Two of the best reporters on the planet have collaborated for a story today in the New York Times that examines the alarm stemming from the UK's threat to dramatically slash defense spending.
John Burns and Mike Gordon report that the planned 10-20 percent cuts worry US and Allied defense officials who wonder if after these reductions are put into place, Great Britain will even be a real player in today's geostrategic environment.
American and British officials said that they did not expect any cutbacks to curtail Britain’s capabilities to fight in Afghanistan over the next five years. But some American military experts question whether the British military will be capable of undertaking future ground operations that are as demanding as those in Afghanistan or to carry out simultaneous operations, including risky humanitarian missions, effectively.What analysts call a "brutal cost-cutting exercise" could leave the British military, which has fewer troops than the Marine Corps, strategically neutered. And one wonders if the force would even be capable of defending Britain's interests -- not just jumping in on coalition operations. What would happen if a Falklands-like incident happened again?
British defense officials argue They'll have the British Royal Marines and SAS, along with their nukes and JSF. But with cost pressure mounting on the F-35, is that even a relevant argument?
Adding to the quandary, the British Navy and Air Force can reduce spending by trimming weapons programs, while the army’s principal cost is personnel. The standing British Army has 103,000 soldiers, not including reserves or national guard troops, and army officers have argued that no more than several thousand could be cut without hampering the operation in Afghanistan, where about 10,000 British troops are deployed.This information is truly scary and leaves America almost totally alone from a coalition standpoint. Our most stalwart ally and military partner could become more of a drag on allied operations than an asset.
Be sure to read the entire piece from John Burns and Mike Gordon at the New York Times.