Our troops are not underfunded - its just normal


Our troops are not underfunded - it's just normal military business

The Afghan mission has to justify its expenditure - but no one is demanding cuts, says Des Browne

Wednesday August 30, 2006
The Guardian

Michael Moriarty's article on these pages is liberally scattered with accusations against British politicians and military commanders about operations in Afghanistan (Soldiers are paying with their lives for this incompetence, August 29).

Moriarty claims that both I and the chief of the defence staff have "acknowledged" that force levels and equipment in Afghanistan are insufficient. This is untrue. In Afghanistan - as in every other campaign - the longer the operation goes on, the more we learn, and that includes learning about what we need and responding accordingly. That can mean providing more people and equipment - or different types of people and equipment. As the chief of the defence staff has said, this is "normal military business".

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The bigger charge by Moriarty is that the defence budget is not large enough, and that "the climate of financial threat" generated by the Treasury has encouraged military chiefs to take on discretionary operations in order to justify their budgets. As a former soldier, he should know better than to think the chiefs of staff would deploy their people in operations they saw as inadequately planned or funded in order to please the Treasury - or anyone else.

Moriarty is wrong to say we're short of money or that the Treasury is demanding cuts. At the planning stage of the Afghan operation I was at the Treasury. I know what the MoD asked for, and what it got. They are one and the same thing. The operation is fully funded, and this includes extra costs which emerge, as they always do during military operations. There is a well-established procedure for approving these. Every time, without exception, I have gone to the Treasury to fund these extra costs, it has done so. Of course it asks for justifications, as it should with every use of taxpayers' money, but it has recognised the need in each of these cases.

Similarly, I have identified a number of urgent equipment issues at defence which needed addressing - including the rapid acquisition of new armoured vehicles - and again the Treasury has made new money available. And crucially, these operational costs are all funded from the special reserve: in other words, the idea that the defence budget is threatened by operational costs is completely groundless.

Contrary to Moriarty's claims, the annual defence budget has risen by £5bn pounds over the past five years - well in excess of inflation. But we still have to stay within that budget, of course. And we have to make sure we get the most out of it. We are looking to "cut the fat" wherever we can to ensure that cash goes to the frontline. It's not because we are short of money, it's because it's the right thing to do.

Finally Moriarty suggests morale in Afghanistan is suffering. I think a recent comment by Lt Col Stuart Tootal, commander of 2 Para in Helmand, where the fighting has been most intense, sums it up. "I have never seen the morale of my men as high. This is exactly what they are trained to do."

· Des Browne MP is secretary of state for defence defencesecretary@mod.uk


The Guardian welcomes comments responding to Swiss Des, go to
http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1860660,00.html scroll down to comments and let the Guardian and Des know what you think.
Lt Col Stuart Tootal is CO 3 Para. If he cannot get this right what can he get right. I would hope he knows what units are where.
complete and utter balls. cutting the fat means reducing the army. i think he is deliberately missing the point that it is not the reduction in funds directly but the overall reduction in men and equipment, and equipment that is not up to parr, compared to the increasing operational tempo world wide. in simple terms, it is having to do a lot more with a lot less. as for his 5bn increase, how much of that has been spent on redecorating the MOD and wasted on numerous IT systems that dont work. also, i get the impression some of our overall bosses dont want to rock the new labour boat too much as they want a job/peerage/some other reward when they retire....Finally, the reason morale at 2 Para may be high is that they are doing the job they get paid for and train for? old fashioned or what
If our troops are not underfunded, why are exercises being cut in the Reg army, why are man training days being cut in the TA, Why are buildings in a shocking state of repair? It can't be because the army doesn't need to train or be housed.

Operations, thats why. Either tell the truth Des or lie alittle better.
"Our troops are not underfunded - it's just normal military business"

Perhaps Des Browne MP would then like to explain why British troops are being advised to buy extra kit out of their own pockets?


He was certainly quick of the mark to reply to Michael Moriarty's article. I hope he's as efficient in all areas of his work.

Does he realise that the British Forces are busier now than they were 5 years ago?
I wrote to Mr Browne a few weeks ago, still no reply, he certainly was quick to reply to the Labour luvvy Guardian. Mr Browne is a man who presides over an organization whose first instinct was to withdraw the Harrier fleet from Kandahar in June of this year on grounds of cost.

Nice one Des.
nothing new there, since when have lads not had to buy decent kit, instead of the crap that gets issued, "cpl why have you no sole on your boots" "it melted right orf, sarge"

"soldier, why are you in hospital with dehydration and urinating golden syrup"
"because we only have 1 camel pack between 8 men, sir"

how many blokes bought their own solar showers?

if they stop wasting money trying to save money our lads would be better off, look at the Apache bollox, we were offered a complete trg package which would mean our blokes would be comp when delivery took place! our leaders said "awfully nice of you to offer but we will save 160 mil not taking that from you" 3 years later "oh dear you mean it going to cost 220 million to train our powder puffs, oh bugger"

Its reasonably simple, in times of peace the defence budget is usually slashed and sent of to more worthy areas (teenage mothers, lesbian empowerment officers, ministerial Jaguars, etc.).

Unfotunately this is the time you should spend the money on defence so that when you do need certain things they already exist.

Even if the government doubled defence spending right now, and doubled it every year for the next 5 years, it is doubtful if it would have any meaningful effect within the next decade.

What needs to be done is a gradual withdrawal from the many areas of conflict Herr Blair has thrust us in (more wars than any other PM, what a legacy for a peacenik!) and build up our forces.

To do that you need a LOT more money and a lot less corruption. You need to buy what is needed from the right places, i.e. HKs from Germany, fighter planes from the US or Russia, bombers from america (we really could do with a few B1s) and stop this crap of buying the cheapest (or who gives the biggest backhander).

After a decade we should be able to re-insert ourselves into the worlds foreign policy, and in my wildest dreams begin to usurp the yanks and rebuild the empire.

But who am I kidding, the gubmint will continue to throw money at those groups who, if it wasnt for the forces, would be cooking in an oven right now, under the watchful gaze of Mosleys SS.
Is it just me or does anyone else find our new SoS for Def so depressing? What is he really for? He clearly has spent the majority of his appointment in hiding, avoiding the real issues / accusations / allegations of overstretch, underfunding, mission creep or whatever - all of which need to be properly debated and resolved - only to raise his head to slap down a journo from his own side who dared to speak out of turn. Maybe we need a sex scandal in Defence, sack him and then we can have Reid back....
Following comment lifted from the Guardians comment section under Des's bollocks.


August 30, 2006 12:21 PM

It took 12 years for the details of the fiasco of the first Afghan war to reach parliament in the 19th century I believe. Then we got ourselves into trouble again later in the same century in the same place. The same smell of a right royal political/military ballsup is in the air again as Blair and his chums drag us backwards in time to a place where no one was allowed to know anything other than their correct place. Oh except for the rich of course because they were exceptional in every way.

Have you got the paper work ready for the requisite D notice Mr Browne? You are going to need it the way your government is handling this. You are logistically and financially hamstrung and our Forces are paying the price with an unnecessary bodycount.

This has all the marks of Gordon Brown's febrile fingers all over it. No money spent on the Armed Forces that are being used and abused in our name. Stealth taxes to fund spurious quangos/initiatives that have no place in the real world. Browne (ex-Treasury note) mouthing carefully scripted meaningless rubbish from the safety of his Whitehall bunker. Is this all going to go off-balance sheet Mr Browne and Mr Brown?

And it's not the first time either recently that G Brown has been skulking around Scroogeing. Monbiot raised the item about the Eurofighters going to Saudi last week. Well that was Brown at work again. Unload a fleet of useless overweight, overbudget, out of date dogfighters on the Saudi's, they owe us a favour, and he can breath a sigh of relief at some pressure off the defence budget so he can plan a nice shiny new Trident replacement, forget any kit for the squadies though.

We don't have the money to waste firing bullets at other countries' inhabitants, never mind the legality of it all. Just look at the rationing that is being put in place throughout the UK from hospitals, pensions, education, care for the infirm and elderly to roads and travel.

I don't actually think Mr Brown and Mr Browne care. There are more important things to be taken care of. Like party leadership.


I was prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt when he incorrectly identified the Regiment which suffered deaths during his first week in office.

But to misidentify 3 PARA BG as 2 Para when 3 PARA BG soldiers are fighting so hard and suffering casualties at an alarming rate in Afghanistan at the moment underlines what a crass, pompous and careerist buffoon this man is.

Mr Browne, you should be ashamed of yourself.
if the sh!t does hit the fan (and you have to hope it doesn't) and a lot of guys get killed - you wonder whose fault it will be.
Anyone think it might be 'blame the squaddies'? rather than the piss poor kit, limited support, hovering RMP's, budget contraints, F wit REMF's in the MOD or a TW@T in the ministerial job!
Call me cynical but perhaps it wasn't Mr Browne that misidentified it, but the poor hack that was told to write the article in a hurry for his master to sign?
Well presumably he read it Jim30. Surely he knows by now who are out there. I just cant believe he wrote this:

"As a former soldier, he [Moriarty] should know better than to think the chiefs of staff would deploy their people in operations they saw as inadequately planned or funded in order to please the Treasury - or anyone else."

As a former soldier Moriarty must know that given the lack of bayonets and helicopters in Afghanistan that the chiefs of staff are doing just that!
I don't doubt he read it - I also think he's stupid enough to sign anything put in front of him! I still think the outer office should be shot for that one, along with Browne.
National news should have that one on front cover.

secretary of state for defence does not know where his troops are and has little interest.

this artical is also on MOD orical :roll:

edited ones
It is inexcusable to not have enough air support, withdrawing the Harriers seems mad. Also, we have large numbers of Tornados... why aren't they being used??
Tornados cannot be used in Khandahar at the moment as the runway is too short and the airfield is at such an altitude that it makes fast jet operation difficult. Rescently back from the Rockery (as opposed to the sandpit) and saw lots of NATO F-16s hanging around Kabul International not doing a great deal. They are extending the runway at Khandahar so that it is long enough to accept Dutch F-16s. With some more work it may be possible to replace the surrent Sqn of Harriers with Tornado. Tornado would be better anyway as it has a longer loiter time, is faster (can get there quicker) and can carry a significantly better ordnance load.
lanky said:
It is inexcusable to not have enough air support, withdrawing the Harriers seems mad. Also, we have large numbers of Tornados... why aren't they being used??
There is no question of the blokes being left without CAS in Afghanistan. Some decisions take time to filter through the press's consciousness, or are not in the public domain yet for obvious reasons. Despite my disdain for RAF movers and the general malaise that affects our air force, I can say with certainty that the RAF ops guys are taking their support of ground troops in afghanistan VERY seriously. And doing a good job I believe.

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