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EDITIONS
Monday, 15 July, 2002, 20:22 GMT 21:22 UK
Defence spending enters new era
Royal Marines in Afghanistan
British forces are in demand around the world
Royal Marines in Afghanistan

An atmosphere of quiet satisfaction fills the corridors of the Ministry of Defence's temporary headquarters, just off Whitehall.

The biggest increase in defence spending since well before the end of the Cold War sounds good, after all.


We have to keep pace

Geoff Hoon, defence secretary
Gordon Brown, reportedly no fan of international military adventures, has given Geoff Hoon the cash to allow Britain to continue playing a role in the "war on terror" and, perhaps, make it easier to go to war against Iraq.

No one is talking about Iraq yet, of course, but in a BBC interview, the Defence Secretary said the cash injection was vital to ensure that Britain could continue to work alongside the United States.

US criticism

"We have to keep pace," Mr Hoon said, noting that much of the new money will go towards the sort of high tech, computer-based systems needed to fight modern expeditionary warfare.

MoD officials say it's all about "network-centric capability," speeding up the lines of communication from the battlefield to headquarters, so that rapid decisions can be made, sometimes without the time-consuming business of going through the entire traditional chain of command.

A network to link "sensor to decider to shooter," to use another bit of MoD jargon. At a time when the United States has criticised the low level of European defence spending, Britain is hoping that this substantial increase will encourage allies to follow suit.

But it's not all about futuristic military systems.

'New chapter'

Recent years have seen British forces engaged in a variety of peace-keeping and war-fighting operations.

It's all costing more than anyone imagined, so some of the new money will be ploughed into the logistics needed to make such operations happen.

Much of the MoD's thinking, in both these critical areas, will be contained in a White Paper to be published later this week.

The document is being described as a "new chapter" to the 1998 Strategic Defence Review, ordered by Mr Hoon in the wake of last September's terrorist attacks in the United States.

More confident

The coming decade will be a massively costly one for the MoD.

With two new aircraft carriers and hundreds of military jets on order, the bills will be pouring in.

Today's (Monday) announced increases do not have any direct bearing on such big ticket items, but officials say they are more confident than ever that major procurement projects will be completed as planned.

 VOTE RESULTS
Chancellor's spending review: Did he get it right?

Yes
 43.56% 

No
 56.44% 

2996 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

The government's plans for future spending are published on 15 July

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