Dec. 6 (UPI) -- Nearly one in five British army troops cannot perform full combat duties because of illness, injuries or other reasons, news reports from England said. Of the 18,000 active-duty troops affected, only about 10,000 could only take part in certain combat operations.
Conservative Member of Parliament, Andrew Bowie, a former naval officer, uncovered the figures through a written response to a parliamentary question.
"I think these figures are very worrying," Bowie told The Independent. "Far from the 82,000 soldiers that the British army is supposed to have, it seems that, when medically unavailable soldiers are taken into account, it is more like 60,000.
"This gap is placing a huge burden on an already overstretched Army required to carry out the roles the government asks them to do on our behalf."
An army spokesman, however, told Forces News that "the army has enough people to perform its operational requirements to keep Britain safe -- 95 percent of posts are filled and in the last year we've recruited nearly 8,000 people into a variety of posts which will give them skills for life."
The British Army currently numbers about 78,407 full-time and trained troops. The Ministry of Defense's target number, however, is 82,000.
The controversy comes as the country faces cuts to defense spending.