UK defense chief plans cuts, major changes

Last Updated: Friday, August 13, 2010 - 21:14

London: Britain`s defense secretary said on Friday that senior military posts could be axed as he prepares major spending cuts and a sweeping overhaul of the country`s armed forces.

Liam Fox, who visited Afghanistan this week to talk with
troops, must decide within weeks how to slash his department`s
budget, as the country`s coalition government seeks to quickly
reduce record national debts.

"The prime purpose of what we are doing is to make sure
that our armed forces on the front line have everything they
need, and all the support they require, to carry out their
mission successfully and safely," Fox said, making a speech in
London. "That means that the back room sometimes has to do
without to make sure that the front line gets what it wants."

Fox indicated there are likely to be job losses among
both military and civilian staff as the defense ministry
undergoes a "cultural shift which will see a leaner and less
centralized organization."

Analysts predict about 30,000 of Britain`s 175,000 armed
forces personnel are likely to be cut _ probably 20,000 from
the army, and about 5,000 each from the air force and navy.

Fox said a review due to be completed by October will
consider trimming the number of personnel in senior ranks. "We
cannot demand efficiency from the lower ranks while exempting
those at the top," he said.

Britain`s military is carrying out the first major review
of its capabilities and priorities since 1998, and attempting
to find savings of up to USD 14 billion to its annual budget
of about USD 56 billion.

Fox acknowledged that tricky negotiations are continuing
with Britain`s Treasury over who will pay for a 20 billion
pounds (USD 32 billion) upgrade to the country`s nuclear
weapons system.

Treasury chief George Osborne has said the defense
ministry would likely need to pay for the program entirely
from its own budget. Previously, the central government has
paid a share of the costs, as a nuclear deterrent has been
seen a key national asset.

"It is a conversation that is constantly ongoing with the
Treasury," Fox said.

PTI



First Published: Friday, August 13, 2010 - 21:14

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