Prime Minister Gordon Brown has rejected criticism from five former military chiefs about the treatment of and funding for the armed forces.
It comes to something when the Prime Minister is criticised by not one, but FIVE (and today a sixth as well) former military chiefs. One or two could, perhaps, have had an axe to grind but six shows that he really has been failing the army.
We’ve been hearing complaints left right and centre for years now, both from the army itself and also from experts and reporters in Iraq and Afghanistan. The army is under funded and under equipped and typical political remarks such as Des Browne saying that our defence budget was second only to that of America, only highlight the inadequacies.
Actually the UK’s defence budget is not the second highest in the world after the US, that would be China, however our military commitments around the world are the second highest in the world, thanks to, and after the US. But let’s put this in perspective, the US spends £260 billion a year on defence; Britain has the same commitments in the Middle East in Iraq and Afghanistan and also others around the world, but spends just £30 billion a year on defence out of a possible tax budget of approximately £290 billion. Incidentally China spends £40 billion a year, even Japan spends about £25 billion a year, about the same as France.
Therefore stating, incorrectly, that ours is the second highest defence budget in the world doesn’t really mean anything, even if it were true, it should be anyway as thanks to this Government we have more overseas committments than during the cold war.
Besides the important figure when calculating defence spending is the percentage of GDP that is spent on defence. In the 1980s 4.4% of GDP was spent on defence. Today that is just 2.3%, this graphic from the BBC illustrates this better.
Again some perspective is needed the US spends 3.7% of its GDP on defence, France 2.6%. So the UK’s spending is not all that impressive.