Written By James Hirst, Forces News Correspondent
The announcement that a £16.5bn increase is to be made to military spending is a significant victory for defence, in two ways.
In the midst of a pandemic and an associated economic crisis the Ministry of Defence is to get on average £4bn a year more than Boris Johnson previously promised, that’s about a 10% increase on this year’s budget.
Perhaps more important is the fact the Chancellor has committed to this financial plan for four years despite unprecedented financial turmoil and uncertainty.
This means the much talked about Integrated Review of defence, security and foreign policy can now be completed in a meaningful way.
If the Chancellor had stuck to his guns and only given defence a one-year settlement, like other Government departments, it would have been impossible to make meaningful long-term decisions about the future shape of the Armed Forces, with no certainty on whether you could pay for those plans.
Now though decisions can be taken – but they will still be tough.
Some of the extra money is earmarked for high-tech projects including a Cyber Force, an artificial-intelligence agency and the new Space Command.
But even with this budget boost savings will have to be made in some areas to balance the books. Some old equipment and capabilities will have to be retired.
The Army’s fleet of heavy and light armour is thought to have been under intense scrutiny in this review, and the original plan to eventually buy 138 F-35 jets may be slimmed down to invest in the 'Future Combat Air System', known as Tempest.
And inevitably, reviews like this mean uncertainty for the men and women of the Armed Forces, and their families, especially after the 17,000 job cuts announced in the 2010 review.
Mr Johnson’s election manifesto made no commitment on the size of the forces, although he said at its launch that they would not be cut.
However, even if numbers stay roughly the same, there will be a reorganisation.
The Defence Secretary has previously suggested, as an example, reductions in infantry troops to develop a force of military hackers.
We’re told the review will now be completed 'in the New Year'.
There are uncertain months ahead, but the Prime Minister’s pledge of a transformation of defence for the future does now have a chance of delivering those ambitions.
Cover image: MOD.