Murphy's Law: The Army-Navy Game In Britain

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June 8, 2009: In Britain, the commanders of the army and navy are feuding over the defense budget. Army commander General Sir Richard Dannatt has pointed out that only ten percent of spending on new equipment goes to the army (based on actual and planned spending between 2003-18). This, despite the fact that it's the army that is doing most of the fighting during this period. Although the army recently pulled out of Iraq (where it had been since 2003), it is still in Afghanistan, and more troops are headed there. The navy has not been involved in active combat since 1982 (in the Falklands).

The British armed forces have 191,000 on active service. Of those, 38,000 are in the Royal Navy, 109,000 in the Army, 41,000 in the Royal Air Force, and the rest in joint staffs and operations. The annual defense budget is about $58 billion.

While the army gets the largest portion of the budget, because most of the money goes to personnel, the navy and air force get most of the procurement money to pay for ships and aircraft. What annoys the army the most is the continued effort to maintain Britain as a major naval power. The generals can understand the need for destroyers, frigates and submarines to defend the seas that surround the British isles, but they chafe at the nearly $40 billion spent on four SSBNs (ballistic missile nuclear subs) and two aircraft carriers (and their escorts). To fund this, on a shrinking defense budget, the army is starved for modern combat equipment. This is allowed to happen while thousands of British troops are in combat.

The army wants Britain to recognize that, in the last century, the United States replaced Britain as the dominant naval power. U.S. naval power is stronger, compared to every other fleet on the planet, than the Royal Navy ever was. The U.S. has more nuclear weapons (in ICBMs and SSBNs) than everyone else (many of Russia's are technically in service, but are not fit to use.)

While many Britons like the idea of the country having its own nuclear deterrent (the nuclear missiles on the SSBNs) and aircraft carriers, the army commanders point out that the nation's first duty should be to troops are in harm's way. So far, the government does not agree.

 


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