Military is becoming a 'hollow force', warns UK defence chief
Armed Forces on course to have ‘exquisite technology' but insufficient resources to man it
BRITAIN'S military will become a "hollow force" unless manpower budgets increase, the chief of the defence staff has warned.
General Sir Nicholas Houghton (above, left, with Defence Secretary Philip Hammond) has said that the defence budget must grow in the next parliament if the Armed Forces are to fund their current plans.
Coalition cuts saw the defence budget drop by eight per cent over the past three years and the overall spend on the military drop by about £10bn.
Despite years of spending on high-end technology, all three branches of the Armed Forces will shrink by 2020. The Army is losing 20,000 soldiers, while the Navy is losing 6,000 servicemen and the RAF is losing 8,000.
"Unattended our current course leads to a strategically incoherent force structure: exquisite equipment, but insufficient resources to man that equipment or train on it," he said.
In an annual Christmas speech to the Royal United Services Institute, Houghton said the Royal Navy was already "perilously close to its critical mass" after cuts to the number of sailors.
He added that the current £34bn defence budget had been increasingly spent on "large capital equipment programmes often with an eye on supporting the United Kingdom's defence industrial base" and warned that the budget must not be "disproportionately used to support British defence industry".
The government is currently spending billions to develop some of the most advanced aircraft and warships in the world, says the Daily Telegraph. The Navy's two Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers are scheduled to cost £6.2bn after years of cost overruns, while the new Astute class hunter killer submarines have cost more than £1bn each. Any replacement for the Trident nuclear missile submarines is estimated to cost another £20bn.
BBC defence correspondent Caroline Wyatt said this first annual talk by the new chief of the defence staff contained rather "blunter warnings" than many had anticipated. ·