Former US defence secretary Gates weighs in on UK cuts

The Ministry of Defence is not having the best week.

Following on from a damning report from the Commons defence committee and exposure of an IT fiasco, now former US defence secretary Robert Gates has stuck his oar in.

Gates, who served under presidents Obama and Bush, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that cuts to the Armed Forces would limit the UK’s ability to be a full military partner to the US.

The government plans to cut around 30,000 Armed Forces personnel by 2020. Thousand of jobs will be slashed this year with reservists hired instead.

Gates is not the first senior defence figure to voice his concerns about the cuts. The chief of defence staff, general Nicholas Houghton, last month said that the UK is in danger of being left with a “hollowed-out” military.

“Like the United States, the UK has had to take tough decisions on defence spending, but we still have the fourth largest defence budget in the world and the best-trained and best-equipped Armed Forces outside the US,” said an MoD spokesperson.

“Over the next decade, we plan to spend £160bn on equipment, to ensure our Armed Forces retain their formidable range of cutting-edge capabilities and ability to project power across the globe, including by maintaining our major Naval presence in the Gulf Region.”

“It's clear that there needs to be a rebalancing after withdrawal from Afghanistan and the closure of bases in Germany,” said Labour’s shadow defence secretary Vernon Coaker.

“And no-one is disputing the financial constraints within which the UK military must operate. But the government must ensure that Britain's defence capability is maintained.”