Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Outsourcing the Army

The news that Britain may rent a number of Russian made helicopters from a private company to plug the gap created by the MoD's disastrous defence procurement policy raises a few questions.

The obvious question is why haven't our army got the helicopters they require now? This is where the MoD's procurement comes in - they botched it. The eight Chinooks were supposed to be in service in 1998 - but they cannot fly unless it is above 500 feet in clear skies and they can use landmarks to navigate. Seriously. No doubt the dumb fools who made these disastrous decisions are now out of work and begging on the streets for scraps (or maybe they remain in their cushy jobs, with big fat pensions to look forward to - what do you reckon?).

The other question is, what else will the MoD outsource? Well, here are a few suggestions.

Royal Engineers. Why bother having a regiment of engineers when you could just bring in a sub-contractor to do the work. The required work could be put out to tender and the cheapest bid wins. Of course, it may be a bit tricky when you need a bridge built somewhere to allow your troops to advance. You'd need to get the bids in, go through the selection process, agree timescales and scope. Then the contractor will need to arrange sub-contractors, agree contracts scope, etc. All in all, it shouldn't delay any advance more than - 6-8 months?

Royal Artillery. Again, why do we need to have all these high tech self-propelled and towed cannons when we could just bring them in when we need them? I'm sure the Chinese could do us a very good deal. They already supply our uniforms, why not our artillery as well?

Royal Air Force. What do we need a full time air force for? Why not just bring in external contractors to supply air cover as and when we need it?

All of this may sound a bit flippant, but in all honesty I'm really angry about this. Why is Britain so dependent on others for it's defence. Apart from tanks (and I believe they won't be around for long) we make nothing ourselves anymore - not even our own ammunition. This is ridiculous. I've nothing against Russian helicopters - they are very good - but the fact that we are nation dependent on other nations for our defence requirements is not good.

We should not be buying any foreign equipment for our armed forces. Everything should come from British firms. Can't do it? Why not? The French manage OK, why can't we?

A proper British government would recognise the need for our defence needs to be met - as much as possible - from British firms. If those firms do not exist, then the British government should create them. Yes, as nationalised industries eventually to be sold off (under strict terms to ensure they remain in British ownership) to private enterprise. Think of the benefits. Jobs, skills, industry, exports. We'd have a need for skilled engineers, avionics experts, aeronautical engineers, mechanical engineers. Maybe we could get a few young people to ditch their "media studies" degree and do something useful instead. We could site these industries where we want - the south west of England, north Wales, Northern Ireland. British people would benefit from British jobs producing British goods. We'd need steel - from British steel plants. Steel needs coal - from British mines. Workers need food - from British farms. This is what British government should do - look after British interests.

It wasn't that long ago that we had a defence industry to rival the best in the world. We made everything we needed - and we made them good. If anyone is seriously suggesting that we just can't do that any more then they are the real "Little Englanders". People whose opinion of their own nation is so low that they believe we can not compete with even the French.

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