With the government expected to announce further deep cuts next week in its Comprehensive Spending Review, it is difficult to recall times before austerity became such a buzzword.
But with further cuts of 25 to 40 per cent predicted for the public sector, austerity continues to bite deep.
Our armed forces also face the Strategic Defence and Security Review. But senior figures are warning that our navy is already in crisis. Former First Sea Lord Alan West called the size of the fleet a ‘national disgrace’, while Vice-Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham says there is a ‘serious problem’ as the navy is already 4,000 sailors short of what is needed to operate the fleet effectively.
In a city like Portsmouth, anything involving potential cuts to the navy will be a highly emotive issue. Of course we don’t want to see our proud fleet diminished any further.
But the counter argument would also run that we don’t need it as much for 21st century warfare, in a world where ISIL and terror cells are the enemy we face rather than massed armies.
However, as The News regularly reports, it is not just in ‘traditional’ warfare that our navy excels. It has a major role in protecting trade routes – witness its successes against Somali pirates, or in disrupting the international drugs trade through the huge seizures that are made.
It has also played a key role in numerous humanitarian missions.
Our sailors are right there on the frontline in those arenas.They may not always be grabbing the headlines, but they are still playing a vital role.
And that is why, Mr Osborne, we would implore you not to make cuts so deep that they further affect our capabilities at sea.