According to the UK Independence Party website UKIP will try to achieve the following if they gain power at the 2010 general election:
The Defence Budget is of course a result of the country’s defence commitments and society’s willingness to pay for them. Defence spending dropped sharply at the end of the Cold War. A ‘Peace Dividend’ was reasonably taken and money diverted to other requirements such as Health and Social Security – but it was overdone. Severe strains in equipping and maintaining our forces in Iraq and Afghanistan have become obvious to the public, and severe and justified criticism has been made by senior servicemen in the House of Lords and by the new UK National Defence Association.
The 2004 Future Capabilities White Paper committed us to supporting three simultaneous small to medium scale operations, including one long running peace keeping operation; or a one off large scale operation and a small scale peace keeping one. UKIP believes this is a reasonable analysis, but one that is not being met in practice.
UKIP policy is that we should spend sufficient monies to carry out effectively the UK’s responsibilities as set out in the 1998 Strategic Defence Review and the 2004 White Paper. At the moment we are achieving neither. The Armed Forces have seen a fall of just over one third since 1990, the Royal Air Force by nearly half (49%) (Source: UK Defence Statistics).
Our defence expenditure in 2005 was 2.3% of the UK’s GDP² (France 2.5%, Germany 1.4%, Italy 1.8%, USA 3.8%, NATO Europe 1.7%). In short, Britain is spending head for head less than France and much less than the US We cannot do defence on the cheap. The budget will have to rise substantially to meet the commitments we already have, prepare for others, and to look after those who serve.
About 50% of the existing defence budget goes on R & D and purchase of equipment.³ The problem – addressed further in the section on Procurement – is that we have not been getting value for money. Witness the reduction in front line forces from 1997 to 2006, despite a slowly rising defence budget.
The Navy went down from 49 destroyers and frigates in 1990 to 25 in 2007 and from 12 submarines to 9; the Army reduced from 55 to 36 Infantry battalions in the same period; the Air Force lost 8 out of 19 strike/attack/reconnaissance squadrons and 5 out of 9 air defence squadrons. Soldiers receiving P45s on the battlefront is not easily forgiven.
As a result the strains on our overstretched armed forces have become so clear that even the Government was forced to acknowledge them. In January 2007 the then Prime Minister talked of the need to renew the covenant between the Armed Forces, Government and People which means ‘increased expenditure on equipment, personnel and the condition of our armed forces, not in the short run but for the long run.’ (Tony Blair, RUSI Journal 2007)
UKIP believes that the Defence Budget must rise substantially to meet our present responsibilities, but that if we learn to spend it smarter the rise can be kept within affordable limits.
I would be interested to hear both positive and negative views on UK Independence Party’s UK Defence Budget policies in the comments below?