The Ministry of Defence has come under fire after announcing plans to axe 17,000 posts across the armed forces over the next four years, some 11,000 of which will take the form of redundancies.
The first tranche of the three or four waves of redundancies will come in September. The RAF was the first to set out details of its personnel cuts, indicating that 1,020 staff out of a total of 2,700 would go in the autumn. The army will make a further 5,000 employees redundant and the Navy 3,300.
The job losses are the result of cuts announced in the coalition government’s Strategic Defence and Security Review last September and are part of attempts to plug a £38 billion hole in the MoD’s budget.
But the news came only hours after Prime Minister David Cameron told the House of Commons that the RAF could help to enforce a proposed no-fly zone over Libya, drawing heavy criticism.
Disapproval was also voiced over claims that the coalition government had broken its promise not to sack troops serving in Afghanistan. A briefing note has just been distributed across the army, including units stationed in Afghanistan, setting out how personnel will be selected for redundancy, however, raising fears that the move will damage morale.
The MoD attested that all staff in the country, those who had just returned home and those preparing to deploy there would not face compulsory redundancy in September. Those personnel due to return to the UK in April will be eligible, however.
Cameron defended the government’s plans by saying that “incredibly difficult” decisions had to be made as it had inherited a defence budget that had overspent by £38 billion.
“We did not take any of these decisions lightly and they will have a difficult impact on the people involved in the RAF, the Navy and the Army and their families, and we will do everything we can to help them. But it is the right decision to make,” he said, adding that the UK still had the fourth largest defence budget in the world.