The UK military is to receive an extra £4bn a year over the next four years from the government, representing the biggest spending boost in 30 years.
The additional funds were announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson last night. He is set to outline further details in a virtual speech to the House of Commons today from 10 Downing Street, where he continues to self-isolate after coming into contact with an MP who tested positive for Covid-19.
The extra money will be used to modernise the armed forces and support the creation of 40,000 new jobs within space, autonomous systems and cyber defence projects over the next four years. Johnson will announce a new agency dedicated to artificial intelligence, creation of a national cyber force to protect people from online harm, “space command”, which will be capable of launching a first rocket in 2022.
The additional spending is on top of the Conservative Party’s 2019 manifesto commitment to increase defence spending by 0.5 per cent above inflation, currently 0.7 per cent, for every year of the current Parliament. The Ministry of Defence has an annual budget of around £40bn with the additional increase over four years representing an additional increase of 10 per cent.
“Defence of the realm must come first”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson made the announcement last night “in the teeth” of the coronavirus pandemic adding “the defence of the realm must come first. The international situation is more perilous and more intensely competitive than at any time since the Cold War,” he said.
The PM said in order for Britain to “be true to our history and stand alongside our allies” it must make improvements “across the board”.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said discontinuing older weapons would create “headroom to invest”. Mr Wallace told the BBC that the UK’s armed forces were using equipment which was out-of-date compared to that of the UK’s adversaries. He said: “You need to sometimes let go of some older capabilities and that takes money in order to first of all create the headroom to invest.”
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme there would potentially be an increase in soldiers working in “electronic warfare, signals intelligence, long-range fires. We have to move with the threat,” he said. “If we don’t learn from the threat we will end up fighting yesterday’s battles.”