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U.K. to Shift Anti-WMD Duties to Air Force

The United Kingdom intends within three months to disband four army explosives teams with counter-WMD expertise, shifting their responsibilities to the Royal Air Force, the London Mirror reported (see GSN, Feb. 2).

The move, planned as the country implements an 8 percent budget reduction, would eliminate units containing personnel with critical knowledge, according to the newspaper.

Cutting the units would undermine protections ahead of the 2012 Olympic Games in London, high-level army sources said.

"They’re expecting people to become experts in chemical warfare in 12 weeks when it’s taken us 12 years," one insider said. “The army has got the numbers and the expertise to deal with threats like the Tokyo underground attack or dirty bombs. That is just not what the [Royal Air Force] is about.”

An air force squadron of between 100 and 130 personnel would pick up the assignment and be upgraded to a regiment.

Conservative British lawmaker Patrick Mercer, a former armed forces member, said disbanding the army units would represent "a serious blow to our national defenses."

The Defense Ministry, though, argued: “We will continue to have a robust and effective capability. Any changes will not affect the Olympics or [WMD] protection” (Tom McTague, London Mirror, Aug. 5).

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