Stop Focusing on Unreal Issues in UK Defense

Ted Bromund /

DefenseNews, an influential U.S. publication, is running an editorial headlined “Britain’s Defense Choices: What To Cut.” The piece is an object lesson in how not to think about Britain’s defense problems going forward.

The piece doesn’t start out badly: it points out that Britain’s armed forces, all told, are smaller than the U.S. Marine Corps, that the forces have been cut for years to make ends meet in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that the result is a huge, unfunded modernization bill. And now, with the OECD reporting that Britain, with the exception of Greece, has the worst budgetary position of the entire industrialized world, more cuts look to be coming.

Then it goes sour. DefenseNews’s big recommendations are to cut civilians, rely more on contractors, and cut heavy equipment like tanks and artillery, as well as ground forces. But under Labour, the size of the civilian side of the Ministry of Defense has shrunk dramatically. The problem is that the cost of that civilian side has grown nonetheless, as has the size of its senior levels. More and more expensive senior officials are supervising fewer and fewer of their cheaper juniors. Cutting civilian employment is a solution that is just about played out: the need now is to bring the top tier of the Ministry into balance with the rest of the structure. (more…)