“Endemic” MoD failures putting soldiers at risk

By politics.co.uk staff.

British soldiers in Afghanistan lack essential equipment and resources thanks to Whitehall mismanagement, a leaked report so embarrassing ministers barred its publication has revealed.

An official review, leaked to the Sunday Times, said “endemic” failures at the Ministry of Defence have led to projects being £35 billion over budget and five years behind schedule.

Bernard Gray, the former businessman and special adviser to Labour defence ministers who carried out the report, said the problems were so severe they were “harming our ability… to conduct difficult current operations”.

Following a sharp rise in UK military deaths in the months leading up to elections in Afghanistan, Gordon Brown was forced to defend the support troops received, insisting they had the necessary equipment to “get the job done”.

But in his report Mr Gray asks: “How can it be that it takes 20 years to buy a ship, or aircraft, or tank?

“Why does it always seem to cost at least twice what was thought?

“Even worse, at the end of the wait, why does it never quite seem to do what it was supposed to?”

Mr Gray’s report was commissioned by John Hutton, who resigned as defence secretary in June. His successor Bob Ainsworth, according to the Sunday Times, asked the prime minister to suppress the report due to its politically-damaging nature.

“The problems, and the sums of money involved, have almost lost their power to shock, so endemic is the issue,” Mr Gray says in his report.

“It seems as though military equipment acquisition is vying in a technological race with the delivery of civilian software systems for the title of ‘world’s most delayed technical solution’. Even British trains cannot compete.”

Commenting, shadow defence secretary Liam Fox said: “Labour has created a defence black hole which is not only impacting on current operations in Afghanistan but threatens to provide an ongoing defence crisis for years to come.

“On top of this, this government of fear and smear refuses to publish an important and distinguished piece of work, simply because it points out the serial incompetence of Labour on defence. This report must be published in full.”

An MoD spokesman said the report was currently in “draft format”.

“We are working hard with [Bernard Gray] on the issues he has identified,” the representative added.