It’s not often that you hear your greatest ally bashing your money choices.
But that’s exactly what British Ministry of Defence (MoD) officials heard from US military officers.
“As the UK continues to diminish and as the Royal Marines, in particular, take a hit, I think that our view of what we will be able to do together in the future changes,” said Colonel Dan Sullivan on a recent visit to London.
Over the next decade, the British Armed Forces are facing a gap of around $40 billion to $50 billion.
As a result, MoD bookkeepers are pondering to slash the 6,640 strong Royal Marine Commandos by 1000 and sell two amphibious assault ships, HMS Bulwark and HMS Albion.
Moreover, the MoD is considering reducing the size of the British Army from 82,000 to 65,000.
Considering the F-35’s insane cost, there may be a reduction on the current order of 138 jets.
The US military, especially the USMC, fears what a potential shrinking of their Royal Marine counterparts will mean for their effectiveness.
“We are worried about the talk of any reductions,” said Air Force Lt. General Jerry Harris, “but, again, internally each country has to look at the risks they have and make the decisions that they need to make.”
The Royal Marines are an amphibious light infantry unit that specializes in arctic, mountain, and expeditionary warfare. Although not a SOF unit, their 32-week selection process is renowned for its difficulty.
In the wake of Brexit, and its associated economic uncertainty, the British Treasury is under pressure to make cuts. And in time of peace—i.e., to say in a time of a not full-blown conventional war for the recent terrorist attacks in Britain testify to anything but peace—the Armed Forces are the first to heed the toll.
Unfortunately, politicians have short memories.
They easily forget how important some assets may prove in a future emergency. When you’re faced with an asphyxiating public debt and an insolvent national health service, it’s easy to cut some amphibious landing ships here or a couple of F-35s there.
And it won’t be the first time that the Royal Marine Commandos are facing the axe. Many know about the Commandos’ vital role in the Falklands War: Victory without them would have been impossible. But not many know that if it weren’t for the Falklands, the Royal Marines wouldn’t be here today. Margaret Thatcher—yes, that same Iron Lady who defied reason and economics to recapture a faraway plot fit only for sheep grazing—was under pressure to disband the Corps in the early 1980s.
The Falklands, however, revealed how wrong political ‘tiding’ can sometimes be.
Why does history have to repeat itself?