Leak reveals crisis in army

Leak reveals crisis in army
August 21st, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: Leak reveals crisis in army

Leak reveals crisis in army

Media: The Observer
Byline: Mark Townsend and Richard Brooks
Date: 20 August 2006

The full extent of the financial crisis affecting the British army has been revealed in a leaked Whitehall document obtained by The Observer. The memo, written by the MoD's second most senior civil servant, has sparked fears that requests by commanders for vital equipment to save the lives of troops in Afghanistan and Iraq may not be met.

Ian Andrews admits that the budget for the acquisition of new equipment for soldiers is among the worst affected and that 'painful measures are required'. He has even ordered MoD staff to cut travel expenses as the department attempts to cope with the cost of an army which is enduring its busiest period of operations since the end of the Second World War.
Union officials yesterday warned ministers that more troops will be killed in Iraq and Afghanistan because of the budgetary crisis. 'These cuts could eventually see more body bags returning to Britain as a result of inadequate equipment,' said an official who specialises in defence logistics from the Public and Commercial Services Union. He added: 'The cuts and plans to move logistics and procurement work pose serious risks to the effective provision of battle-winning equipment to troops on the front line'.
In the memo, dated 1 August, Andrews reveals he has imposed an immediate moratorium on hiring, to halt 'increases in military manpower... including temporary posts, or by the employment of full-time reserve service individuals'. The drastic decision comes at a time when the army is accused of lacking the manpower to cope with its responsibilities in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Andrews, writing to senior defence officials in charge of funding for procurement and logistics, also calls for 'existing contracts for agency and casual staff '[to] be terminated after the requisite period of notice'. Defence staff are told to avoid air travel and use email or telephone. Overspend in the procurement and logistics departments is now running at 100m over budget every three months, the document reveals. 'Equipment, support, fuel and utilities costs are causing real pressures across the department and all [budgets] are having to take painful measures... ,' it states.
The concerns come at a sensitive time for the MoD with British commanders in Afghanistan and Iraq requesting more helicopters and tougher armoured vehicles to reduce fatalities. A recent report by an all-party parliamentary committee concluded that British troops are having their safety compromised by ageing or inadequate equipment which urgently needs replacing. In particular, it identified the failure to replace lightly armoured Land-Rovers, leaving soldiers vulnerable to roadside bombs which have killed more than 20 in recent months. The committee concluded: 'Our forces cannot wait for long-term procurement projects to come to fruition; they need the kit now.'
MoD officials are told to sign no new contracts costing more than 100,000 a year and not to employ any consultants. Andrews admits 'these measures will be very disruptive and in many cases will have a disproportionate impact on outputs for the savings achieved'. In one passage his memo identifies the causes of the financial difficulties. Major programmes, including plans to set up a 19bn defence training base in the UK as well as two IT systems, are 'all bringing additional costs beyond our control'. An MoD spokesman said: 'Our over-arching priority is to ensure that the front line is properly supported'.

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