Don’t want to cut the army, then cut Trident

The cuts to the number of army personnel are being blamed on austerity. They might just as well be blamed on the outdated Cold War thinking of our leaders.

More than 20 Tory MPs are expected to rebel in the Commons later today over plans to cut 20,000 regular army troops and replace them with 30,000 army reserves.

The rebels are proposing an amendment to a coalition defence bill aimed at delaying the cuts until further discussion has taken place.

The concerns reflect those of the army’s top brass, with chief of the defence staff General Sir David Richards saying in June that the cuts would “seriously damage” Britain’s chances of success in future wars.

Under the government’s plans, the number of Army personnel will drop to 82,000 by 2020 – down from 102,000 in 2010.

The current defence budget is £34.3bn, and will fall to £33bn in 2014-15 as a result of cuts to the defence budget announced by George Osborne in March.

In these straightened times cuts are ‘inevitable’, I hear you say. And yet, as a country we are still planning to spend £1.86bn a year on the renewal of Trident – a sum greater than Osborne’s proposed cuts.

According to a costing commissioned by a cross-party group of MPs – which included former defence secretaries Malcolm Rifkind, Labour’s Des Brown and Menzies Campbell – in total the full cost of replacing Trident will be a whopping £83.5bn.

In other words, there is money available for the purposes of defence; it’s just that the money is being used on nukes, which we can never use, as opposed to the army, which we very often do  use.

As for dealing with the contemporary security threat, back in 2009 a letter sent to The Times signed by a group of senior military officers spelt out just how useless nuclear weapons are in dealing with the contemporary conflicts:

“Nuclear weapons have shown themselves to be completely useless as a deterrent to the threats and scale of violence we currently face or are likely to face, particularly international terrorism.”

That’s right, we are spending 83 billion pounds on something that is ‘completely useless’ against the type of threat Britain now faces – terrorism, failed states, extremism etc.

It’s hard to see the logic for the renewal of Trident at a time when budgets are so squeezed that regular army troops need to be cut: regular troops which do a vital job versus a weapons system that can never be deployed and which does little to deter the modern threat: one imagines that the presence of nukes is likely to encourage rather than deter the average suicide bomber.

The cuts to the number of army personnel are being blamed on austerity. They might just as well be blamed on the outdated Cold War thinking of our leaders.

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.

7 Responses to “Don’t want to cut the army, then cut Trident”

  1. John_Slinger

    Well said, James.

    I’ve argued this case in the FT in which I drew attention to a public meeting in 2007 in a largely Tory-voting village in Gloucestershire after which the vote was 125 against renewing Trident, 15 in favour of retaining it and 10 people abstained.

    I also argued, just as you do, that we need more troops, not Trident, in The Independent here

  2. uglyfatbloke

    trident was a stupid waste of money and replacing it is positively asinine, but we would probably also be addressing the useless FRES programme if it was n’t for electoral advantage in various constituencies. It might not do any harm for defence spokesmen – in every party – to read the odd war theory textbook.

  3. Michael Simpson

    I’d reinvest the money in high speed rail.

  4. Michael Simpson

    And maybe another Olympics.

  5. failquail

    I’d prefer to cut trident and a lot of the army…

  6. johnfwoods

    I regret that we can argue as much as we like but no politician will dare give up our deterrent. It needs someone with courage who will simply keep the current system in place for 20 years (down to having one submarine which may or may not be able to go to sea) and then let the entire Trident System wither on the wing. Russia will probably be bankrupt by then and China is more interested in getting rich.

  7. blarg1987

    No one can predict the future, it is easy to say we do not need say aircraft carriers now, just to find in a decade we suddenly need them.

    What my biggest bug bearer with the MOD is the short sightedness of Ministers responsible and their civil servents to explain my conerns I will use a house as an example:

    A specification goes out to build a four bedroom house with double size garage that elctricity. Then a minister of civil servent comes along and goes right I am going to reduce costs, do we need the garage? No well get ride of it, and ow we need two spare rooms? No get ride of them.

    We finally go to a builder and get the house built then suddenly a child is concieved so another bedroom has to be added,is means the place has to be redesign and the builder recost. So now we have a three bedroom place. Then another child is born so again another bedroom is needed. Then we finally need the garage as all the kids will later on have cars.

    Underlying point is we do end up having to pay for the whole package in MOD equipment but instead of buying stuff that offers easy flexibility in the future the MOD end up purchasing stuff that does the bare minimum all to save a few quid instead of biting the bullet and buying what is long term better value for money.

Leave a Reply