Prime Minister Gordon Brown has treated the armed services with "contempt" and "disinterest", a former chief of the defence staff has told a Lords debate.
Ministers have been criticised over treatment of the armed forces
Admiral Lord Boyce said the decision to give one person - Des Browne - the jobs of both defence and Scottish secretary was an "insult" at a time of war.
Another former defence chief, General Lord Guthrie, said Mr Brown had been "unsympathetic" to the military.
The government said it was "absolutely committed" to the armed forces.
Five former defence chiefs spoke during the Lords debate, during which there were calls to improve levels of military funding.
Lord Boyce said of the decision to give Mr Browne a combined role: "It is seen as an insult by our sailors, our soldiers and our airmen on the front line.
"And I know because I have reason to speak to them a lot. And it is certainly a demonstration of the disinterest and some might say contempt that the prime minister and his government has for our armed forces.
"And it shows an appalling lack of judgement at a time when our people are being killed and they are being maimed."
Lord Guthrie said: "In my experience... he [Gordon Brown] was a most unsympathetic chancellor of the exchequer as far as defence was concerned - and the only senior Cabinet minister who avoided coming to the Ministry of Defence to be briefed by our staff on our problems."
He added: "And I think really that he must take much of the blame for the very serious situation we find the services in today."
But Defence Minister Derek Twigg told the BBC: "Gordon Brown is absolutely committed to supporting our armed forces...
"I absolutely reject any suggestion that he's not committed to the armed forces."
Asked about Des Browne having two jobs, Mr Twigg replied that he had "shown absolutely fantastic leadership and is a fantastically hard working secretary of state".
One of the prime minister's closest aides suggested the former defence chiefs had "deliberately attacked" him while he is attending a Commonwealth summit in Uganda.
Earlier this week, a leaked report showed the head of the British Army had expressed concern about poor morale among troops.
General Sir Richard Dannatt also raised the issue of the strain placed on resources by operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
According to the report, obtained by the Sunday Telegraph, Sir Richard said troops felt "devalued, angry and suffering from Iraq fatigue".
The Ministry of Defence said he was referring to individuals who were not necessarily widely representative.