Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Govt. Fails Troops


The government has already been caught wanting in terms of the equipment it provides for the armed forces that it sends so blithely to fight its wars around the world. To fail to provide the best kit for your soldiers must surely rank as betrayal of the first order. This government, it seems, continues to under-fund its forces in disgraceful fashion. David Cameron berated Gordon Brown for playing numbers games with people's lives, but how about this story (on the Defence of the Realm site) for an alternative version of the 'playing games with soldiers' lives' scenario. The story concerns the provision of inferior armoured vehicles which, it is claimed, is unnecessarily endangering te soldiers who use them.

4 comments:

David Carnell said...

Hmm. I'm not really sure about this one Giles.

As you well know, no amount of Defence expenditure would ever be enough for the Chiefs of Staff and the troops. There is always a better gun or newer piece of equipment to buy. The government must prioritise. I think to accuse it of betraying our troops is to bit at best over-dramatic and at worst, calous in disregarding the facts.

In terms of armoured vehicles the MoD is currently in the procurement process for the FRES project.

FRES is the MoD's programme to deliver a fleet of wheeled and tracked armoured vehicles to the British Army that is network-enabled, capable of operating across the spectrum of operations and protected against the most likely threats. These vehicles are expected to be in service for up to 40 years. It is the largest ever Army programme with an acquisition value of around £16 billion, and through life costs of £60 billion. The MoD has stated that they are aiming at an Initial Operating Capability in 2012.

£60 billion! That is not an economy drive by anyone's imagination.

Maybe you are referring to the infamous SA80 rifle used by all standard British personnel that fails in all but the most clement weather. It was a Conservative government who decided procuring a weapon made of plastic was a wise choice to give to our troops and a Labour government who have had to pick up the pieces.

In his statement to the HoC yesterday the PM announced the purchase of more Mastiff APCs for combat. Off-shelf purchases are the expensive way of doing things.

Don't misunderstand, I think this government is making many mistakes on Defence procurement and policy but letting our troops down with poor kit and vehicles is not one of them.

Marc said...

David, there is nothing wrong with weapons made of plastic for instance the Steyr AUG is largely made from plastic polymers, but is generally reckoned to be amongst the best assault rifles availiable.

That said, our troops and their commanders will always find complaint with their equipment. The grass is always greener.

A far larger betrayal must surely be our apparent inability to provide our commanders with the forces they need to do their job, and to be so tardy at getting them home when they have completed it.

Philip said...

The basic problem in defence procurement is the government's political handcuffs - whether Labour or Tory. It dare not buy anything but British - note that the Pinz is now manufactured in the UK - and thus the armed forces are saddled with rubbish like the SA80 (though the A2 is admittedly a big improvement) or overpriced and irrelevant artefacts such as the Eurofighter Typhoon. Jobs before lives - the dead don't vote, but the unemployed do.

GM said...

David, I think my basic issue is that if you choose to go to war, then you should be willing to meet the demands of your army chiefs in winning that war. The specific procurement referred to is an armoured vehicle that, according to one source anyway, is less effective than the Landrover in protecting soldiers from explosives. Cost is irrelevant here. It simply isn't doing its job! As for whether the govt. can be accused of letting troops down with poor equipment, the family of dead sergeant Steve Roberts wouldn't agree; Sgt. Roberts was killed through lack of basic body armour, and Geoff Hoon was eventually pursued into court by Mrs. Roberts, who said soldiers were 'deeply shocked' at the lack of equipment!

Marc, I agree with your last para, and Philip raises an interesting point about poor domestic/European production, although yes, the SA80 is being replaced at last!