NewsUK faces defense shortfall as budget deficit threatens arms procurement

UK faces defense shortfall as budget deficit threatens arms procurement

The British government does not have a plan to finance the purchase of weapons.
The British government does not have a plan to finance the purchase of weapons.
Images source: © Getty Images | Richard Baker
1:03 PM EST, March 9, 2024

The British government has been warned by the Public Accounts Committee of lacking a credible plan to fund the acquisition of necessary arms for its armed forces. This shortfall could result in the country becoming more dependent on its allies for defense.

The committee's report highlights a significant budget deficit in the Ministry of Defence's arms procurement plans, totaling £16.9 billion (approximately $20.4 billion), marking the largest gap since the ministry began releasing its annual 10-year procurement plan in 2012. Despite the government's pledge to increase funding by £46.3 billion (about $55.8 billion) by 2033, this deficit persists.

Most of the allocated funds, amounting to £38.2 billion (approximately $46 billion), are designated for nuclear deterrence modernization, including the refurbishment of submarines, missiles, and warheads. Compounding the situation, inflation and unfavorable currency exchange rates have increased the purchasing costs by £10.9 billion (about $13.1 billion) and £2.2 billion (about $2.65 billion), respectively.

Members of Parliament have noted that the £16.9 billion deficit only covers planned purchases. Should the Ministry of Defence attempt to acquire all the equipment deemed necessary by the armed forces, it would face a shortfall of approximately £29 billion ($35 billion).

Criticism has been directed at the Ministry of Defence for its reluctance to prioritize and decide which equipment procurement programs could be deferred to balance the budget. The ministry's planning is based on the hopeful assumption that defense spending will be increased to 2.5% of GDP from the current approximate 2.1%, despite the absence of a confirmed timeline for this increment.

"In an increasingly unstable world, the Ministry of Defence's failure to devise a credible plan to ensure fully funded military capabilities in line with government expectations is alarming," said commission chair Meg Hillier. "It is disappointing that we continue to grapple with familiar issues, which now appear to be exacerbating."

In the 2024/25 fiscal year budget announced by Finance Minister Jeremy Hunt on Wednesday, despite anticipation, there was no increase in defense spending announced. Instead, it was stated that it would rise to 2.5% of GDP "when the economic situation permits."

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