Implications of Britain’s Defense Budget Cuts: Libya Campaign the Last of its Kind for Britain?

Britain has made deep defense budget cuts as part of the British government’s efforts to cut its deficit. Thousands of military jobs, a fleet of jets and an aging aircraft carrier were all lost after the Ministry of Defense announced an 8 percent cut to its annual 37 billion pound ($58.8 billion) defense budget over four years.

Britain’s participation in the NATO mission over Libya was carried out before a decision to cut 8 percent from the defense ministry’s budget was implemented. The deep budget cuts call into question Britain’s ability to mount an operation similar in scale to its intervention in Libya.

A report released by the House of Commons Defense Committee said that although the Libya campaign, which led to the overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi, was successful, it raised “important questions” about the U.K.’s military capabilities. Committee Chair James Arbuthnot said the budget cuts call into question the U.K.’s ability to protect interests elsewhere while undertaking an operation similar in size and scale to the Libya campaign.

Even during the Libya campaign, the U.K. was forced to make sacrifices. For example, the Royal Navy’s evacuation of civilians from the Libyan port of Benghazi and enforcement of an arms embargo off Libya meant sacrificing naval escort and counter-drugs operations.

British Defense Secretary Phillip Hammond disagreed with the findings of the Committee, saying Libya highlighted Britain’s ability to conduct operations while fulfilling its commitments in Afghanistan, the Gulf and elsewhere. He commented, “We retain the capability to project power abroad and meet our NATO obligations, supported by what is the world’s fourth largest defense budget.”

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The Associated Press: UK lawmakers question military capabilities


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