Ministry of Defence plans for state-the-art kit are 'unaffordable' , public spending watchdog finds

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Ministry of Defence plans for state-the-art kit are 'unaffordable' , public spending watchdog finds

Ministry of Defence plans for state-the-art kit from jet fighters to frigates are ‘unaffordable’ despite £16.5bn cash boost, public sp

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Ministry of Defence plans for state-the-art kit from jet fighters to frigates are ‘unaffordable’ despite £16.5bn cash boost, public spending watchdog finds

  • Ministry of Defence must make ‘tough decisions’ about future equipment plans  
  • The equipment plan has been labelled unaffordable by the National Audit Office
  • The MoD produced the 10-year plan before the extra funding announced by PM

Plans to have state-of-the-art defence kit are still unaffordable despite a huge cash boost, according to the public spending watchdog.

The Ministry of Defence must make ‘tough decisions’ about its future equipment plans in the face of a funding black hole of up to £17.4 billion, it said.

For the fourth successive year the equipment plan – covering projects from jet fighters to frigates – has been labelled unaffordable by the National Audit Office.

Even the injection of £16.5 billion extra defence spending announced by Boris Johnson in November may not fill the hole as some of that four-year package will be spent on developing new capabilities not included in the plan.

For the fourth successive year the equipment plan - covering projects from jet fighters to frigates - has been labelled unaffordable by the National Audit Office. Pictured: British Royal Navy Type 23 frigate HMS Sutherland

For the fourth successive year the equipment plan – covering projects from jet fighters to frigates – has been labelled unaffordable by the National Audit Office. Pictured: British Royal Navy Type 23 frigate HMS Sutherland

The equipment plan covers the period from 2020 to 2030 and has an estimated cost of £197.4 billion, covering equipment already in use such as the F-35 Lightning II jets and projects still in development including the Type 26 global combat ship.

While the MoD estimates the shortfall in funding as being £7.3 billion, it could be as high as £17.4 billion in a worst-case scenario.

NAO chief Gareth Davies said: ‘To date, the MoD’s fundamental problem has been that the cost of delivering its ambition far exceeds its available budget.’

The MoD produced the 10-year plan before the extra funding announced by the Prime Minister.

The MoD produced the 10-year plan before the extra funding announced by the Prime Minister

The MoD produced the 10-year plan before the extra funding announced by the Prime Minister

Mr Davies said: ‘The Government’s announcement of additional investment gives the MoD an opportunity to develop a more balanced equipment programme.

‘It now needs to make tough decisions on its priorities, if it is to avoid a continuation of the increasing cost pressures we have seen in recent years.’

Meg Hillier, chairwoman of the Commons Public Accounts Committee said the extra funding announced in November gives the MoD ‘some much-needed breathing space, but it may not be enough to develop the capabilities the armed forces need to do their job’.

Shadow defence secretary John Healey accused ministers of ‘badly mismanaging’ the budget and said the delayed integrated review of defence and foreign policy must set out what is required of the armed forces

Shadow defence secretary John Healey accused ministers of ‘badly mismanaging’ the budget and said the delayed integrated review of defence and foreign policy must set out what is required of the armed forces

The MoD ‘still has to make hard-headed decisions about what it can afford’ and “the Equipment Plan needs to be more than just a wish list, reliant on nebulous ‘efficiency savings” to make the sums add up’.

Shadow defence secretary John Healey accused ministers of ‘badly mismanaging’ the budget and said the delayed integrated review of defence and foreign policy must set out what is required of the armed forces.

‘The £17 billion black hole weakens the foundations for upgrading Britain’s defences and leaves the armed forces scrabbling to find short-term savings,’ Mr Healey said.

‘There are big decisions that can no longer be ducked in the Integrated Review, including on tanks, aircraft for our carriers and the size of the armed forces.’

A MoD spokesman said: ‘Defence secured a substantial settlement over four years in order to restore financial sustainability and the Defence Secretary has committed to matching ambition with resource for future equipment plans.’ 

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