* British plan calls for widespread reductions
* Cuts lower than for other government departments
* U.S. concerns may have influenced decision
By Jim Wolf
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Defense Department
cheered what it called Britain's ability to go on playing a top
role in global security despite newly announced plans to cut
its army, navy and air force to cap a record budget deficit.
"We are confident that the U.K. will continue to have the
capacity to provide top-tier fighting forces in Afghanistan and
other future missions in defense of our shared interests and
security," Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary, said in
a statement_Wednesday, a day after British Prime Minister
David Cameron unveiled sweeping cutbacks.
"We are pleased that the U.K. clearly intends to maintain
its historical role as a leading nation that shapes global
security, and the fourth largest military budget in the world,"
Britain's armed forces review, the first since 1998, calls
for a military with fewer people, fewer ships, fewer aircraft,
fewer nuclear warheads and a smaller budget.
The Ministry of Defence's budget of 36.9 billion pounds
will be cut by 8 percent in real terms over the next four
years, far lower than the average of 25 percent cuts faced by
other British government departments.
Senior Obama administration officials, including Secretary
of State Hillary Clinton, had fretted publicly that military
cutbacks could undercut Britain's ability to help U.S. forces
in conflicts worldwide, a factor that may have helped minimize
Morrell said the British military had distinguished itself
with valor and professionalism in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Indeed, we have had no more capable or resolute military
ally," he said.
The Pentagon welcomed Britain's decision to maintain defense
spending at NATO target levels of two percent of gross domestic
product, to boost investment in countering emerging threats and
challenges including cyber security and special operations,
"and to preserve a robust force capable of projecting power and
addressing a wide range of military contingencies."
"We also welcome the U.K.'s decision to maintain its
nuclear deterrent, which reinforces NATO's nuclear strategy
even as we work together toward our shared goal of a world
without nuclear weapons," Morrell said.
(Editing by Jerry Norton)
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