Boris Johnson has agreed to a four-year $ 16.5 billion increase in defense spending at a time when Britains’s public finances have been stretched by the pandemic and a day after it emerged that billions of pounds could be removed from the foreign aid budget.
Experts say the windfall represents the largest increase in real terms in the defense budget since Prime Minister Margaret Thatchers and will be spent in part on a National Cyber Hacker Force and a new Space Command created to protect orbiting satellites and launch its own missiles.
It comes weeks after ministers objected to spending extra money to fund free school meals on holiday and days after it emerged that the overseas aid budget would be cut by billions, from 0.7% of gross national income to 0.5%, prompting criticism from Older networks.
Johnson said he had made the decision to increase spending on the armed forces in the teeth of the pandemic because protecting the kingdom should come first. The Prime Minister also wants to show the newly elected US President Joe Biden that the UK wants a strong post-Brexit military capability.
Insiders said defense funding, which will be detailed by Johnson in the House of Commons on Thursday, had come together at breakneck speed as Downing Street seeks to regain control after the 10th merger in recent weeks, which led to the removal of top aides Dominic Cummings and his ally Lee Cain.
We will see that an additional $ 16.5 billion has been spent on protection over a commitment to increase the existing budget of $ 41.5 billion by 0.5 percentage points above inflation. Taken together, the increase amounts to ALL 21.5 billion by March 2025 and defense sources said that this meant that the UK would remain the largest defense spender in Europe.
Aid experts said the announcement demonstrated that there was no need to cut the aid budget. Simon Starling, a director at Bond, the UK network for organizations working on international development, said: “What today’s announcement shows is that when the government needs to find money for certain areas, it can.
A battle inside Whitehall had been going on for about a month after Chancellor Rishi Sunak suddenly announced that a planned review of intergovernmental spending would be abandoned due to the pandemic.
Ben Wallace, Johnson’s defense secretary and longtime ally, pushed for a special multi-year deal to allow the Department of Defense (UK) to negotiate long-term arms and systems contracts, which would be more expensive if purchased from year to year.
There had been speculation that the Department of Defense had hoped for more than $ 20 billion extra, but defense sources said $ 16.5 billion would allow modernization without making painful cuts, and claimed the final figure represented a victory for the defense secretary.
Some of the extra defense money will be spent on setting up a belated National Cyber Force, a group of computer hackers that will carry out attack operations; a space command which aims to be able to launch its own rockets by 2022; and a new agency dedicated to artificial intelligence.
Although Wallace and Cummings often clashed, the main downed aide had been a supporter of a multi-year financing deal. But Cummings had also been a fierce critic of the MoD waste, writing in a post in March last March that the procurement process had continued to squander billions of pounds, enriching some of the worst corporate robbers and corrupting public life. through the revolving door of officials / lobbyists.
Malcolm Chalmers, of the Royal United Services Institute, said the end result was a much bigger increase for the defense than most analysts, including me, had predicted. This is the largest increase in real terms in the defense budget since the first years of Thatcher’s presidency, an increase of between 10 and 15% in real terms.
Labor said the spending announcement signaled a welcome and delayed update to the Britains defense after a decade of decline. Shadow defense secretary John Healey added that since 2010 the size of the armed forces has been cut by a quarter, defense spending has been cut by over $ 7 billion.
But Lloyd Russell-Moyle, Labor MP for Brighton Kemptown, said that while funding our military is a must, people will wonder if our national security can rightly take money, why the government is allowing child protection advice and social care go to the wall.
The Department of Defense already has a $ 13 billion shortfall in its equipment budget, according to the National Audit Office, and would have been forced to cut aircraft and lose use of its hospital ship if the gap had not been closed.
The funding deal was intended to be linked to an integrated post-Brexit defense and foreign policy review, but the delay in agreeing on a financial solution, coupled with Cummings’s recent departure, means the exercise has been postponed to the end. of January or early February. .
The final review is expected to see cuts in the size of the British military and a reduction in its use of sparsely deployed tanks, plus commitments to further invest in armed drones and upgrade the Trident nuclear weapons system.
On Wednesday the government was criticized for failing to extend the 20-week-a-week increase in universal credit payments beyond April, despite the pandemic and rising child poverty. The extension of the recharge would cost about 9 billion ALL.
Anna Feuchtwang, chief executive of the National Children’s Bureau, said: “If the government can find significant additional funding for protection, then surely they can find money for children in crisis. It is appalling that difficult close families have to rely on food banks to reach out and that services that can stop them from spiraling into further crisis are being cut from year to year with local authorities facing bankruptcy.
We need the government to take its responsibility to the next generation seriously and have a proper strategy to invest in children.
Torsten Bell, chief executive of the Resolution Foundation, told lawmakers that ministers were delaying the inevitable half by refusing to signal whether they would continue with the filling, which was introduced last April as a 12-month increase for millions of struggling families. . Failure to do so would be madness, Bell said.
Bell said most of the fall had been spent debating the relatively small issue of providing nutritional support for children at free school meals during the school holidays, a campaign led by footballer Marcus Rashford, to which the government eventually turned more than addressed the central issue of universal credit.