular in his view, and therefore it was balanced.

He added that while he did not want to see a reduced budget, changes must be brought in and were ‘not optional’.

In a move to appear ‘more transparent’, the MoD will carry out annual reports of its major projects and Fox said he would deliver them to parliament himself.

The MPs giving evidence affirmed that the removal of capabilities listed in the SDSR would not affect the UK’s international influence.

However, committee chairman James Arbuthnot argued that the ‘denial of a shrinkage of influence’ was ‘a little unrealistic’, given the lower number of capabilities.

William Hague, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, responded: ‘Influence doesn’t just depend on the resources you are devoting, it depends on how you are using them.’

The Shephard News Team


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