LONDON - The British army will be forced to rely more on reservists and private contractors as it trims entire units and shrinks troop figures by 20,000 in the coming years, the defense secretary said Thursday.
To reduce its massive deficit, the U.K. government is trimming the military's annual 37 billion pound ($57.6 billion) defense budget by 8 percent. That means "difficult decisions" ahead for the military, Defense Secretary Philip Hammond said in a speech to the Royal United Services Institute.
"A regular army of 82,000 will have a different structure to one of 102,000," he said. "And some units inevitably will be lost or will merge."
The army will need to think "innovatively about how combat service support is provided" and take more advantage of skills available among reservists and contractors, he said.
Britain will invest 1.8 billion pounds ($2.8 billion) in reserve forces over the next 10 years, he added. The 20,000 reduction in troop figures is expected to be complete by 2020.
Hammond also said the U.K. will have to work more closely with international partners and look to others to "provide the tail, where Britain is concentrating on providing the teeth" in defense.