LONDON Britain may be in economic chaos now, but Defense Secretary Ben Wallace is emphasizing the new government’s promise to effectively double military spending by 2030.
In his first interview with new Prime Minister Liz Truss since the Conservative government came to power earlier this month, Wallace said defense spending would increase significantly by the end of 2010. Currently $1 billion ($51 billion).
The interview raised questions among some analysts, wondering if the plan could afford it, and skeptical of how the British could handle massive budget increases in such a short time.
Wallace told The Sunday Telegraph on Sept. 26 that Truss had said adamantly that it would increase defense spending to 2.5%. [of GDP] 3% by 2026 and 2030.
The Secretary of Defense, one of the few senior ministers who stayed with the Truss government when it was formed, declined to give details about when, where and how the money was used.
However, heavy artillery, cancellation of planned British military reduction plans and increased investment in intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) functions were all cited as potential beneficiaries.
Wallace said we’re likely to grow our army, but the armchair general may not be in the position he wants.
Much depends on the lessons learned from the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
During a trip to New York to attend the UN General Assembly last week, Truss confirmed that a new perspective on the government’s integrated defense and security review, announced in 2021, was underway as a result of the attack.
The promise of a massive increase in defense spending comes as the Department of Defense and the country generally prepare for a difficult economic period. Rising inflation, depreciation of the pound against the dollar and high fuel costs are threatening the Department of Defense finances.
It’s not just a matter of government as the pound becomes equal to the dollar.
Independent analyst here, John Louth, said the industry would also be hit. Many companies have not sufficiently hedged the cost of exchanges in their supply chains. He said it would be an absolute nightmare.
The economic hardship has led some analysts to question whether the $100 billion annual defense budget can afford, let alone whether the Pentagon can quickly cope with this massive increase in spending.
Malcolm Chalmers, deputy director of the Royal United Services Institute think tank in London, made it clear the scale of the effort needed for the massive budget increase.
The 3% increase would cost about 157 billion ($168 billion) in additional spending over the next eight years compared to the current plan, a recently published paper said.
It’s hard to spend that much extra money wisely, according to Louth.
They are grappling with how to effectively double their spending in six years, he said. I think they don’t yet understand what their priorities are or how they can program such an effort.
Louth added: We live in the age of Alice in Wonderland economics in England, so the answers to these kinds of questions won’t matter anyway.
Howard Wheelden, a consultant for Wheeldon Strategic Advisory in London, believes that the budget figures claimed by Wallace and Truss are unlikely to actually be met.
Wheeldon said the next general election is less than two years away, and rebuilding the economy during that time is a miracle. He said it was difficult to understand for voters to double defense spending by 2030.
Andrew Chuter is the UK correspondent for Defense News.
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