The £22 lightbulb

So our ministry of defence admits that they pay £22 each for light bulbs that can be bought for just 65 pence each in the shops. There is no doubt this is just the tip of the iceberg and that this is symptomatic of how they buy stuff. So you have to ask yourself the simple question “is this just gross ineptitude or is there something deeper going on?”. Because either way heads should roll. Lots of them.

Of course the last Labour government treated defence expenditure as a toyshop where they had infinite credit, they ordered anything that was shiny and that they liked the look of, without ever looking as to where the money to pay for it was going to come from. They ended up spending £65 thousand million more than the budget allocated to them. An amazing figure. There really, really should be an investigation into how this happened. We taxpayers are now landed with the long hard slog of paying the debt off.

It is not just ordering what we can’t afford though, it is managing the contracts. On the first of this month the National Audit Office revealed that each Typhoon fighter aircraft cost 75% more than originally budgeted for and that these aircraft won’t be able to do their job properly (at the moment they are just air to air fighters, they can’t attack ground targets) till 2018. If this was a private company doing this is would have gone bust and all the inept management would be on the dole, but as it is the Ministry of Defence we taxpayers just keep on paying.

Nearly everything the Ministry of Defence touch is a disaster, the Type 45 destroyer programme is £1.5 billion over budget, the Astute submarine £1.4 billion, the A400M transport aircraft £603 million. It just goes on and on. All hard earned taxpayers money.

You wonder what Bob Ainsworth was up to when he was the Labour minister presiding over this enormously unbelievable mess. And you have to sympathise with Liam Fox who has a huge job on his hands sorting it out.

And another thing is that despite the spend, do we get an effective military?  In Iraq we lost control of Basra and had to be rescued by the Americans. In Afghanistan the same happened with Helmand province. We didn’t exactly cover ourselves with glory in either of these campaigns, despite the excellence of the average British soldier.

Finally why are our armed forces so top heavy? We have several admirals for every ship and very many squadron leaders for every squadron. It is as if we still have most of the senior officers we had in WW2 when they are totally un-necessary for our modern, slimmed down military. The whole management structure is far too hierarchical and if it was the real world would have been de-layered a long time ago. The trick here is to pick a couple of senior ranks in each service and to make everyone with that rank redundant. Harsh but effective.

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