08 September 2010

Just How Much Defence to Cut?

The Guardian asks how much of it is for defence, and how much is "expensive showing off"?

Early in David Cameron's time in office, he was working in Downing Street, possibly on his forthcoming comprehensive spending review, when his meeting was drowned by a cacophonous explosion outside. Amid much banging, crashing and shouting, the massed bands of the Guards were re-enacting their Waterloo manoeuvres for their annual publicity beano, trooping the colour. It might not scare the Taliban, but it maddened Cameron.

It allegedly now costs as much to train a bandsman to play a trumpet on a performing warhorse as it does a pilot to fly a fighter jet. Either way, at the same time as colours were being trooped, jets from the RAF's Vale airbase in Anglesey were equally steeped in history, practising world war two bombing runs in the valleys of Snowdonia in a pandemonium of screaming and roaring. No plane flies this low in combat. It is too vulnerable. Contour flying has as much to do with modern warfare as a trombonist on a Percheron. It is expensive showing off.

Anyone who delves into the defence budget knows it is awash in waste, in semi-derelict barracks, dusty London office blocks, half-used air bases and ghostly ships "in mothballs". It is steeped in defence attaches, goodwill visits, needless patrols and flag-flying. On the Queen's cruise round Scotland this summer the navy thought it fun to accompany her in a type-23 frigate. The navy has so much money it just does not know how to spend it.

By: Brant

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