13 December, 2006

House of Commons Defence Committee Report: Defence procurement:

The House of Common Defence Committee, which has been examining the Ministry of Defence's performance, has published its report, Defence Procurement 2006, HC 56, which can be downloaded from here (pdf). The Daily Telegraph and the BBC have coverage.

It dose not make encouraging reading, unless you are from the Taliban or al Qaeda. Simply put, when its Labour members can spare time from going on about ethnic and gender quotas, the committee is concerned that British troops in Afghanistan and Iraq are under-equipped and understaffed and is worried that in future the UK will be unable to meet its defence commitments. Moreover it is time that NATO allies started pulling their weight. Paragraphs 67-68:

67. Whether UK Armed Forces are stretched or overstretched is a matter for continued debate. What is certain is that they are operating in challenging conditions in insufficient numbers and without all the equipment they need. With problems of undermanning continuing, there is a clear danger that the Armed Forces will not be capable of maintaining current commitments over the medium-term.

68. To some extent this strain on our Armed Forces reflects the inability of some NATO allies to generate forces. This is regrettable and raises a question over whether this new direction for NATO is sustainable. Minister should make strong representations to those allies to ensure they understand the implications of failure of the Alliance.
In the Conclusions and Recommendations, the shortage of helicopters in Afghanistan does not go unnoticed.
4. We remain concerned at the availability of serviceable battlefield helicopters, especially support helicopters, in Iraq and Afghanistan. We welcome the MoD’s response that the potential use of private lease helicopters would remain under consideration. In Afghanistan the MoD should first press NATO partners to provide additional helicopter support.
If you turn to the oral evidence (24 October) of a Mr Bill Jeffrey, Permanent Secretary at the MoD you can read a senior civil servant squirming and obfuscating, but technically falling just short of lying, over questions about the helicopter shortages in Afghanistan (Q10-20).

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