Britain’s Royal Navy is facing the possibility of losing its ability to assault enemy beaches as part of a cost-cutting package.
The execution of such a proposal, made in early October, would mean the Royal Marines’ ability to use carrier landing to get ashore would be significantly restricted.
The plan, formulated and introduced by Admiral Sir Philip Jones, is understood to be part of a package to balance the Navy’s books. As part of the budgeting proposal, two of the Navy’s specialist assault ships, the HMS Bulwark and HMS Albion, would be removed from service. In addition, sailors would be moved from the assault ships to service the force’s two new aircraft carriers, the HMS Queen Elizabeth and the HMS Prince of Wales. Furthermore, the plan would see the reduction of the Royal Marines by 1,000 personnel, along with the retirement of one survey ship and two mine-hunting vessels.
The proposal, which the Ministry of Defense described on October 5 as “pure speculation,” comes days after British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon called for an increase in defense funding during a Conservative Party conference, stating that the armed forces should “modernize” the way it works as its defense budget grows.
The plan comes hand-in-hand with the growing calls by government officials to spread defense spending across a landscape of mediums. In the conference, Fallon mentioned that the Ministry of Defense is currently “looking right across government to make sure [they]are doing enough, spending enough, to properly protect [the]country against all of those threats – cyber, hybrid warfare, rogue states, terrorist attacks.” Furthermore, a spokesperson from the Ministry of Defense echoed Fallon’s points, claiming that “in the face of ever-changing threats, we are contributing to the cross-government review of national security capabilities and looking at how we best spend our rising defense budget to support that.”
Despite the plan still being in its early days and without any sort of determined outcome, it has already been criticized by many in the Navy. It has come as a surprise to many senior Royal Marine Officers, who fear that the proposal, if enacted, would deny the Marines its core mission of defense. Moreover, there are already fears that the retirement of the HMS Albion could leave the Navy without an amphibious assault ship. One senior marine officer blamed the introduction of new carriers for putting pressure on administrators to conduct budget cuts, directing such cuts to an area of the Navy many believe to be essential.
In fact, Naval cuts satisfy just one part of the triad of reforms being considered for all three sectors of British defense, along with the Army and the Royal Air Force. Further cuts could see the slowing down of orders of the new F35 fighter plane for the Royal Air Force, while the Army could lose dozens of its helicopters.
In a time where threats to national defense range from computer hacking to lone-wolf fundamentalist attacks, the general notion seems to be that there is a need to accommodate the new and ever-growing variety of threats to national security. Coupled with temperamental budgets in an unstable global financial climate, the question of how to maximize economic efficiency while still achieving results is a difficult one. While the outcome of the proposal to cut costs remains to be seen, whatever the solution, it seems that it should accommodate every type of threat possible, with the best interests of the general public in mind.