LONDON – The cost of sending troops and military hardware around the world to provide security when and where it is needed is causing major financial headaches across Europe. Indeed, Europe’s finance ministries face a dilemma over how much of their stretched national budgets to allocate to the military; and European defense officials must somehow ensure that precious funding is spent in the most efficient manner.
The problem is acute in Britain, not only because of our current troop deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq, but also because of the unfair systems by which NATO-led missions and military operations under the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP) are financed. Under both systems, those who accept responsibility to take military action also take on the lion’s share of the financial burden. It is time our collective security alliances overhauled these inequitable funding methods and made sure that all member states pay a proportionate price for global security.
It is no secret that Britain’s Ministry for Defense is facing a funding crisis. Despite British forces having been engaged in two major military operations since 2003, defense spending represents only 2.3% of GDP – the lowest since the 1930’s. As a share of total government spending, defense expenditure has fallen from 7.8% in 1998 to 6.1% in 2006.
Owing to the ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, any future British government will inherit a military that is overstretched, undermanned, and working with worn-out equipment. The unfunded liability associated with this will total billions of pounds.