Feeds

MoD budget train crash behind Brown v forces rumpus

PM's choice: Outsource arms makers or squaddies

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

An example is the new privately-owned Skynet military satcomms network, financed by City investors because - though they know the MoD has no money in its own budget to pay for Skynet - the conflict resolution cash will be there to rent their new bandwidth as long as the wars go on. By the time British troops pull out of Afghanistan, Skynet will probably have repaid its owners several times over.

The Treasury has also agreed in the past to pay for urgently-needed new kit from the conflict resolution funds, as in the case of the Iraq invasion. A lot of the new gear which British squaddies have actually used lately - night vision kit, for instance, as opposed to antisubmarine gear - has arrived in this way.

However, in the aftermath of the Iraq invasion there was a big closed-doors row, with Brown's Treasury refusing to pay several big bills, saying that they were expenses the MoD would have incurred anyway and nothing to do with "resolving conflict" in Iraq.

The MoD could have balanced its books by cutting a big procurement project, but this is always difficult as it will normally involve civilians losing their jobs and thus politicians losing votes. And the part of the armed services which wants the given new thing will always defend it to the death, too.

As a result, in 2004 combat units were cut across all three services to make up the shortfall. Astonishingly, even though it had just plunged into one big infantry war and was about to get into another, the UK actually shut down 10 per cent of its infantry units. People suggested that the infantry was at least 10 per cent understrength - owing largely to the terrible pay and conditions - so this was somehow a sensible idea. (Now the infantry is 10 per cent understrength again, indicating that the manpower bleed has continued unabated.)

Now, according to reliable sources, the same MoD/Treasury argument is happening again. Recent MoD budget increases have been wiped out and then some by spiralling procurement costs, and yet again the military needs more cash just to cover bills - let alone improve matters for its fighting men and women. Yet again, the Treasury won't authorise the full extra amount from Mr Brown's carefully accumulated "conflict resolution" chest.

The Independent reports that Browne went to see his boss Brown about some more cash last week, and was rebuffed: which probably led directly to the attack in the Lords on Friday. (Not that Browne is in league with the ex-chiefs, but they will have heard about the result of the meeting.)

Meanwhile, the MoD is fighting internal battles as well as external ones. Another big procurement decision is looming on the new Army vehicle fleet, a project known as FRES (Future Rapid Effects System). Three different plans are under consideration here; one involves the use of American vehicles, the other two would be based on European ones. No matter which is chosen, a "systems integrator" company will mod the vehicles and kit them out, scooping much of the profit from the £16bn contract.

Strong rumours suggest that the recently-departed Lord Drayson would have chosen a European vehicle and European/UK system-integrator company, a decision which would probably have increased costs but placed more industrial work in Britain. Drayson's entire ministerial record was that of a man who wanted to boost the British weapons-tech sector first, last and always; even if this meant that fighting troops had to wait for what they needed, or even didn't get it at all.

It now appears that other priorities - such as value for money - may have gained some traction at the MoD, with the trade press suggesting that Drayson departed after a row with permanent officials and officers who wanted to buy cheaper American gear. It has also been hinted that Drayson may have resigned over the larger failure to increase overall defence spending, but this would be uncharacteristic for a man who was principally focused on a bigger equipment budget - as opposed, let us say, to more cash for soldiers' pay, or even for hiring more troops so as to ease their workload. (And indeed, these two things are in opposition within a given defence budget).

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
Britain's housing crisis: What are we going to do about it?
Rent control: Better than bombs at destroying housing
Top beak: UK privacy law may be reconsidered because of social media
Rise of Twitter etc creates 'enormous challenges'
GCHQ protesters stick it to British spooks ... by drinking urine
Activists told NOT to snap pics of staff at the concrete doughnut
What do you mean, I have to POST a PHYSICAL CHEQUE to get my gun licence?
Stop bitching about firearms fees - we need computerisation
Ex US cybersecurity czar guilty in child sex abuse website case
Health and Human Services IT security chief headed online to share vile images
We need less U.S. in our WWW – Euro digital chief Steelie Neelie
EC moves to shift status quo at Internet Governance Forum
Oz biz regulator discovers shared servers in EPIC FACEPALM
'Not aware' that one IP can hold more than one Website
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.