Sir Mike Jackson says forces cuts put capability at risk

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Media captionGen Sir Mike Jackson: "We live in an uncertain world"

Defence force personnel cuts may put the UK's future military capability at risk, a former Army chief says.

Some 930 RAF and 920 army members were on Thursday being told they were being made redundant - 750 compulsorily - as part of 22,000 post closures by 2015.

Gen Sir Mike Jackson said getting resources and commitments into balance would likely be "quite a challenge".

But Defence Secretary Liam Fox says the cuts will allow the UK's defence capability to grow later in the decade.

"The defence review laid out a force structure to be achieved by 2020. Between now and then there are some risks being taken, in my view," Sir Mike told the BBC's News Channel. "For example, we will not have a carrier strike capability for the next eight/nine years or so."

He said he would want a regular Army of 100,000 and warned future defence requirements could not always be predicted.

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Media captionForces minister Nick Harvey says ministers have to try and bring the defence budget into balance

"I'm assured that the arithmetic will balance out in terms of manpower and commitments but of course we live in an uncertain world, no-one forecast, for example, the commitment to Libya which has taken place over the last few months and there will be other unforeseen eventualities I have no doubt."

But Mr Fox said the UK would still have strong and capable forces: "The extra money we have allocated for the equipment budget from 2015 will allow our defence capability to grow in the second half of the decade."

Shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy said the cuts went too far and were the result of a rushed defence review.

He said the deficit could be reduced more carefully in a way that did not leave the UK without an aircraft carrier, a decision which had left "people across the world scratching their heads".

'Free of conscience'

The MoD is looking to shed 22,000 posts over the next four years - more than half through redundancies. The Army and RAF will eventually cut 7,000 and 5,000 posts respectively.

The Army employs just over 100,000 service personnel while the RAF has 40,000.

The MoD has said personnel receiving the operational allowance, because they are serving in Libya and Afghanistan or are preparing for, or have recently returned from operations, will be exempt from the cuts unless they apply.

And the BBC has been told that no RAF pilots or ground crew involved in operations over Libya will be forced to leave in this round of redundancies.

In the Army, 870 soldiers volunteered for redundancy, but only 660 have been accepted.

The Army's director of manning, Brigadier Richard Nugee, told the BBC there were some categories - such as full colonels - where there had been a greater number of applications for redundancy than expected.

"But there were a lot of areas in the Army where we didn't have enough applicants and we had to take non-applicants and so it varied by different parts of the Army," he said.

Brig Nugee said it might have been easier to make redundant all those that had volunteered, but it might not have been the right thing to do operationally.

He said the tranches of redundancies would become increasingly difficult - a view echoed by Group Captain Bob Jones, head of the RAF redundancy programme.

"We thought that in going through the application process for the first tranche announced today that we would have a much greater number of applicants then we actually did. So from that, subsequent tranches are going to be more difficult to plan," Gp Capt Jones said.

More than half of 260 compulsory redundancies - 150 - will be Gurkhas.

In the RAF there were 620 applications for redundancy; 440 of them have been approved. The Royal Navy will announce details of its redundancies later this year.

Members of the armed forces accepted for voluntary redundancy will serve six months' notice, while those forced out will serve a year.


Catherine Spencer, of the Army Families Federation, said it was a very difficult time for families.

"When the first tranche was announced the number of redundancies needed was significantly lower than we now know. So all Army families are going to be concerned about whether or not their soldier will be made redundant."

Servicemen and women and their families have been contacting the BBC with their reaction.

One woman wrote that her husband had been deployed to several war zones over 25 years of service with the RAF and had received his redundancy notice on Thursday morning.

"The letter advised him to contact his desk officer (the person that manages your career in the RAF) to discuss it. On telephoning the desk officer he was told he was away on leave (holiday)."

She said it was "outrageous" that the staff member had been allowed to go on holiday ahead of the redundancies announcement. Her husband was told to call back next week.

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Media captionJim Murphy: "This has got very long term consequences for our country"

Another said her six out of the seven colleagues in her husband's section who were candidates for post closures had been told they were being made compulsorily redundant.

"(The BBC's)Jonathan Beale says the effect on morale will be hard to gauge but my partner has already had to drag a colleague out of his room because they were afraid of what he would do if left on his own," she said.

Major (Retired) Chris Klein wrote that he had voluntarily left the Army in 1994, moving into a good job and receiving a generous payout. But he said those facing redundancy now faced "much bleaker prospects".

"The job market is weak, little housing is available and when it is it is expensive and I think the financial compensation is lower.

"That so many have volunteered in such depressing economic conditions is indicative of the very low state of morale in the Army," he said.

"There is a great sense of betrayal. We treat dogs and cats better than this."

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