Army and RAF worst hit, with Gurkhas bearing brunt of losses, but cuts will not affect troops fighting in Afghanistan
The defence secretary has justified the decision to axe a further 4,200 jobs from the armed forces by insisting he had “no choice” because of the appalling state of military finances.
As the Ministry of Defence confirmed details of the second tranche of a painful redundancy programme, Philip Hammond claimed the new cuts would not affect operations in Afghanistan.
In a statement, the MoD revealed it was looking to shed 2,900 posts from the army, around 1,000 from the RAF and 300 from the Royal Navy.
The total is higher than the first round of the process last year, and there are expected to be more compulsory redundancy notices this time.
The MoD announced it was looking to shed approximately 400 Gurkhas – one in eight of the brigade. Approximately 500 infantry privates with more than six years’ service will also be axed.
The senior ranks of the army have not been spared. Eight brigadiers and 60 lieutenant colonels are expected to go.
The Royal Navy will lose five commodores and 17 captains. Nineteen Royal Marine officers will be shed, but no one from the ranks.
The RAF will lose up to 15 air commodores and 30 group captains. The MoD believes that by slowing recruiting, and not replacing those who leave, the navy and the RAF will be able to achieve the cuts they need without a “tranche 3” of redundancies. The army needs to shed almost 20,000 jobs over the next eight years and will continue to make cuts for years to come.
The Gurkhas were thought particularly vulnerable to army cuts because the MoD believes the brigade has over-recruited in recent years.
However, Labour has questioned the need to target the Gurkhas and asked whether the UK’s national security could remain resilient with so many job losses.
“David Cameron talked a lot in opposition about his pride in the Gurkhas, so many will be surprised they are now bearing the brunt of his rushed defence review,” said Jim Murphy, the shadow defence secretary.
He added: “Mass service redundancies at a time of economic hardship and significant security threats will be of deep concern up and down the country. If Labour were in government we would be taking tough decisions and we have been upfront about the need for cuts to the defence budget. The most important baseline, however, is national security and we worry these cuts are wrong-headed and rushed. We need to know the full military impact of losing such important capability.
“Ministers must do more to convince that they are looking after families, all service leavers and those on the frontline.”
The MoD made clear some people were exempted from the process this time round. There will be no redundancies among RAF pilots, and personnel serving in Afghanistan will not be affected by the process, unless they fit one of the criteria and want to leave voluntarily.
Under the Strategic Defence and Security Review, the RAF and Navy had to shed 5,000 posts each by 2015. The army is in a much more difficult position. The defence review, which was published in 2010, demanded 7,000 job losses, but that figure more than doubled last year as the MoD struggled to contain its ballooning budget. The army has to shrink by 20,000 within eight years. This latest announcement is likely to reflect this pressure.
Hammond said: “Difficult decisions had to be taken in the [Strategic Defence and Security Review] to deal with the vast black hole in the MoD budget. The size of the fiscal deficit we inherited left us no choice but to reduce the size of the armed forces, while reconfiguring them to ensure they remain agile, adaptable and effective.
“As we continue with the redundancy process we will ensure we retain the capabilities that our armed forces will require to meet the challenges of the future. The redundancy programme will not impact adversely on the current operations in Afghanistan, where our armed forces continue to fight so bravely on this country’s behalf.”