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US Defense Secretary Hagel scolds budget cuts
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) March 1, 2013


British military capability at risk from more cuts: minister
London (AFP) March 02, 2013 - The capability of Britain's armed forces would be put at risk if defence spending is cut again in the government's next spending review, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said Saturday.

"There may be some modest reductions we can make through further efficiencies and we will look for those, but we won't be able to make significant further cuts without eroding military capability," he told BBC television.

"We're already extremely taut.

"We have some very challenging targets ahead of us to deliver the outcome of the last spending review and I'm clear that we won't be able to deliver big further savings."

As part of the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) faced an eight-percent budget cut in real terms over four years, forcing a shrinking in the size of the military.

With talks about to begin on the next public spending round after the 2015 general election year, Hammond said it was time other departments felt the pinch to the same degree.

Last month, Downing Street announced that the MoD would not be saved from further budget cuts as Britain continues trying to rein in its overspending.

"I am not going into the spending review offering any further reductions in personnel," Hammond told The Daily Telegraph newspaper.

"I shall go into the spending review fighting the case for the defence budget on the basis that we have made very large cuts to defence.

"Any further reduction in the defence budget would fall on the level of activity that we were able to carry out -- the idea that expensively bought equipment may not be able to be used, expensively employed troops may not be able to be exercised and trained as regularly as they need to be.

"We have maintained... a remarkably high proportion of our military capability while taking out substantial amounts of cost. We can't go on doing that, with further reductions, without having significant impact on military capability.

"If we are going to get control of public spending on a sustainable basis, we are going to have to do more to tackle the growth in the welfare budget."

Hammond's comments are likely to be welcomed in the Conservative Party, whose backbenchers have urged their leader Prime Minister David Cameron to return to traditional Tory values after coming third in a parliamentary by-election last week in a key target seat.

However, they could ignite tensions with the Conservatives' junior coalition partners the Liberal Democrats, who oppose deep welfare cuts.

Major budget cuts initiated Friday will endanger the US military's ability to conduct its missions, Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel warned.

His comments came hours before President Barack Obama authorized cuts in domestic and defense spending, following the failure of efforts to clinch a deal with Republicans on cutting the deficit.

Hagel, whose budget at the Pentagon is set to be slashed by roughly $46 billion, said earlier: "Let me make it clear that this uncertainty puts at risk our ability to effectively fulfill all of our missions."

In contrast with his predecessor Leon Panetta, who branded the cuts a "doomsday mechanism" and "fiscal castration," Hagel was more measured two days after taking office as defense secretary.

But he made clear his thoughts on the consequences of the so-called "sequester" on the military.

Defense officials say they will be forced to reduce the working week of 800,000 civilian employees, scale back flight hours of warplanes and postpone some equipment maintenance.

The deployment of a second aircraft carrier to the Gulf has also been canceled.

The US Navy will gradually stand down several hundred planes starting in April, the Air Force will curtail flying hours and the Army will cut back training for all units except those deploying to Afghanistan.

"This will have a major impact on training and readiness," Hagel said. "Later this month, we intend to issue preliminary notifications to thousands of civilian employees who will be furloughed."

Hagel acknowledged that the budget cuts "will cause pain, particularly among our civilian workforce and their families."

"I'm also concerned, as we all are, about the impact on readiness that these cuts will have across our force," he added.

The Pentagon chief expressed "confidence" that the White House and President Barack Obama's Republican foes in Congress would eventually reach agreement.

But other officials laid bare the consequences.

"If you stop training for a while and you're a combat pilot, then you lose your rating and eventually can't fly at all, because we can't allow you to fly if you can't fly safely," said Ash Carter, Hagel's deputy at the Pentagon.

"You can't, you obviously can't fly proficiently, but you can't even fly safely. Then you have to go back to the long building-back process of getting your readiness back."

Obama was bound by law to initiate the automatic, indiscriminate cuts.

The hit to military and domestic spending, known as the sequester, was never supposed to happen, but was rather a device seen as so punishing that rival lawmakers would be forced to find a better compromise to cut the deficit.

But despite a looming reality that the nation would suffer, Democrats and Republicans remained far from compromise and were never close to agreement.

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MILPLEX
British military capability at risk from more cuts: minister
London (AFP) March 02, 2013
The capability of Britain's armed forces would be put at risk if defence spending is cut again in the government's next spending review, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said Saturday. "There may be some modest reductions we can make through further efficiencies and we will look for those, but we won't be able to make significant further cuts without eroding military capability," he told BBC ... read more


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