Editor's note: This article is the first in a two-part series. Part I will focus on the impact of budget cuts on the British navy. Part II will focus on the implications for U.S. national security policy.
It was an event worthy of the British Royal Navy's 500-year history. On June 3 at Portsmouth Naval Base, hundreds of dignitaries and citizens gathered to celebrate the commissioning of HMS Dauntless, the second of six high-tech Type 45 destroyers now entering service. A band played, the crew marched in parade and the ship's captain, Richard Powell, read the traditional "commissioning warrant." There was even cake.
But the cheery event belied a looming storm for a naval service that once dominated the world's oceans. On Oct. 19, the U.K. Ministry of Defense announced its long-awaited -- and, for military professionals, long-dreaded -- Strategic Defense and Security Review (SDSR) (.pdf). The end result of the SDSR process is a much smaller fleet and a net reduction in the U.K.'s ability, in the medium term, to influence world events. The implications are enormous for Great Britain and the world.