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The defence review: MK II?

20 January 2011

3:58 PM

20 January 2011

3:58 PM

Most of my 2010 predictions did not come to pass; and many of the ones I made a few weeks ago for 2011 might not either. But one seems to have been a good bet. I wrote:  “Liam Fox
will come under renewed pressure when it becomes clear that the defence budget cannot afford both aircraft carriers.” OK, so I phrased it provocatively. The Defence Secretary is an able and
canny politician and will deal with any pressure that may arise.

But my point stands; namely that the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) may not the last word, given some of the problems faced by the example the Army. Now the Financial Times is
reporting that MoD officials have warned of a possible reopening of the SDSR because the department lacks the funds demanded by the government for 2020. Ministry of Defence planners have warned
that further front-line equipment and operations may have to be cut to plug a £1bn hole in the finances.

This is a very serious issue. The speed of the SDSR was controversial, to say nothing of the decisions taken. So the coalition has been keen to move on to new territory. Returning to the SDSR now
will be very problematic, not least because it will confirm the suspicion, voiced earlier by such senior Tories as Defence Committee Chairman, James Arbuthnot, that the review was inappropriately
swift. Today, Liam Fox is visiting New Zealand, but he would be excused for thinking that the moment he slips away, his control of MoD Main Building – and its access to the press – weakens.


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