I think this article is worth quoting in full as, to me at least, it has a certain ring of truth to it...
David Cameron ‘rules out slash and burn defence cuts’
Robert Fox and Martin Bentham
David Cameron has intervened to prevent “slash and burn” cuts to the Armed Forces after holding a private meeting with defence chiefs.
"The Prime Minister is understood to have decided that there will be no reduction in the operational strength of the Army while the fighting in Afghanistan continues.
He has also agreed that both of the Royal Navy's aircraft carriers will be built and that, instead of implementing widespread and large-scale cuts immediately, a “rolling review” of defence spending will take place over the next two years. Key decisions on the future strength of the Army will also be put off until 2015 — which Mr Cameron has set as the deadline for a British withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The Prime Minister's intervention over cuts to the Ministry of Defence's £37 billion-a-year budget came during a private summit with defence chiefs held after a meeting of the National Security Council yesterday. He is understood to have emphasised his determination to minimise the impact of cuts on the Armed Forces.
“It is not going to be slash and burn,” one source said. Details of the Government's plans will be announced in a strategic defence and security review — due to be published the week after next, the day before the outcome of the public spending review is revealed.
The decision to go ahead with both new aircraft carriers is understood to have been taken partly because contractual commitments mean that it would be equally expensive to cancel one.Plans to use vertical take-off aircraft on the carriers have been abandoned, however, and cheaper jets that take off and land by using a catapult and wire will be used instead
. The second carrier might also be converted from its conventional use to operate as a “floating platform” for commandos.The Navy is also expected to be allowed to buy new frigates for 2020, and the Royal Marines will be retained instead of being merged with the Army's Paratroop Regiment, as some reports had suggested
. However, the helicopter budget is expected to be reduced by as much as £1 billion. Ministers are expected to insist that this will not affect operations in Afghanistan.
All the planned changes are subject to confirmation at a final meeting of the National Security Council prior to publication of the defence review.
PM has realised the world is a more dangerous place
At last, the Prime Minister has taken charge of the radical overhaul of defence and foreign policy, though not in the direction previously advertised.
Chairing a session of the new National Security Council yesterday he and senior ministers put the final lick of paint to the Strategic Defence and Security Review due to be unveiled on October 19 — a day before the voice of doom of the Treasury, George Osborne, announces the Comprehensive Spending Review.
The timing is the clue. “The review document will be very thin, a statement of intent more than definitive plan for cuts,” a Westminster insider said last night.
The plan now is to have a rolling review looking at all aspects of defence management, the armed forces, and equipment procurement, over the next two years or so. There will have to be some cuts, though nothing on the scale previously suggested. One of the target areas is the helicopter budget. The number of machines will be reduced. The Trident replacement will be delayed by a year or two, but will go ahead in one form or another — as will the aircraft carrier programme, though with a different variant of the Lockheed Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter
These are mere details compared with the overall change of strategy the Prime Minister appeared to agree at the meeting yesterday. What has changed? First the Americans became alarmed that after appearing in Douglas Hurd's words “to punch above its weight,” Britain under the Hurd protégé David Cameron was preparing to punch well below its weight.
Second, defence industry warned Cameron that the Treasury's scorched earth plan for cuts would wreck defence manufacture, which employs directly more than 300,000 skilled personnel.
Finally, the world is a far more dangerous place than even when Mr Cameron went through the door at No 10 in May. Hot spots are breeding, and at least six of them hint of wars and violence that touch vital British interests.
It is no time for British defences and defence capabilities to be lowered — whatever the Treasury audit clerks may say. Mr Cameron appears to have got the message.
"It only takes two or three years to build a ship but three hundred to build a tradition" Admiral Cunningham RN