In today’s Times (£) Paddy Ashdown argues that the Ministry of Defence is “no longer fit for purpose.”
Ashdown says that the current government are not making enough progress with addressing the Ministry’s problems: the large annual deficit, bureaucratic blunders and project overruns and puts them down to a lack of political direction.
Here’s an excerpt:
The dust is now settling on the Strategic Defence and Security Review, published last October. And what it reveals is that the deeply painful cuts already announced are not going to be enough to balance the books. There will have to be more — there may even have to be what is, in effect, a second review.
Of the £36 billion of cuts the MoD agreed to make over the next four years, it seems to have found less than half. If this is true, then the scale of the black hole that remains means that even if the MoD cuts everything except what is needed to fight the war in Afghanistan (which the Prime Minster has ringfenced as forbidden territory for cuts), it would still not be enough to bring the department back within budget. Watch this space: we are about to see either a Treasury bailout or more defence cuts down to a level that could even include our precious amphibious capability.
Today’s PAC [Public Accounts Committee] report cites delays and alterations to project specifications as the key cause of previous cost overruns. That is bad enough, but worse still, we are still making the same mistakes. The decison to fit “cats and traps” to the new aircraft carriers in order to take cheaper planes has, the PAC reports, been made on the basis of an “inadequate understanding of costs”.
Ashdown concludes that, with the MoD “still haemorrhaging money at a colossal rate,” our inadequacies may be exposed by the next unexpected security challenge, which “could prove disastrous for a Conservative-led government.”
You can read the full piece in today’s Times (subscription required).