Telegraph: More bang for our buck

#1
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2007/11/09/do0908.xml

More bang for our buck
By Douglas Carswell
Last Updated: 12:01am GMT 09/11/2007




Lord Drayson's resignation as defence procurement minister should be welcomed. Far from calling for his reinstatement, it is time to think radically about how to sort out the fiasco he leaves behind.

Britain spends a serious £32 billion a year on defence, the fifth largest amount in the world. Yet equipment shortages in Iraq and Afghanistan show that we get extraordinarily bad value for money.

Vital equipment has been bought overpriced, late or with key design flaws. Consider just helicopters; Apaches were bought at £30 million each, three times what Israel paid. Despite paying more, only a tiny handful of these battle winning weapons are actually available in Helmand. With the old Cold War Lynx helicopter coming to the end of its useful life, our troops on the ground in Afghanistan desperately need a new transport helicopter. The MoD could have bought US Blackhawks directly "off-the-shelf" at £6 million. Instead they have placed a £1 billion order for the new Lynx at £14 million each. Further millions have been wasted on Chinook helicopters unable to fly at over 500 feet when it is cloudy.

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Such monumental incompetence is not only of concern to Westminster policy wonks; helicopters in Helmand save British lives. Every helicopter means fewer road journeys, fewer targets for improvised explosive devices, fewer bombed and broken troop carriers and fewer casualties. Our troops pay a blood price for incompetence at the MoD.

Bungled defence procurement is nothing new. The procurement disasters that were Nimrod or the SA80 happened regardless of which party was in office. To be fair, the mess Drayson faced was not entirely of his own making. He simply lacked the vision or the verve to sort it out.

Defence procurement is a mess because the money that we allocate to it is spent in the interests of the defence contractors, rather than our armed forces. In each instance, Apache, new Lynx, Nimrod or the SA80, the supplier produced what it suited them to make and at a higher price than was necessary.

Rather than spending our defence budget with the sole aim of equipping our armed forces with the best kit available, spending decisions are made to protect business interests. A sophisticated lobbying exercise by certain contractors promotes the notion that our defence budget has to be spent "buying British" even if that sees British troops having to go without.

Protectionist defence procurement policy is not patriotic, but idiotic. "Buying British" has simply inflated the share price of a few favoured defence contractors, but done little to preserve distinctively British jobs. Indeed, beneficiaries of the decision to build the new Lynx or the SA80 rifle are not even British any more. Drayson's protectionist policy was not even effective at being protectionist.

Both main political parties now need to re-examine where they stand on defence; are they primarily interested in ensuring our servicemen get the best kit, or are they going to protect the commercial interests of a handful of defence companies.

Making certain that the finite defence budget is spent effectively will never be easy. Yet it will be impossible without proper accountability. It is a disgrace that the defence budget is spent without effective Parliamentary accountability. It is shameful how those responsible for poor decisions at the MoD have hidden behind the need for "commercial confidentiality".

Without accountability, we have continued to lavish vast sums of our money on weapons systems designed for another age. The Eurofighter drains a massive £20 billion of the defence budget, yet was conceived to meet a threat from Soviet MiGs that evaporated over a decade ago. The Navy maintains ships built to fight Russians in the Atlantic, yet cannot deal effectively with Iranian speed boats in the shallow waters of the Gulf.

We need to recognise that something is badly wrong. Welcoming Drayson's departure would be a good start. Parliament must regain proper oversight of those civil servants at the MoD. Why not demand that senior appointments at the MoD be ratified by the Defence Committee in public hearings?

Ultimately, however, we also need to recognise basic economics; in any market when there is a constraint on supply, the seller sets the terms of trade. So, too, in defence. Successive governments have consolidated the supply base, thereby strengthening the hand of the producer at the cost of our armed forces.

Drayson's departure gives us the opportunity to rethink how we spend on defence; BAE Systems might not like it, but our armed forces will.
Comments
I am all for the British government helping British firms, but not at the expense of the Defence budget. Let these subidies come from the Department of Trade and Industry instead.

This article seems to have relied very heavily on Lewis Page's book.
Posted by Rev Ralph Barber on November 9, 2007 6:28 AM
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Perhaps the only way to sort out this madness is to put Gordon and Des Brown down in Helmand going out on patrol in Land Rovers with rifles that jam, boots that melt and helicopters that can't fly and leave them there to cook until they cough up the money for our troops.
Posted by Nick Brazil on November 9, 2007 6:08 AM
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"The Eurofighter drains a massive £20 billion of the defence budget, yet was conceived to meet a threat from Soviet MiGs that evaporated over a decade ago."

A:

Evaporated??? Please check "PAK-FA", "Su-35BM", "Su-32/34", "MIG-NG", "MIG-35", and "Tu-160" in the internet.

USSR might have been dead for many years, but Russia has returned now.
Posted by chentoan on November 9, 2007 6:03 AM
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My husband, a British soldier, spent a year
attached to US forces in Afghanistan, he
unexpectedly managed to get home for 4 days in
the middle of his tour for the birth of our
youngest son. When he arrived, dirty and tired,
he was wearing US Marine Corps fatigues with
only a Union Jack sewn on to one arm to indicate
he was British. I asked him why he was dressed
like that and he told me that in the mountains of
Eastern Afghanistan his boots had disintegrated
after 6 weeks whilst his 2 pairs of 'desert
combats' had turned into rags at least 2 weeks
before that. He had dumped his British issue
body armour with it's 6 inch by 4 inch plate and
replaced it with the US issue which protected his
whole torso. Fortunately, he also wore an
american helmet as it was this that saved his life
in combat a number of months later. He bought
the damaged headgear back with him at the end
of the tour and has been told on a number of
occasions that had he been wearing the lighter
and cheaper british helmet he would most likely
have suffered a serious if not fatal head injury.

He has told me that the only thing he carried or
wore by the end of his time there that had been
issued to him were his ID discs and his Browning
9mm automatic. The sad thing is that he still
believes he is a member of the best army in the
world. In my opinion we are now in the
unenviable position of having an army manned
by Lions, led by donkeys and governed by
snakes.
Posted by Santa on November 9, 2007 5:48 AM
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You push the idea of buying 'off the shelf' by purchasing "US Blackhawks directly "off-the-shelf" at £6 million" and then criticise the 'off the shelf option' when this was done buying "Chinook helicopters unable to fly at over 500 feet when it is cloudy."

You can't have it both ways!.

The eurofighter cold war design makes it ideal now the soviets are sending bombers into our region.. give credit where its due.
Posted by John on November 9, 2007 5:19 AM
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Same old chestnuts from yet another politician trying to slide-out from making any commitments to actually fix the problem anytime soon. Without doubt, Defence procurement is a mess (has been for a very long time), does contribute to the problem being experienced and needs to be well and truely fixed (but this won't happen as sleezy politicians use defence contracts to buy votes).That said, recounting the same old stories about the Typhoon, Nimrod AEW (that was back in the 1980ies for goodness sake)and all the other tales of woe is just an attempt to deflect attention away from the crux of the current problem. In the 1990s, the Tories tore about 1.5% of GDP out of Defence. Nu Lab then got really stuck-in by removing a further 1.5%+ at the same time as commiting the armed forces to massive and ongoing war fighting commitments. Sorry Dougie, you fail to reach first base in addressing the real issue or in pulling the wool.Any resolution that leaves the armed forces incapable of effectively taking-on a country like Russia is 1930s in its stupidity. The only fix is to move at least 1.5% of GDP back into the armed forces (not the MOD)right now. The sooner the currently worthless political elite (regardless of party) gets to grips with that, the sooner they will begin to regain a little bit of credibility in the eyes of the long suffering public and the even longer suffering troops at the front.
Posted by SHERLOCK on November 9, 2007 3:19 AM
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I don't oppose a re-think on defence appropriations as long as Douglas Carswell has absolutely nothing to do with it.

Anyone who does not understand the length of time it takes to field new equipment, and the risk that by the time it gets into the field it may not be ideally suited to changed circumstances is the wrong man for the job.

You don't pull the roses up by the roots to check how well they are growing.
Posted by jon livesey on November 9, 2007 2:08 AM
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So what is the Conservative plan for fixing this?
Posted by Simple Sailor on November 9, 2007 1:13 AM
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Biped

LE
Book Reviewer
#2
There's some interesting posts and excellent reposts!

IMHO, the Eurofighter is something we need, as are the carriers, new tanks, better armour, better and more helicopters and another VSTOL fighter.

These things are all manageable if the GDP expenditure goes back up to 5%+ on armed forces, where it should be.

It's too easy to forget the lessons of history, like what is has cost us as a nation to be unprepared for war, from any quarter.

I've said it before - all our global competitors (the big boys) are spending unfeasably large sums of money on re-arming their forces: China, Russia, the US and others.

Do they know something we don't? Are the winds changing whilst we sleep?
 
#3
Biped said:
There's some interesting posts and excellent reposts!

IMHO, the Eurofighter is something we need, as are the carriers, new tanks, better armour, better and more helicopters and another VSTOL fighter.

These things are all manageable if the GDP expenditure goes back up to 5%+ on armed forces, where it should be.

It's too easy to forget the lessons of history, like what is has cost us as a nation to be unprepared for war, from any quarter.

I've said it before - all our global competitors (the big boys) are spending unfeasably large sums of money on re-arming their forces: China, Russia, the US and others.

Do they know something we don't? Are the winds changing whilst we sleep?
The winds changed a while back, but as our wind socks 1a had been replaced by "Meter digital direction wind 1a", giving a read out in Mils accurate to 0.01 Mil and costing GBP50,000 each (as produced by BAe) nobody noticed, as nobody could understand it. :roll:
 

Biped

LE
Book Reviewer
#4
WhiteHorse said:
Biped said:
There's some interesting posts and excellent reposts!

IMHO, the Eurofighter is something we need, as are the carriers, new tanks, better armour, better and more helicopters and another VSTOL fighter.

These things are all manageable if the GDP expenditure goes back up to 5%+ on armed forces, where it should be.

It's too easy to forget the lessons of history, like what is has cost us as a nation to be unprepared for war, from any quarter.

I've said it before - all our global competitors (the big boys) are spending unfeasably large sums of money on re-arming their forces: China, Russia, the US and others.

Do they know something we don't? Are the winds changing whilst we sleep?
The winds changed a while back, but as our wind socks 1a had been replaced by "Meter digital direction wind 1a", giving a read out in Mils accurate to 0.01 Mil and costing GBP50,000 each (as produced by BAe) nobody noticed, as nobody could understand it. :roll:
I would imagine that this is because of huge cost over-runs which have led to a cut in the provision of facilities for said device, which has meant a costly re-design, and thus, there was not enough sponds left in the budget for an Manual - Instruction For The Use Of (apart from the one the Spanish produced, but nobody can be bothered to speak Spanish).
 
#5
My husband, a British soldier, spent a year
attached to US forces in Afghanistan, he
unexpectedly managed to get home for 4 days in
the middle of his tour for the birth of our
youngest son. When he arrived, dirty and tired,
he was wearing US Marine Corps fatigues with
only a Union Jack sewn on to one arm to indicate
he was British. I asked him why he was dressed
like that and he told me that in the mountains of
Eastern Afghanistan his boots had disintegrated
after 6 weeks whilst his 2 pairs of 'desert
combats' had turned into rags at least 2 weeks
before that. He had dumped his British issue
body armour with it's 6 inch by 4 inch plate and
replaced it with the US issue which protected his
whole torso. Fortunately, he also wore an
american helmet as it was this that saved his life
in combat a number of months later. He bought
the damaged headgear back with him at the end
of the tour and has been told on a number of
occasions that had he been wearing the lighter
and cheaper british helmet he would most likely
have suffered a serious if not fatal head injury.

He has told me that the only thing he carried or
wore by the end of his time there that had been
issued to him were his ID discs and his Browning
9mm automatic. The sad thing is that he still
believes he is a member of the best army in the
world. In my opinion we are now in the
unenviable position of having an army manned
by Lions, led by donkeys and governed by
snakes.

Is it just me or does this sound like one of those dodgy emails that goes round the internet? You know like "Barrack Obama is a Muslim fundamentalist.." etc etc
 

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