A Liz Truss government will likely need to grow the Armed Forces by more than 40,000 military personnel and spend an extra £157bn to meet a pledge to increase defense spending to 3% of national income by 2030, new analysis has revealed.

The paper from a top think tank said such a boost in defense expenditure – from about 2% at present – would mark the biggest rise since the early 1950s, when the UK was concerned the Korean War might escalate into a wider conflict with the then Soviet Union. It would equate to a 60% rise.

Ms Truss committed to lifting defense spending to 3% by the end of the decade as part of her campaign to become the next Tory leader and prime minister.

She had been setting out her plans to strengthen the UK’s ability to counter growing threats from Russia in the wake of its war in Ukraine, as well as an increasing challenge posed by China.

That kind of level of new money, however, would effectively enable military chiefs to reverse swingeing cuts to the size of the army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force inflicted by the Conservative-led coalition government in 2010.

Professor Malcolm Chalmers, deputy director general of the Royal United Services Institute, who authored the analysis, said the first indication of whether a Truss administration is serious about hitting the 3% target will come at the next spending review, expected in November.

She will need very quickly to act to reverse what will otherwise be a reduction in defense spending over the next two years because of the impact of soaring inflation, he wrote.

Boosting the defense budget to 3% of gross domestic product (GDP) within eight years would equate to a 60% rise. The amount of money the UK currently plans to spend on defence, according to NATO calculations, is set to be just under £54bn this financial year.

Mr Chalmers said the new government – assuming Ms Truss defeats Rishi Sunak as expected in the race to replace Boris Johnson – will need to argue the case for increasing the amount of money it spends on defense at the time of a crippling cost of living crisis.

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He wrote that “there has been very little attempt to ready the British public for the sacrifices that will be needed for a similar level of increase for defence” as has already been required by the National Health Service.

Using tax to cover the rise in defense spending would equate to a 5p in the pound increase in the standard and higher rates of income tax by the end of the decade, or an increase in the standard VAT rate from 20% to 25%.

Ministry of Defense in London

Mr Chalmers said care will need to be taken to ensure any rush of new cash into military coffers – which have been raided repeatedly over decades – is spent well on new warships, aircraft, vehicles, other kit and more people.

the Ministry of Defense has a dismal track record when it comes to procurement, with repeated reports by MPs and the national audit office over many years calling the department out over programs that suffer cost-overruns, delays and some that are ultimately scrapped.

“To spend 3% effectively, the defense budget will require a significant increase in the size of the frontline – numbers of formations and platforms,” ​​the RUSI deputy director wrote.

“An increase in service personnel numbers of 25% is likely to be needed to support an overall 60% increase in defense spending.

“This would increase total numbers of regular personnel from 148,000 today to around 190,000 in 2030, returning to the level last seen in 2010.”

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