- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Britain’s defense secretary said Wednesday that his country is committed to keeping defense spending at the NATO’s suggested rate of 2 percent of GDP, even as Prime Minister David Cameron scrapes to find creative ways to cut the government’s bills.

Prior to his first meeting with new U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton  Carter, U.K. Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said in an address at the Center for Strategic and International Studies that Britain will not cut defense spending below the targets, but added it was hard to predict what will happen next year. 

U.S. defense officials have long pressed their European counterparts to boost military spending, and Britain’s military spending levels have ratcheted downward ever since Mr. Cameron took office in 2010 in the midst of a major economic downturn.

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The spending debate broke into the public after U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno told a British newspaper this month that he was “very concerned” about Britain’s ability to commit to the 2 percent level. The general added that U.S. military officials are adjusting their plans based on the assumption that the U.K’s resources might be spread too thin to help on key missions. 

Mr. Cameron said in a radio interview Tuesday he was reviewing the country’s security budget “in the round.”

“So I am also concerned about the budget for MI5, the Secret Intelligence Service, GCHQ, counter-terrorism policing. To me, all of these things are part of our national defense,” Mr. Cameron said.

The U.K. has already cut military spending by more than $1.5 billion in five years. The Royal United Services Institute, a London-based think tank, projects that future spending cuts are likely to dip the limit below 2 percent, regardless what happens after Britain’s general elections in May.

Mr. Fallon noted Tuesday that “we are one of only four European countries currently meeting the 2 percent target.”

“We can deploy a division in the field, with sufficient notice, and very few countries can still say that today,” he added. “We have committed not to reduce our army any further and we are adding reserves.”



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