ChinookScrapping Trident key to balancing defence budget

A cheaper alternative to Trident, namely modifying the Astute submarine class, could free up Defence money to be spent on the front line.

Ministers and defence chiefs are grappling with the prospect of swingeing cuts to defence expenditure in the light of a projected £36bn black hole in the defence budget in the wake of yesterday’s National Audit Office report.

Even as the Ministry of Defence increases the UK troop presence in Afghanistan whilst pledging more support for front line forces, notably in the form of twenty Chinook helicopter reinforcements, the MoD is also preparing £1.5bn worth of cuts in manpower and equipment costs.

However, the scale of the problem is so great that it is only through dramatic cuts to the procurement budget that the real gap between costs and spending can be closed. As Conservative MP Edward Leigh, chair of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, said:

“[The] report reveals the unpalatable truth that the current defence programme is unaffordable.”

Citing the example of the Royal Navy’s carrier project, the report also warns of the long term cost of short term savings; these take the form of more delays to existing large scale procurement projects that could end up costing the taxpayer more than if they had proceeded on schedule in the first place.

The NAO report says:

“These decisions were necessary to ensure that the programme was affordable in the next few years, but they increased the overall procurement costs and represent poor value for money.”

That warning should be a cause for reflection amongst defence policy makers with regard to any planned delays of the new Astute class hunter-killer submarines.

The ultimate solution to the projected shortfall is therefore likely to be the total scrapping of large scale defence procurement projects and the modification of exisiting platforms to serve multiple purposes. In the case of Britain’s nuclear deterrent such an approach could be achieved by scrapping plans for a wholly new successor to the existing Trident-bearing British nuclear submarines and modifying the Astute class to possess a nuclear weapons capability.

5 Responses to “ChinookScrapping Trident key to balancing defence budget”

  1. Swagata

    It’s politically quite hard. There are still shipbuilders in Gordon Brown’s political backyard, many Labour MPs in the Fife area will want the defence procurement programme to keep spending cash in their constituencies as a defence against the SNP.

  2. ratzo

    Spot on, Swagata.

    The main attack line on the SNP non-nuclear policy is that scrapping Trident will cost 9000 jobs.

    If there is any discussion about scrapping Trident that attack line falls straight in to the hands of the SNP, viz., “what compensation will Westminster now provide for the loss of 9000 jobs?”

  3. Anon E Mouse

    Swagata – Trident lasts for years and we don’t know what the world will be like tomorrow but I agree politically it’s a non-starter.

    With the interest on the debt mountain this useless government has run up (structural debt included – nothing to do with the world recession) alone being calculated (Institute of Fiscal Studies) at around £60 – £70 billion / year by 2013, I think Trident is excellent value for money.

    Well done (for once) to the government for ignoring the stupid ex-CND types who feel their old silly agenda may be back on the table.

    If we had no Trident has anyone considered the effects on NATO?

  4. The Friendly Lefty

    Anon E Mouse asks: ‘If we had no Trident has anyone considered the effects on NATO?’

    I’m more worried by the question: ‘What does replacing Trident with a new generation of (completely unusable and costly) nuclear weapons do for our membership of the Non Proliferation Treaty and our standing in the international community?’

    It’s a longer question, I’ll grant you. But the right one.

  5. Anon E Mouse

    The Friendly Lefty – I guess it depends if we swap on a one for one basis on the Non Proliferation Treaty.

    Our standing in the international community is sort of in the dumps with the number of wars we have been involved in anyway.

    We don’t need Unilateral Nuclear Disarmament in the dangerous world we live in.

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