Channel 4 : Despatches – How the MoD Wastes Our Billions

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 07:  A soldier takes...
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Channel 4’s flagship investigative programme ran this week with an ‘expose’ of billions wasted on defence spending. Whilst this is not news and watching the 60 minute slot did not throw up too may surprises, this was a well written  – and thoroughly depressing – journey through the farce that is British defence procurement. Shame that the producers opted to cover a large chunk of the airtime with very-hard-on-the-eyes soft- or out of focus dramatised inserts. Bloody annoying, distracting and pointless additions to an otherwise interesting series of interviews and talking points.

Timed to splash ahead of the Strategic Defence Review, the programme was produced and directed by Richard Sanders, competing with the BBC’s 30 minute Panorama in the same slot. Written and presented by war correspondent Sam Kiley, the programme included such worthies as Michael Portillo, neatly sidestepping any culpability for procurement balls-ups with some conviction.

20,000 Mandarins To Buy For 10,000 Troops

There were two significant points raised by the programme for me. Reported elsewhere is a figure of 10,000 “front line troops” in our armed forces. Against this, Kiley reported that the MoD not only has a huge, purpose built, bright and spangly Bristol office but that the Ministry employs 20,000 people within it purely for procurement.

The second was the media-friendly and politically-savvy Sir Richard Dannatt – former Chief of the General Staff – losing his cool and allowing the reality of the inter-services rivalry to show all too clearly. He revealed how he “told” the RAF that the Army would be flying any middle-weight utility helicopter selected for purchase, not them. The choice of a sooped up version of the sprightly but aging Lynx,  ahead of far more appropriate alternatives, because of this very same pissing contest beggars belief.

The programme has already caused some comment from the blogosphere. Some interesting snippets here .