Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Defence budget cuts

Every party has its sacred cows, its areas of spending that it is unable to rein in for ideological reasons. For New Labour it was "schools 'n' ospitals" - every time the Tories pointed out that too much was being spent for too little return the Labour government would howl in outrage and demand to know which school or which hospital the Tories would like to see closed.

This way they managed to shut down debate on their prodigal spending habits and the end result is the current trillion pound national debt, and the £160bn year on year deficit. (Although that £160bn may be quite a bit less after the government's spending review on October the 20th. Latest suggestions are it might be down to a mere £100bn.)

The Conservatives have their own sacred cows. When they came to power they said the overseas aid budget would be protected from all trimming. Why? Heaven knows! It was probably just one last cringe under Labour's holier than thou lash. Old habits die hard. The opposition stopped opposing years ago.

The British National Party has but one sacred budgetary cow. It's not overseas aid. That can go swing - a BNP government would use it to coerce compliance in the area of taking back failed asylum seekers and criminal immigrants. (And all asylum-seekers would fail under a BNP government.) Any 3rd-world country not playing ball would get nothing from the BNP. Our aid budget would serve OUR interests and nobody else's.

The BNP's red line is defence spending. Not all of it, but when you send your finest abroad to fight and die for their country then you owe it to them to equipment them with the best you can afford. In war, such as in Afghanistan right now, there is a direct trade off between spending money and spending blood.

An example: our forces patrol in Land Rovers, a civilian vehicle designed for farmers, slightly adapted for military use. (Mainly by welding on metal plating. You don't want one of them behind you on the road - the brakes haven't been upgraded!)

It isn't robust enough to protect its occupants from an RPG shell or a land mine. The Americans use Bradley fighting vehicles (manufactured by British Aerospace) when they must deploy on the ground, and Blackhawk helicopters otherwise - and consequently they take fewer casualties, per capita.

Our forces would love to have some Blackhawks, also some Chinooks for heavy lift and some Apaches for combat situations but they're not going to get them. No, they get to go places in Land Rovers. (The MOD has announced a Land Rover replacement, but it will still be a ground vehicle based on a civilian truck and hasn't happened yet.)

Another example: a bit more subtle this one. Since the body armour fiasco of the Iraq war all our soldiers have body armour. In fact, since the politicians took such a beating over body armour, this blog understands so much body armour has been sent to Afghanistan that there are piles of it lying around warehouses in Camp Bastion.

But there's armour and armour. There's heavy cumbersome body armour, and light convenient body armour which is more expensive but equally effective. Guess which one our forces have? Yes, they have the heavy one, and as a result when performing an awkward task like defusing an IED they have to take it off! Not surprisingly IEDs account for a lot of our fatalities.

So when the Defence Secretary Liam Fox argues that the defence budget should not be cut, he can count on Nationalist support. We think that saving money by spending blood is a betrayal of our soldiers.

But this doesn't mean we give the military a blank cheque. No, but for equipment they want and need, and every squaddie on the ground can tell you what they really need, there should be no parsimony.

1 comment:

Dex said...

Our troops shouldn't be in Iraq or Afghanistan.