U.K. May Fire 5,300 More Soldiers as Defense Spending Is Reduced

U.K. Defense Secretary Philip Hammond said as many as 5,300 soldiers will lose their jobs in the latest round of cuts to spending on the armed forces.

Personnel affected will be notified on June 18, the defense ministry said in an e-mailed statement today. Any soldiers preparing for, serving on, or recovering from combat operations on that date will not lose their jobs unless they have applied to leave the army early.

“The army is actively managing recruitment to reach the target numbers, but unfortunately redundancies are unavoidable due to the size of the defense deficit that this government inherited and the consequent scale of downsizing required in the army,” Hammond said in a statement. “We will have smaller armed forces but they will in future be properly equipped and well funded, unlike before.”

The U.K. is shrinking its army to 82,000 personnel, around half its size at the height of the Cold War in 1978, by 2020 from 102,000. The cuts form part of broader government spending reductions, as well as being a response to gaps in the defense budget that Hammond’s Conservative Party blames on the previous Labour administration.

Hammond said the number of part-time reservists will be doubled to 30,000 by 2020 to back up the regular army in the biggest shakeup in 100 years.

Further job losses among Royal Navy and Royal Air Force medical personnel and in the army are also “likely,” the ministry said.

The opposition Labour Party’s defense spokesman, Jim Murphy, said there is a logic to cutting the regular army, though he’s concerned that Hammond is not filling the gap with professional reservists.

“I think over time reducing the size of the armed forces, as long as you put something in its place with a professional reservist force, there is a logic to it,” Murphy told BBC Radio 5. “At the end of this process we will have a smaller full-time army and we will be looking over the shoulder for the professional reservists that we need, and they might not be there.”

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