It is time to reassess options for the replacement of the Trident nuclear missile submarines in the light of indications that the capital cost of doing so could run to 28 billion pounds over the next 10-15 years, according to a new report by the British American Security Information Council (BASIC).
The BASIC report, by Nick Ritchie and Paul Ingram looks at the funding crisis stemming from the announcement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, who said on July 29th that the capital costs of the replacement would have to be funded from the Defence Ministry's core budget.
"This time the Trident programme cannot be supported by an increase in the defence budget since the budgets of those major departments that have not been protected from cuts (this includes MoD) are set to reduce in real terms by 20% over the course of the current parliament," the report notes.
Ingram and Ritchie look at the prospects for replacement following Osborne's announcement, suggesting that the Coalition leadership may not place as rigid a priority on retaining the current plans for like-for-like replacement as previously thought.
"MoD could therefore be forced both to explore a much cheaper alternative and to extend the life of the current Trident system."
But they also argue that it would be a mistake to base a decision on cost alone.
"Any decision to scale back or abandon its nuclear capability transparently on the grounds of cost alone would represent a gross missed opportunity to engage internationally in nuclear diplomacy. It would simply send the signal that Britain could no longer afford to remain within the nuclear club, leaving membership open to others with the resources and determination to stay the course at whatever political, economic and social cost."
Paul Ingram, Executive Director,
United Kingdom: +44 (0)7908 708175
pingram (at) basicint.org
Dr Nick Richie, Research Fellow, University of Bradford
United Kingdom: +44 (0)7919 310 605
N.Ritchie (at) Bradford.ac.uk