Defence Costs Study: Cuts package to cost 18,700 jobs: RAF shoulders burden as Rifkind announces wide-ranging rationalisation and closure programme

ANOTHER 18,700 defence jobs are to be lost by the end of the century as a result of the Front Line First defence costs study, Malcolm Rifkind, Secretary of State for Defence, announced yesterday.

More than 30 defence establishments and buildings across Britain will close, including hospitals, at least one staff college, and headquarters buildings in London.

Although the precise number of jobs lost depends on the success of 'market-testing' in certain areas, it is clear that the RAF will be hardest-hit, losing 7,500 posts. The Navy will lose 1,900, the Army 2,200, and the Defence Civil Service, 7,100. By the end of the decade, this will bring the Navy's strength down to 44,000, the Army to 115,000, the RAF to 57,000, and the number of civilian jobs at the Ministry of Defence to 100,000. About 20 senior posts - 'two star' officers, major-generals and equivalent, and above - will disappear, and that takes no account of cuts to the senior Civil Service announced by William Waldegrave on Wednesday. Since 1990, the number of such posts has fallen by one-third; the further cuts will reduce top military posts by 10 per cent and Civil Service posts by 16 per cent.

Integration of top service and civilian jobs will continue with the abolition of the separate Office of Management and Budget, and the Defence Staff, to create a unified Central Staff, with finance staff supporting the service chiefs.

Reports that Rosyth naval base on the Firth of Forth had been reprieved were clearly premature. It will become a 'naval support establishment', with 900 jobs remaining - 600 of them civilian. One squadron of minehunters will move to Faslane on the Clyde - the Trident missile submarine base; the second squadron, and fishery protection vessels, will move to Portsmouth.

Some 700 jobs will be lost - about 300 of which involve more senior civil servants, who may be moved elsewhere. But the impact on the local economy will be heightened as 1,500 naval personnel move away from the area. The move to Faslane will create 70 new civilian jobs and 400 service posts.

The maritime headquarters at Pitreavie, Fife, will close in 1996. The Rescue Co-ordination centre for the UK will move to RAF Leuchars, while the headquarters of the admiral responsible for northern Britain will move to Faslane.

One of the RAF's two remaining bases in Germany, Laarbruch, will close in 1999, along with RAF Scampton, Lincolnshire, and RAF Finningley in South Yorkshire, which are to close in 1996 or 1997.

The closure of Scampton, from which the famous Dambusters raid was launched in 1943, will cause some emotion. The Red Arrows display team will move to another operational station, as yet undetermined. The team will be invited to look at 'possibilities for sponsorship of their activities'.

The closure of the Royal Marines' band school at Deal, where 11 bandsmen were killed by an IRA bomb in 1989, is also emotive. The study found it cost pounds 6m a year to train 15 to 20 musicians.

The services' maintenance of their own hospitals has long been questioned. By 1997, there will be just one, tri-service hospital - the present Royal Naval hospital at Haslar, Gosport. The military hospitals in Cambridge and Aldershot, and the RAF's Princess Alexandra Hospital at Wroughton, Wiltshire, will close. The three services' staff training courses - where officers are trained for senior command positions - are also to be amalgamated. The three separate courses will be replaced by a tri-service course for 240 students. The RAF Staff College at Bracknell, Berkshire, is too small to accommodate the new course so it will be run either at the Naval Staff College in Greenwich, south- east London, or at the Army Staff College in Camberley, Surrey. The Army's 'higher command and staff course', which trains potential generals in the 'operational level of war', will be similarly expanded to embrace all three dimensions - land, sea, and air.

In London, two of the MoD's buildings in the Whitehall area, Northumberland House and the Metropole building, will be disposed of, saving about pounds 1m a year. The MoD will be concentrated in Main Building and Old War Office building. The number of staff in central London will be reduced to 3,750 against previous plans for 5,200. The Defence Intelligence Staff is the subject of a separate report, due at the end of the month.

Of the MoD's five gunnery ranges, three will close: Pendine in South Wales, Lavington in Wiltshire, and Kirkudbright in south-west Scotland. But the Defence Research Agency's new electromagnetic gun at Kirkudbright will be unaffected.

A total of 18 armaments and stores depots will also close: one at Bracht in Germany and 17 across Britain, at a cost of 1,500 jobs. They include the naval supply depot at Exeter and army depots at Colchester, Hereford, and Stirling. These closures are estimated to save more than pounds 35m a year.

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