What sort of operation is Liam Fox running?
It’s hard not to have some sympathy with him, dealt a pretty tough hand of cards by the previous shower, presiding over a basket case MoD and held hostage by the needs of the coalition, but, the talk of tough decisions, sacred cow massacres and making every penny count all seems to be a bit hollow.
When there is a need to save big amounts you can almost understand the logic behind getting rid of whole equipment types but for the small amounts you really do have to question the decisions. We have already questioned the decision to delete a supremely useful Bay Class to save less than £20 million a year but this next decision is another ‘spit your coffee out’ moment.
One such inexplicable decision is the closure of BATSUB or less snapily, the British Army Training Support Unit Belize. BATSUB is located at Price Barracks next tothe airport in Belize City and provides a range of training but focussing mainly on operations in jungle terrain to about 3,000 personnel per year. BATSUB will be reduced to a skeleton staff of just 10. It will be possible to regenerate in the future and there might be other locations but realistically, how likely is this.
The withdrawal from Belize will be greeted with howls of protest from the local brothels but can we really not afford to run a jungle training location.
Of course we can bloody well afford it, reducing training is a soft option, it avoids tough decisions but it always bites you in the arse later.
It might be a bit hackneyed to attack the overseas aid budget so how about a new target, The UK Natural Environment Research Council’s (NERC) new research ship, RRS Discovery is currently under construction in Vigo, how much, a snip at £75million or about 8 years of BATSUB running costs. This of course contrasts quite neatly with the shoestring budget for the HMS Endurance replacement.
What else does £9m a year buy, a group of shiny red aircraft for poncing around at air shows. Before anyone moans, yes I know they are a valuable recruiting tool and yes I know they offer training opportunities but at a cost of £8.8million per year what do you think offers the best contribution to the defence mission.
Option A, a unique training opportunity for 3,000 personnel a year
Option B, the Red Arrows
We could always close down a load of Coastguard stations to save a few quid, oops, too late for that idea.
Not of all these are under Liam Fox’s control but taking the decision to reduce training in favour of a display team really does beggar belief and don’t even get me started on ceremonial.
I have got a great idea, let’s save on blank ammunition and instruct recruits (sorry, soldier under training) to shout bang instead*
They say there is nothing new under the sun, shouting bang instead of using blank has been done before.