Cuts to the Army could leave Britain dangerously exposed in the event of a future crisis, MPs have warned.
The Commons Defence Committee said the restructuring programme, known as the Army 2020 plan, was driven by the need to fit a “financial envelope” rather than being a proper assessment of potential threats.
It urged the Ministry of Defence to draw up contingency plans for a rapid recruitment programme in case there was urgent need for more troops to deal with an emergency.
Under the plan, the Army is being slashed from 102,000 to 82,000 while the number of part-time reservists is to be expanded to 30,000 by 2018.
But the committee said the rationale for the plan remained untested while the “high level of change” involved could “compromise” the Army’s ability to respond to emergencies.
It complained at the “apparent lack of consultation and involvement” of the head of the Army, General Sir Peter Wall, who was simply told by the senior civil servant at the MoD what the future strength of the Army would be.
The committee said if ministers tried to make further cuts, the plan would “unravel”. “We note the Secretary of State for Defence [Philip Hammond] accepts Army 2020 was designed to fit a financial envelope,” it said.
“We are concerned this consideration took primacy over the country’s abilities to respond to the threats, risks and uncertainties contained in the National Security Strategy.
“We remain to be convinced the Army 2020 plan represents a fully thought-through and tested concept which will allow the Army to counter emerging and uncertain threats and develop capability to deal with unforeseen circumstances.”
Mr Hammond said the committee failed to recognise that the need to meet evolving threats, such as potential cyber attacks, meant there had to be a shift in the balance of spending. “It is not possible to maintain traditional regular forces at historic levels while investing in countering the threats of tomorrow,” he said.