UK & World News
Govt Warned Over Cutting Military Spending
The Government must set out its vision of where it wants Britain to stand in the world before cutting the defence budget, an influential cross-parliamentary body has urged.
A report released by the Defence Select Committee suggests the imminent end of operations in Afghanistan provides an opportune moment for the Government to produce a comprehensive national security strategy which would then inform the next strategic defence and security review (SDSR).
It must then clearly articulate to the public what they can expect of the armed forces at home and abroad.
Committee chairman James Arbuthnot told Sky News: "The last defence and security review (in 2010) was strategic only in the sense that it was aimed at reducing money.
"The next one has got to be based on, we say, a prior discussion by the country about what place we want the country to have.
"Obviously money has to come into it, but the first thing that needs to come is the national security strategy, then there needs to be a discussion between the Ministry of Defence and Treasury about how we're going to achieve that strategy.
"There is no point, it seems to us, in having the process we had in 2010 of simply pretending you can achieve things without having the money to do so."
The Defence Select Committee also warned the Ministry of Defence needs to foster a better and more transparent relationship with the public if it wants to win support for future operations to bridge a "disconnect".
"There is a lack of understanding amongst the public of what HM Armed Forces should be for, and this represents one of the greatest strategic threats facing the armed forces," the report concludes.
"Public sympathy and support for the armed forces is to be welcomed, but it must not obscure or undermine a hard-headed understanding of what they are for."
However, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond was critical of the report in his response.
He said: "We welcome the committee's focus on a strategic approach, but it is unrealistic to think that Defence can operate in a vacuum, without having regard to the fiscal challenges the country faces.
"A meaningful SDSR has to balance strategic and fiscal challenges to find a sustainable solution for Defence.
"Public understanding of the wide range of tasks our armed forces undertake to defend our security and interests is vital to maintaining support for defence spending in the future."
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