British Army 'waste' criticised as cuts set to save £3.9bn

Ministry of Defence procurement costs branded a waste of money

British Army infantrymen take part in a Nato exercise on the Estonian-Latvian border in May 2022. Getty
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MPs have complained that plans to cut the size of the British Army and save around £3.9 billion ($4.9bn) over 10 years, “pale in comparison” to money “wasted” on procurement.

Last year the Ministry of Defence outlined plans to reduce the size of the regular Army, lowering the target size from 82,000 personnel to 72,500 by 2025.

The Army had about 76,500 soldiers when the government made the announcement last year.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told the Commons at the time that the Army’s “increased deployability and technological advantage will mean that greater effect can be delivered by fewer people”.

Mr Wallace said his department was modernising the armed forces with a focus on capability over troop numbers and “sentimentality”.

Defence Minister James Heappey has confirmed in response to a written parliamentary question that the change is estimated to save around £3.9 billon ($4.9bn) over the next 10 years.

“Whilst the Regular Army reorganises to its new structure of 73,000, naturally this will result in workforce cost savings. The reduction of the Army to 73,000 by 2025 has been estimated to present £3.9 billion ($4.9bn) in savings over the 10 years following the financial year 2021-22,” he said.

“The department is delivering record investment in the Army, providing £41.3 billion ($52bn) in support of existing platforms and new equipment.”

He was responding to a question from Liberal Democrat defence spokesman Jamie Stone.

“At this dark moment, the decision to cut our armed forces is looking more misguided by the day,” Mr Stone told the PA news agency.

“The release of these costings makes clear that the year-on-year savings from the cut pale in comparison with the immense MoD waste on procurement projects.

“Our armed forces personnel should not be bearing the brunt of poor decision-making elsewhere within the department.”

“Despite the government confirming in its Integrated Review last year that threats to Britain are ‘growing and diversifying’, defence ministers plan to cut the Army by another 10,000 soldiers,” said Labour's shadow defence secretary John Healey.

“This plan is driven by pressure to cut costs, not by Britain’s defence needs. Defence ministers have lost any grip on MoD spending and are trying to balance the books on the backs of forces personnel.

“The MoD have wasted £6 billion ($7.6bn) since 2019, when the current defence secretary came into post, and a total of over £15 billion ($19bn) since 2010. Ministers are failing British troops and British taxpayers.”

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “There is a difference between ‘waste’ and accounting adjustments and extensions.

“We always review and renew our capabilities to ensure relevance to today’s threats. This government is investing an extra £24 billion ($30bn) in defence — the biggest investment in the UK’s armed forces since the end of the Cold War — which will help provide the British Army with new tanks, armoured vehicles and attack helicopters.

“Under our plans, the Army will have a whole force of over 100,000 personnel, consisting of regulars and reserves, ready to fight the wars of the future.”

Updated: May 31, 2022, 9:23 PM