| GEO World|
| UK cuts defense Jobs to boost Afghan equipment|
| Updated at: 0817 PST, Wednesday, December 16, 2009|
LONDON: Britain pledged a 900 million-pound ($1.46 billion) equipment boost for troops fighting in Afghanistan, saying cuts in other defense budgets will be needed to pay for it.
Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth said the government has ordered 22 Boeing Co. Chinook helicopters and a C-17 Globemaster military transport plane, also made by the U.S.-based company. It cut its fleet of Harrier fighter jets and Tornado jets, for which BAE Systems Plc provides maintenance.
“The pressure on public finances means that we need to prioritize carefully within our own resources,” Ainsworth said in Parliament in London today. “We need to make reductions in lower priority areas to fund these enhancements.”
Criticized for starving the war effort of funding and facing a general election by June, Prime Minister Gordon Brown is rebalancing the 40 billion-pound defense budget to deploy extra resources to Afghanistan.
Whichever party wins the election, most departments face deep spending cuts as Britain seeks to narrow its biggest budget deficit since World War II.
Ainsworth said jobs will be cut at a Royal Air Force base in northern England and announced he would retire a squadron of ageing Nimrod MR2 reconnaissance aircraft earlier than planned. Civilian jobs at the Ministry of Defence will be reduced.
He blamed the military’s rising costs on increased fuel and utility bills, higher pay and pensions and cost growth in the equipment program.
The opposition Conservatives’ defense spokesman Liam Fox, replying to Ainsworth in Parliament, said the government is “cutting capability as a result of catastrophic economic mismanagement.”