A former chief of the defence staff has called on the coalition Government not to make cuts to school cadet funding.
Admiral Lord Michael Boyce, who was principal military adviser to the Government between 2001 and 2003, has pleaded with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to avoid squeezing the budgets for cadets.
It is believed the MoD could bear the brunt of cuts as the Government tries to find ways to reduce the country's budget deficit. A Strategic Defence Review has been launched to look at costs within the department.
But speaking at 150th anniversary of the establishment of the Combined Cadet Force (CCF), Admiral Lord Boyce told pupils at his former school - Hurstpierpoint College in West Sussex, where day fees reach almost #163;18,500 a year - of the many benefits the CCF offers young people.
Earlier this year, the Labour administration announced plans to expand the CCF by taking money from independents with "poor performing" cadet forces and reallocating the cash among state schools that offer similar units.
Admiral Lord Boyce said: "I have concerns about the impact of the Strategic Defence Review on our Armed Forces as a whole and I do hope that this will not lead to cuts in CCF funding. I just trust that someone can think beyond the obvious."
The cadets enable students to learn about self-discipline and how to organise themselves, the Admiral said, adding that they stand "young people in good stead in the future".
He added: "Thousands of young people develop themselves in the CCF rather than loafing around the streets ... If the budget is cut it makes this less affordable and takes out much of the fun.
"Hopefully the people doing the sums won't be too short-sighted when it comes to cuts."
According to the Admiral, those who then join the armed forces tend to stay in longer and rise through the ranks faster than those who were not part of a cadet force.
There are more than 130,000 young people involved in the cadets, supported by a further 25,000 volunteers nationwide.
Hurstpierpoint's headmaster Tim Manly said his school had a thriving cadet force but relied on sponsorship from the MoD.
Mr Manly said: "Our pupils spend at least one academic year as cadets and ... they develop invaluable qualities including a sense of responsibility, self reliance, resourcefulness, perseverance and leadership."