British army 'faces thousands more job losses'

British soldiers in Afghanistan The redundancies would eventually reduce the strength of the British army to about 82,000

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An extra 5,000 British soldiers are reported to be facing losing their jobs by 2015, in addition to the 7,000 redundancies already announced.

A letter obtained by the Daily Telegraph said the move would mean the loss of battalions and regiments.

The memo was sent by the head of the Army, General Sir Peter Wall, to commanding officers.

The MoD said no soldiers preparing for or currently on operations would be made redundant unless they volunteered.

'Combat arm'

According to the Telegraph, Gen Wall wrote in the letter: "Regular Army manpower will be cut more steeply, with an additional reduction of 5,000 over and above the 7,000 already in progress as a result of the SDSR [strategic defence and security review].

"This takes the Army to around 90,000 by 2015. The additional manpower cuts are now being scoped but will inevitably require a further redundancy programme.

"Although the detailed planning is not yet complete we must assume that these reductions will require the further removal of formed battalions and regiments from the force structure, including the combat arm."

The redundancies would eventually reduce the strength of the British army to about 82,000 by 2020.

However, Gen Wall said the reductions had been offset in part by "welcome proposals" to enhance the Territorial Army.

New structure

There are also concerns about the Army's future equipment programme.

Gen Wall said that although some programmes were going through there would have to be "reductions elsewhere".

The letter makes clear the impact of some of the changes outlined by Defence Secretary Liam Fox last Monday.

BBC defence correspondent Caroline Wyatt says the MoD is attempting to reduce the black hole in defence funding it inherited from previous governments.

The Ministry of Defence said Mr Fox had agreed to move towards a new Army structure gradually so operations were not adversely affected.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "No one who is preparing for or is deployed on operations will be made redundant unless they volunteer.

"Only those who have returned from operations and have taken all their leave will be considered."

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