US army chief says "very concerned" at UK defence cuts

Members of the British armed forces watch the "Game of Truce", a recreation of a First World War Christmas truce football match, in Aldershot, west of London, on December 17, 2014.

LONDON - The United States' army chief of staff said he was very concerned about falling British defence spending and that cuts had forced an urgent review of how Britain's troops could be deployed alongside US forces in future conflicts.

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph newspaper published on Monday, Army Chief of Staff General Raymond Odierno urged Britain to maintain defence spending at 2 per cent of national output, warning that British forces could end up fighting inside US units rather than alongside them. "I would be lying to you if I did not say that I am very concerned about the GDP investment in the UK," Odierno was quoted as saying by the newspaper.

Britain has cut defence spending by around 8 per cent in real terms over the last four years to help reduce a record budget deficit, shrinking the size of the armed forces by around one sixth. "In the past we would have a British Army division working alongside an American division. Now it might be a British brigade inside an American division, or even a British battalion inside an American brigade," Odierno said, in reference to previous conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The defence ministry could not be immediately reached for comment, but has previously said current plans showed spending would be maintained at 2 per cent - the NATO agreed target for defence spending - over the current and next financial years.

In December, top US commander Lieutenant-General Ben Hodges voiced concern that Britain's military spending could fall below a NATO target and said the country's army did not have enough money for its needs.