Damming Comment on MOD

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by jonwilly, Nov 13, 2009.

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  1. The MoD can barely run itself, let alone a war in Afghanistan
    The rank ineptitude of the Ministry of Defence cannot be allowed to continue, says Con Coughlin

    By Con Coughlin
    Published: 8:09PM GMT 12 Nov 2009

    Never has the phrase "not fit for purpose" been more applicable in Whitehall than to the shambles that today passes for the Ministry of Defence. Whether it is wasting billions of pounds on equipment that is completely irrelevant for the conflicts the military is fighting, or failing to get even the most basic kit to the front line, the MoD is a department drowning in the mire of its own institutional incompetence.

    The bulk of Britain's military efforts are focused on low-intensity but highly challenging counter-insurgency campaigns. First in Iraq, and now in Afghanistan, the Army has been stretched to breaking point in its efforts to defeat a determined and resourceful enemy. But rather than equipping our troops with adequate numbers of helicopters, or vehicles that afford proper protection against deadly roadside bombs, or the equipment necessary to detect and defuse such devices, the MoD has blithely pressed ahead with a range of high-profile and highly expensive procurement projects totally extraneous to the war being fought in the plains and foothills of Afghanistan.

    The RAF's new Typhoon fighter is a breathtaking piece of engineering. No one who has seen the jet soar into the skies can fail to be impressed by its speed or manoeuvrability. In mock skirmishes with its equally sophisticated American rivals, such as the F-16, it invariably triumphs.

    But so far as Afghanistan is concerned, it is useless. Conceived when the British military was still structured to fight the Cold War, it is brilliant at intercepting and destroying Russian MiGs. It is less effective at taking out Taliban insurgents lying in wait to attack British patrols, because it has no ground-attack capability – the ability to drop bombs, to you
    and me. However, that has not stopped the MoD blowing a cool £20 billion on purchasing 232 of the aircraft.

    Some are now undergoing an expensive refit, in the hope that they can be adapted for duty in Afghanistan. But whether the Typhoon will ever be deployed for combat operations is an open question; meanwhile, we must make do with our ageing squadrons of Harrier jump-jets – perfectly suited for the Afghan terrain – and Tornadoes, which can only function when weather permits.

    Then there are the two new gargantuan aircraft carriers that have been ordered for the Royal Navy, and are to be built at the Rosyth shipyards close to Gordon Brown's Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath constituency. At more than £8 billion each (at current estimates), they will be an impressive sight at any future Fleet Review, but not much use in Iraq and Afghanistan, where sea access is at a premium, to put it mildly.

    The list goes on. The Joint Strike Fighter, the new Type 45 destroyers, the A400 air transporter that is due to replace the C-130 Hercules, the backbone of the "air bridge" to Afghanistan – all have been dogged by delays and overspending. All told, Bernard Gray's recent report into defence procurement found that the MoD has wasted a staggering £35 billion through internal incompetence and "political fudge". No wonder its reputation is at such a low ebb.

    Understandably, the MoD – in the shape of Bob Ainsworth, our hapless Defence Secretary – did its level best to suppress Mr Gray's report, so explosive was the exhaustive catalogue of ineptitude deemed to be. But even when "Mr Jobsworth", as the Defence Secretary is unflatteringly referred to by his subordinates, was forced to reveal its contents, he quickly booted the central recommendation – that private-sector management be drafted in to overhaul procurement – into Whitehall's long grass.

    In fact, far from being mortified by the sheer magnitude of their ministry's incompetence, officials have awarded themselves £47 million in bonuses for their performance this year. Presumably, this includes the morally bankrupt decision to initiate court action to claw back payments awarded to two servicemen injured while fighting for their country. One hopes that no such awards have gone to any of those responsible for the appalling trail of negligence that resulted in an RAF Nimrod exploding in mid-air over Kandahar in 2006, killing the 14-man crew.

    Much of the blame for the ministry's plight rests with Labour, which encouraged the payment of bonuses in Whitehall as part of its attempts to incentivise the Civil Service. They are not universally popular, particularly with serving military officers, many of whom do not believe they should be rewarded simply for doing their duty. One officer who recently declined to accept a bonus was warned that he could face disciplinary action as a consequence, as he would be deemed to be in breach of his conditions of service.

    There are still many talented and conscientious officials at the MoD. Their problem, though, is that they are required to work in a system that is overly bureaucratic, and in a departmental culture obsessed more with meeting Treasury spending targets than the defence of the realm. They are also required to do the bidding of politicians put in place by Downing Street, which under Gordon Brown has consistently failed to appoint men of the right calibre to the post of Defence Secretary: Mr Ainsworth is just the latest sorry example.

    The same problem applies to the senior civil servants who run the department. In the past, the Permanent Under-Secretary was an official of significant stature and clout, such as Sir Frank Cooper or Sir Michael Quinlan. They had spent most of their careers steeped in defence issues, and were well equipped to fight the ministry's corner in the departmental turf wars. Bill Jeffrey, the present incumbent, can hardly be described as a Whitehall heavyweight. His previous experience relates to more prosaic domestic matters, such as prisons and immigration, where his contribution during the 1990s won few plaudits. But he pleased his political masters enough to be parachuted into the MoD in 2005, with precious little defence experience.

    The consequences can be seen by all. Mr Jeffrey was, by all accounts, as complicit in the attempts to suppress the Gray report as the equally inexperienced Defence Secretary he was supposed to be advising. That tells you all you need to know about the quality of leadership in what should be one of the most prestigious departments of state, particularly in time of war.

    Clearly the MoD's rank ineptitude, which is having a detrimental effect on departmental morale and the combat effectiveness of troops in Afghanistan, can no longer be allowed to persist. As a matter of national urgency, the MoD needs to be made fit for purpose. The best way would be to streamline decision-making and remove unnecessary bureaucratic barriers. Only then will we have a ministry that is equipped to fight the wars of the 21st century.

  2. Where is that from John?
  3. You need something like the Hornet, which is equally capable in the ground attack mode as air-to-air. Hell, even the old F-14's have ground attack capability.
  4. the article is wrong. since block 5 typhoon has had ground attack capability. just no squadrons have been stood up in the ground attack role yet and there are a few software problems to iron out.

    the article is also wrong is saying the carriers are 8 billion each. they are 5 billion for both until production got delayed to keep people in work and to join the JSF on entry to service.

    i think it was written for a rag like the express considering the "if its not on land then its a waste of money" mindset it has to equipment.
  5. If I were a cynic, I'd say Coughlin threw the article together without bothering to do any research.

    Apart from the fact that it can drop bombs, has always been designed to do so and has had a full operational clearance for air-ground since July 2008....

    Needs to read his own newspaper - since it was well reported a few months ago about how the RAF is now only guaranteed to get 160 aircraft and might get 208.

    The word 'b*ll*cks' springs to mind:

    1. As noted, the Typhoon has an A-G capability and isn't being refitted.

    2. The only reason to doubt if the Typhoon will ever be deployed on ops (other than the Falklands which counts as an Op deployment) is that there aren't going to be enough to equip more than five squadrons, and we need that number to do basic air defence - unless we ask the Luftwaffe/French/Dutch to lend a hand with QRA, which I can't quite see any government doing...

    3. Tornado? Limited by weather? More so than the GR7/GR9? WTF is he talking about? Some alternate universe in which Granby, Kosovo and Telic didn't happen? I know what he's talking through there....

    Yes, aircraft carriers proved really useless when OEF kicked off in 2001, since there was nothing they could contribute, and carrier based air isn't providing CAS to TIC in Afghanistan toda... oh, hang on....

    See other Arrse thread on that one...

    And as a matter of business urgency, the Torygraph needs to get Coughlin to stop being a lazy b'stard peddling tired old cliches and get him to do some research to earn his money - which is probably rather more than a MoD CS pulls in per year...
  6. I couldn't be aersed to pick that apart - it is so much rubbish I'll wait so I can print it off at work and just wipe my backside on it. That up there in't the Bernard Gray report - that up there is badly researched rubbish.

    The BG report is pretty good actually. See other threads for more.
  7. That sounds horribly familiar, chinooks anyone.
  8. Since C130s are not involved in inter theatre movement that's another factual inaccuracy...............
  9. Felt like a very lazy "wheel out the 'lets slag off the MOD'brigade article, all it was missing was comment from "Experts" like Richard North and Lewis Page...
  10. Coughlin is an ultra neo-con who'd have us and the Septics invading any country that 'looked at us a bit funny.' So this facts-free ranting is pretty much par for the course.

    I wonder if he and Richard North have ever been seen in the same room together?
  11. Yet another example of the sloppy high-on-opinion, low-on-accuracy rubbish that passes for journalism these days. We've been at war for eight years but the national dailies have yet to engage any old-style defence correspondents who know their stuff (goes along with having part-time Defence ministers, I suppose). Incidentally, I include Lewis Page and Max Hastings with their blinkered views among the former variety.
  12. All good and well complaining about the cost of the CVF/Typhoon/JSF and so on but the defence budget is tiny these days in comparison to what gets splurged elsewhere.

    Cost of Olympic games = 2/3 carriers. I know what I'd rather have.

  13. Yes, but do you want to waste a £100 mıllıon Typhoon bombıng mud huts ın 'Ghan, wıth the potentıal for loss to ground fıre?

    As I saıd ın another thread a whıle back, what the RAF badly needs ıs some cheap throwaway aırcraft that can do a basıc job. Hawk 200s wıth a bıt more range. You could deply those by the hundred.

    As to carrıers - £5bıllıon?? Have you never heard of cost overruns?? If Nımrod ıs anythıng to go by, the carrıers wıll be launched ın 2085 at a cost of £45 bıllıon each - but lımıted to UK coastal waters because some Greenıe cnut ın Whıtehall would not gıve them nuclear power plants.