Friday, May 08, 2009

Defending the UK or spreading job subsidies? 

Portsmouth is happy, Plymouth disconsolate, Rosyth on tenterhooks (according to the estimable Caron) over whether ‘the new carriers’ will be built. Lots of reactions to defence spending decisions in areas where LibDems have a strong electoral interest.

Just to be a bit contrary though, should the priority really be on spending that generates civilian jobs? The point of a military, if we have one, is to deploy people in dangerous situations with the best equipment we can find for the jobs we give them. So defence procurement should be aligned to getting the best equipment at an affordable cost. The decision on whether the Navy should have new aircraft carriers should be taken on the basis of the military deployments envisaged within a military defence plan, and not whether it reduces unemployment in (say) Fife.

Is the purpose of military procurement to get efficient armed forces with modern equipment that can be deployed now and the immediate future; or is it to provide massively subsidised civilian jobs in a select range of industries in key parliamentary seats?

As an example, the current mess we are in over Chinook helicopters is directly attributable to UK insistence on buying customised versions to generated UK civilian jobs, a policy that led to the cost per aircraft being far higher than necessary, with the UK being able to afford fewer than it needs and with a number of these aircraft actually being unusable where at present needed most – in Afghanistan for example.

And remember the BAe bribery story we were so hot on a few months back? Centred on the Tornado fighters that have cost the UK hundreds of millions in excess costs over the years, an aircraft commissioned basically to prop up UK jobs despite being inferior to kit otherwise available .

Maybe – a subversive thought - MPs with substantial defence establishments in their constituencies should be barred from sitting on defence committees? An uncomfortable suggestion I am sure for many of our leading Parliamentary lights.

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Err... Ed,

thanks for your comment on my blog.

I am not sure what you mean by imprint & address. I'd be happy to do it if you enlighten me.

sorry to do this through a comment on your blog - you can email me @ eli_kling@hotmail.com
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