Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A mountain to climb

Sometimes you get the feeling there is no hope. No sooner do we record Dannatt's plea to protect defence spending then up pops the answer to a parliamentary question from Ann Winterton on defence spending.

Specifically, this was a follow-up to our piece in late May when it was revealed that an additional £20 million had been spent on preparing the Panther command vehicle (pictured above) for operations in Afghanistan.

What we did not know then – but have now found out – is that this £20 million has been spent on a mere 67 of the fleet of 401 vehicles, equivalent to £298,507 for each vehicle.

That of course is the additional expenditure for a vehicle which, in the first instance, cost a ridiculous £413,000 each. That means that supplying 67 four-seater armoured patrol vehicles is costing nearly £50 million, or just over £710,000 each.

Readers will recall that, in May 2005 the Swedish Army bought the near-equivalent RG-32M for a cost of approximately £152,000 each. More recently, the Irish Army bought a batch, the price having increased to about £210,000 each for battle-ready vehicles.

Even at the higher rate, therefore, this vehicle costs less to buy than the cost of converting the Panther to operational status, each Panther costing in total more than three RG-32Ms.

If this profligacy was an exception, then it would be remarkable enough in itself but it is just another example of the most extraordinary wastefulness of the MoD, a ministry that has recently committed to spending over £93,000 each on the Springer "beach buggy" and over £600,000 each on the converted SUV called the Husky.

Time and time again we hear the mantra of how the armed forces are deprived of resources, the government accused of "underspending". But again and again we see these examples of egregious waste. Clearly, whatever problems the MoD and the military might have, cash is not one of them. All the evidence points to the singular fact that, the more they are given, the more they will waste.

To get anywhere near efficient operations, we have a huge mountain to climb. And mountaineers there are none.