Monday, March 10, 2008

Donkeys Still Going Strong

A budget meeting at the MOD

According to the Commons Defence Committee, the cost of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan has doubled in a year to £3bn pa. Indeed, costs have increased by 50% just in the last three months alone - despite the fact that operations in Iraq are supposedly winding down. What is going on?

What's going on of course, is not that costs have actually doubled. It's just that the donkeys down at the MOD have redone their sums. They've never been much good at them, and the odd doubling here or there is only to be expected (cf the routine vast over-runs on defence procurement).

But this is part of a much bigger concern about resources.

The Defence Committee recently published its annual review of the MOD's report and accounts. And I felt ashamed reading it.

Here on BOM we're well used to government incompetence. We know that departments routinely waste billions, fail to deliver what's promised, and expose us to huge cost and inconvenience. But MOD goes beyond that. When MOD fails, our servicemen and women die.

Which is why we are directly implicated. We may not have wanted those simultaneous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but we elected the politicos who took us in, and we therefore bear a heavy responsibility to our troops fighting them.

So I cringed with shame when I read the following:

"We are deeply concerned that the Armed Forces have been operating at or above the level of concurrent operations they are resourced and structured to deliver for seven of the last eight years, and for every year since 2002."

People's lives are on the line here. How is it possible we haven't allocated sufficient resources for them to do the job properly? Over the last eight years public expenditure has increased by about 40% in real terms, and with defence spending only making up 6% of it, it is inconceivable the money could not have been found.

And we can't just wring our hands. We elect the top donkeys. It's up to us to demand they do better. Efficiency is out of the question for government, we know that. And knowing that, we simply have to accept some waste in defence spending.

We must never compromise the safety of our armed forces in the name of economy.

PS See here for previous blog on MOD's resourcing priorities.

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