Top two defence officials given marching orders

BRITAIN’S top two defence officials will step down later this year, the government said yesterday, but denied they were being blamed for mistakes in Afghanistan or for wasteful military spending.

Britain’s most senior military officer, chief of the defence staff Jock Stirrup, and Bill Jeffrey, the top civil servant at the Ministry of Defence, are expected to leave towards the end of the year once a strategic defence review (SDR) ordered by the new government has been completed.

“We’ve talked about the best time to be replacing our senior staff, probably at the end of the SDR in the autumn,” defence secretary Liam Fox said.

The strategic defence review will set out the future role of the armed forces and may pave the way for cuts in defence spending as the Conservative-Liberal Democrat government moves to rein in the budget deficit.

The changes at the top of the Ministry of Defence are designed to improve the military’s performance in the Afghanistan war and to cut wasteful spending.

Fox would not rule out a cut in troop numbers after the review, saying he had no preconceived view on the size and shape of the forces.