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22 Mar 07. BUDGET 2007: Defence faces squeeze next year. Defence spending is set for a real reduction next year, despite the continued high pace of military operations abroad. The Treasury said current spending on defence for next year was projected to fall to £32.8bn from an estimated £33.7bn in 2006-07 and £33.4bn in 2005-06. Capital spending for defence, however, will rise slightly from an estimated £7.1bn this year to £7.6bn in 2007-08. It announced a £400m addition to special reserves to cover costs of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan next year, and officials said a further increase could be announced during the year. In 2006-07, operations in Iraq were estimated to have cost £1bn and in Afghanistan £770m. A spokeswoman said the Ministry of Defence had benefited from some efficiency savings, but the figures suggest a continued squeeze on the ministry’s budget, with inflation projected at 2.75 per cent next year. A boost in spending on the security and intelligence agencies was also announced yesterday, reflecting the continuing threat of international terrorism to UK security. The Treasury said £86.4m would be added to that budget to “accelerate the ongoing development of counter-terrorism capabilities”. The money will be shared between MI5, the security service, the secret intelligence service MI6, and the government communications centre GCHQ. It will mean that in 2007-08 total spending in this area will exceed £2.25bn, more than double the allocated amount before September 11 2001. According to one official, the money was intended to increase counter-terrorist capacity of all three agencies to tackle high priority targets. “What we are talking about is meeting current critical counter-terrorism needs,” he said. The detailed allocation between agencies remains secret under Whitehall rules. However, the new money is in part expected to go towards financing a recruitment campaign, and improved technology in surveillance and screening of explosive materials. In a public warning towards the end of last year, Eliza Manningham-Buller, the outgoing head of MI5, said her organisation knew of 30 terror plots threatening the UK and said 1,600 individuals had been identified who were engaged in plotting, or facilitating, terrorist acts here and overseas. The threat was so large compared even with the increased resources available for counter-terrorism that some plots would inevitably succeed. The Treasury’s report accompanying the Budget stated that “the global reach, capability and sophistication of international terrorist groups places the current threat on a scale not previously encountered”.(Source: FT.com)

22 Mar 07. Oxygen device sparked sub blast. One injured sailor was airlifted to hospital in Alaska. An explosion on a submarine which killed two British sailors was caused by an emergency oxygen device, the US military has said. The men died on board the Devonport-based nuclear submarine HMS Tireless during an operation under the Arctic icecap. The submarine surfaced through the ice after the blast off Alaska. A third sailor was airlifted to a hospital in Anchorage. He is expected to make a full recovery. Air-purification equipment, known as a self-contained oxygen generation candle, was the source of the blast, the US authorities said. The nuclear reactor of HMS Tireless was unaffected and the ship itself was not in danger, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said. It had been taking part in a joint British-American exercise under the Arctic ice cap. Vice Admiral Jay Donnelly, commander of the US Submarine Force, said: “I am deeply saddened at the loss of the crew members from the Tireless. “Submariners are brothers at sea and we all feel the loss as if it were our own. We stand by to continue to assist in any way we can.” The accident took place on board the Trafalgar-class submarine, which does not carry nuclear missiles, on Wednesday morning. The families of both dead sailors have been told. A MoD spok

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