Unions and anti-arms campaigners joined forces today to condemn suggestions the government intended to boost spending on military equipment - but slash public services.
Senior government sources have indicated that Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged to deliver real-terms rises in equipment spending after 2015.
During the Prime Minister's trip to north Africa it was signalled that Mr Cameron "does not resile" from comments he made in October 2010, when he appeared to accept that defence spending had to start rising again from 2015.
But Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said today that while he had been given a commitment that the equipment side of his budget - accounting for roughly half of Ministry of Defence spending - would rise in real terms, there would be a "robust discussion" about other elements.
Asked whether staffing budgets could be cut, he said: "The rest of the budget will be subject to a discussion around the spending review the Chancellor announced in the Autumn Statement.
"But I'm going into that spending review discussion on the basis that I expect the outputs that I have defined to be protected."A spokesman for public servants' union PCS said that since 2010 the MoD has lost 20-25,000 civilian employees.
The spokesman said that while any extra funding for the ministry was welcomed "we would prefer to see being put back into full time jobs for civilian staff, not just equipment which will mean the money goes to private firms who are only interested in profit."
Mr Hammond published a detailed equipment plan for the next 10 years. The £159 billion programme included £35.8bn for a new generation of nuclear-powered submarines, £18.5bn for combat aircraft and £17.4bn for Royal Navy warships, including aircraft carriers.
CND general secretary Kate Hudson said: "The arms industry will be celebrating today as their profits from weapons of death are given a massive boost from taxpayers' money.
"The scale of the proposed spending is unbelievable, particularly when you consider what that money could be invested in to actually meet the needs of the British people and generate British industry and jobs - like homes, health and education," said Ms Hudson.
by Paddy McGuffin