Leader: Equipping soldiers is top priority

Equipping soldiers should be a top priority. Picture Michael Gillen.
Equipping soldiers should be a top priority. Picture Michael Gillen.
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Defence procurement minister Harriett Baldwin has said the government is committed to delivering “the best kit our armed forces at the best value for the taxpayer”.

The seemingly straightforward statement conjures up the image of an army quartermaster equipping new recruits with a basic uniform, at the same time making sure public money isn’t wasted.

But in fact, her response was in answer to a warning from Britain’s accounting watchdog that the Ministry of Defence needs to find almost £6 billion of additional savings in its military equipment plan for armoured vehicles, jets and projects such as Dreadnought nuclear submarines.

The arguments over the size of the armed forces have been played out, and we know the reduced size was necessary to reflect modern needs with the UK involved in fewer theatres of war than in previous years.

Some may argue the cuts are too severe or not enough, but the case for reduction in size, of whatever scale, was established.

What is not as acceptable is the prospect of the scaled down military being ill-equipped. We must surely be aware of the cost of sending troops into combat with inadequate equipment, a constant complaint in Iraq.

If we are sending personnel into danger, they must be properly equipped, and another £6bn of cuts suggests they will not be.

Cuts are necessary in the MoD budget, but if we are putting our service personnel at a disadvantage that could increase the risk of loss of life, we’re going down the wrong road. If getting the right equipment means the numbers don’t add up on the balance sheet, so be it. Re-work the strategy.