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THE MUSINGS OF A TRADITIONAL SOUTHERN DEMOCRAT

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Britain Announces Severe Military Cutbacks - Britain to bring down its deficit more rapidly than that of almost any other Western country.

From The New York Times:

In a bid to streamline its armed forces and help reduce its daunting levels of national debt, the British government on Tuesday announced plans to cut its military personnel by 10 percent, scrap 40 percent of the army’s artillery and tanks, withdraw all of its troops from Germany within 10 years, and cut 25,000 civilian jobs in its Defense Ministry.

Over all, the government plan will involve a staged, four-year cut of about 8 percent in real terms in Britain’s annual defense budget of about $59 billion. That was significantly less than the 10 to 20 percent cuts that were under discussion as recently as last month, when the defense minister, Liam Fox, wrote a confidential letter to Mr. Cameron — quickly leaked to Britain’s newspapers — that carried a hint that Mr. Fox might resign if the cuts were not scaled back.

The more modest scale of the military cutbacks placed extra strain on the government’s overall effort to save more than $130 billion through spending cutbacks by 2015, a commitment that will require other government departments to make cutbacks averaging 25 percent.

The details of those cuts — the most severe austerity program adopted by any British government since World War II — will be announced by George Osborne, chancellor of the Exchequer, in a House of Commons statement on Wednesday. They are expected to bring months, and perhaps years, of political controversy and possible labor unrest.

Mr. Fox’s pushback over the defense cuts appeared to have been helped by the concerns voiced, sometimes publicly, by senior Obama administration officials, including Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. The American officials, together with senior American military commanders, including Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American and NATO commander in Afghanistan, were worried that the cuts could hamper Britain’s ability to help American forces in conflicts around the globe.

The Cameron government’s program to bring down Britain’s deficit more rapidly than that of almost any other Western country has conflicted with the Obama administration’s appeals to its allies not to risk the sluggish economic recovery of the past 18 months by cutting government spending too fast.

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