Cameron’s Oct. 19 address marked the conclusion of a broad reassessment of British strategic and defense policy. The National Security Strategy, published Oct. 18, assessed threats and set strategic priorities; the Strategic Defense and Security Review, released the following day, detailed the steps that the government will take in accordance with those priorities.
Cameron said the British government will extend the life of its Vanguard-class nuclear submarines “so that the first replacement submarine is not required until 2028.” As a result, he said, the final decision “to start construction of the new submarines need not now be taken until around 2016.” That date is after the next British general elections, which will take place no later than May 2015.
For the Trident replacement to go forward, it must pass through two approval points: the “initial gate” decision allowing preparatory work to proceed and the “main gate” decision to begin building the new submarines. The initial step “will be approved, and the next phase of the project commenced, by the end of this year,” the defense review said.
In addition, the
British officials cautioned against interpreting the changes as a weakened commitment to their country’s nuclear deterrent. Speaking in Washington Oct. 28, Minister of State for Security and Counter-terrorism Pauline Neville-Jones said, “We do not believe that it makes a great deal of sense, given that we have a nuclear deterrent, to decide that we’re going to dispense with it…. We will remain in the nuclear club.”
On the subject of nuclear declaratory policy, the review strengthened
The strategic and defense reviews took place in an atmosphere of severe financial pressures. Since taking office in May, Cameron has vowed to reduce the size of government significantly in an attempt to address budget deficits. On Oct. 20, the government released its Comprehensive Spending Review, in which it declared that the budgets of all government departments other than health and overseas aid would be cut by an average of 19 percent over the next four years.
The Ministry of Defense avoided the deepest cuts. However, the defense budget will still decrease by 8 percent in real terms over four years, Cameron said. According to the defense review, this will include reductions of 17,000 service personnel and 25,000 Ministry of Defense civil servants by 2015.
In the week prior to the review’s release, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton expressed concern about the impending defense cuts in the
After the review’s publication,