At a time when global politics is throwing up ever-more serious challenges with deeply uncertain outcomes, the news that the nation’s military is facing a funding crisis is deeply concerning.
With the ever-present threat of terrorist attacks on British streets, the Salisbury poisoning case, the ongoing horror of the Syrian conflict and now the further question marks over the stability of the Middle East raised by Donald Trump’s controversial decision on the Iranian nuclear deal this week, it is eminently clear that the UK needs armed forces which are fit for purpose.
However, a new report by an influential group of MPs on the Public Accounts Committee has claimed the Ministry of Defence simply does not have enough money to buy all the equipment it says it needs – and may be as much as £20bn short of what it requires.
The critical report has warned the situation is being exacerbated by a reluctance on the part of the MoD to report transparently to Parliament and the public about the financial risks it faces.
MPs say they are ‘highly sceptical’ that plans designed to modernise the military while cutting costs will actually balance the books in the manner that is hoped.
In these straitened times, a decade on from the global financial crisis which is still having a considerable impact on the public finances, no Government department can expect to be given a blank cheque. But by frankly assessing where things stand, then decisions on where funding should be directed can be made more accurately and urgently.
While it may be politically embarrassing to do so, an honest appraisal is desperately needed – the lives of British servicemen and women, and the citizens they protect at home and abroad, could be unnecessarily put at risk if those on the frontline do not have the resources and equipment they require.