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United Kingdom - Military Spending

Ewen MacAskill, defence correspondent for The Guardian, posed the question on 02 March 2015 "Should Britain start behaving like the small island state it is rather than maintaining the pretensions of being a significant world player? It is a reasonable debate for voters in May to decide they would rather see Britain play a smaller role in the world and shift more money from defence to welfare. Britain at present is the fifth biggest spender on defence in the world."

At the peak of post-1945 expenditure on defence, 1952, defence spending was 11.8 % of the gross domestic product (GDP). In the 1960s the Government tried to stabilize the figure to around 7 - 7 1/2%. In the 1970s, however, the figure was reduced to around 5 1/2%. This was still higher than all other NATO allies, with the exception of the USA and, defence commitment demands were to be met without placing an intolerable strain on the UKs economy, fundamental reappraisals of overseas responsibilities, manpower and resources needed for defence were required.

The old barons used to arm themselves and vassals at their own expense, and support them during the contest. There was then no standing army nor permanent revenue those who tilled the land fought the battles of the country. Under such a system, wars could neither be very long in their duration, nor very remote in their objects. Foreign expeditions suited as little to the national resources as the avocations of the people. The only time that could be spared to settle public quarrels was between seed-time and harvest, and the only treasure they could be provided with before-hand was the surplus produce of the preceeding year. Hence, wars were generally either carried on languidly, or were of short duration.

Their operations were frequently interrupted by truces, and sometimes discontinued through mere feebleness. A warlike leader was often stopped short in his victorious career, either from the want of resources, or the necessity of allowing his followers to return home to provide subsistence for the following season. The state of the sovereign was as little favourable to protracted contests as the condition of his lieges. His revenue was derived partly from lands reserved as a royal demesne, and partly from feudal casualties, and afforded a slender provision for maintaining the royal dignity, and defraying the ordinary expenses of government, but was altogether inadequate to the support of numerous and permanent armies.

Princes, under any emergency, real or supposed, or actuated by any scheme of ambition, had recourse either to borrowing or pawning. The loans which they raised were partly compulsory, and, as the repayment was ill secured, the rate of interest was high. Sometimes the jewels of the crown were pledged, and sometimes the crown-lands were mortgaged. In this manner, the revenues of most of the powers of Europe were anticipated and encumbered.

A new state of society introduced a new mode of supporting war. Instead of borrowing on their own credit, sovereigns learned to borrow on the credit of posterity. The issue of war no longer depended on a single battle or successful irruption, but on the length of the public purse. The national spendthrift vice that has operated on the public welfare like the addiction to some baneful passion in an individual; indulgence augmented appetite, till, at length, the malady has reached a state of virulence which precluded all hope of cure or alleviation.

The new British coalition government came to power after the inconclusive 06 May 2010 general election, which saw the ruling Labor party defeated after 13 years in power. The Conservatives, the largest polling party, and the third- party in British politics, the Liberal Democrats, formed a coalition which set its principal task as tackling the record public spending deficit, which was set to hit 153 billion pounds (about 240 billion U.S. dollars) in 2010. In July 2010 The Treasury revealed that most departments should prepare for budget cuts of up to 40 percent. However defense was told to prepare for cuts of between 10 percent and 25 percent.

A Strategic Defence Review, the first for 12 years, was ordered before the election by the outgoing Labor government. The service likely to be most affected is the army, already down to 102,700 deployable troops from 136,620 at the end of the Cold War.

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) says its core budget totals about 36.9 billion pounds [$55.6 billion ]in the 2010/2011 fiscal year, spending that is ringfenced until the following year. Britain's defense outlays as a percentage of GDP declined after the Cold War. Estimated defense outlays in 2008 (the last year for which official data was available in 2010) amounted to 2.2% of GDP, half what the UK spent during its last severe economic crisis, in the late 1970s. The last time the UK spent so little on defense was in the 1930s, before the belated arms buildup against Germany.

The United Kingdom is one of the United States' closest allies, as demonstrated by its participation in OEF, its command of the first ISAF rotation in Afghanistan, and its continuing strong support for the global War on Terrorism. UK-U.S. military-to-military cooperation has no parallel. The UK also participates actively in NATO and the Partnership for Peace, and is a Permanent Member of the UN Security Council. British forces play major roles in NATO's conventional and nuclear force structures, as well as deploying around the world in response to regional crises and national commitments.

While, the United Kingdom's defense budget declined by a marginal 1.9 percent in real terms during 2002, its defense spending relative to GDP (2.4 percent in 2002) was the fifth highest in NATO. The UK devoted the second highest percentage of defense spending (29 percent) to NATO modernization programs (i.e., procurement, and research and development). The UK provides substantial host nation support for U.S. forces (over $133 million), almost entirely in the form of indirect contributions (i.e., waived taxes, rents and other forgone revenues). British forces form the backbone of the Allied Command Europe (ACE) Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC), and provide the second largest shares of total NATO naval combat and mine countermeasures tonnage, combat aircraft capability, naval supply, tender and transport tonnage, military transport aircraft capacity and tanker aircraft fuel offload capacity.

The UK continues to implement changes called for in the 1998 Strategic Defense Review (SDR), creating a more deployable, sustainable, and flexible force. In light of the events of September 11, 2001, the UK produced a 'New Chapter' for the SDR to ensure that it possesses the right concepts, forces, and capabilities needed to confront the challenges of international terrorism and asymmetric threats. The 'New Chapter,' published in July 2002, concluded that the UK should plan to undertake a wide range of activities against terrorists overseas, and called for increased defense spending in order to improve its capabilities to engage in such operations. As a result, the UK plans to increase its defense budget by 3.7-percent over the period 2002/2003 to 2005/2006 - the biggest sustained increase in defense spending in 20 years.

The UK also contributed about 5,500 personnel to NATO operations in the Balkans for most of 2002, declining to roughly 4,900 at year's end: 1,900 in Bosnia (SFOR) and 3,000 in Kosovo (KFOR). British forces also served in UN peace operations in Cyprus, on the Iraq-Kuwait and Eritrea-Ethiopia borders, Georgia, Sierra Leone, Kosovo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and East Timor. The UK is the only ally that joined the United States in using offensive air power to enforce the northern and southern no-fly zones over Iraq.

The United Kingdom provided nearly $5.5 billion in foreign assistance in 2001 (0.3 percent of GDP). Furthermore, the UK works closely with the United States on countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, focusing especially on compliance issues. It has pledged to contribute about $750 million to the G-8 Global Partnership Initiative, and, during 2002, established a comprehensive project implementation framework for a wide range of Soviet nuclear legacy issues, including: nuclear submarine dismantlement and management of spent fuel, re-employment of proliferation-sensitive skills in closed 'nuclear cities,' improving the operational safety of nuclear power plants, addressing the social consequences of nuclear power plant closure, and physical security of facilities containing sensitive material of interest to terrorists. The UK budgeted 32 million for these projects.

The MOD estimated in 1991 that 22.8 billion would be required to cover planned expenditure over the 1991-92 period. The budget would need to rise to 23.39 billion for 1993-94. The future forecasts for defence spending followed the defense cuts in the Government's Options for Change review announced in July 1990. In response to the diminished threat from the Soviet Union and the disintegration of the Warsaw Pact, the MOD announced manpower reductions and equipment cutbacks.

The MOD expenditure document says: "It is envisaged that the Armed Forces will be smaller, but will remain mobile and will be better equipped. Work is being carried out on the detailed implications of these proposals for front line capability and in support areas." The report stresses the need to get value for money. The Royal Air Force, for example, has achieved savings by improving the management and control of consumption of vehicle fuels in RAF Germany and rephasing fast jet conversion training at RAF Valley.

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