|...that base faces closure because Army can't afford to build a fence
(From yesterday's Torygraph)
The language is cold and bureaucratic, but the message is crystal clear - the Army is running out of cash and Britain's troops in Afghanistan and Iraq are paying the price.
In a confidential document, defence chiefs talk of "high impact" cost-cutting measures that will cause "some pain" and result "in severe impediment to the delivery of operational capability".
It is a far cry from the pledge made by the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, just four months ago, when he boasted that he was going to make an extra £1 billion available. The money, which came from a "special reserve", was meant to help the military to conduct peacekeeping operations around the world.
Now it seems that defence chiefs are being forced to pay for the Chancellor's unusual generosity by slashing military spending, closing bases and withdrawing equipment from service.
All of this is, according to some senior officers, "putting the lives of British servicemen at risk".
The Sunday Telegraph has learnt that the Land Command, the organisation responsible for ensuring that British troops are properly equipped and trained to fight anywhere in the world, has been ordered to cut more than £40 million from its budget in the next eight months.
Cuts to other departments in the Army, in addition to the Royal Navy and the RAF, are now expected, as the annual £1.3 billion costs of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan begin to bite into the defence budget.
The report, which is in the form of a "loose minute" with three annexes and is entitled "Financial Management 2006/07", reveals that:
• Repair budgets for Army tanks and artillery pieces will be slashed.
• Bases will be closed, "severely impeding" combat operations.
• Military exercises in Kenya and Canada will be cancelled or scaled down, leading to problems with training and morale.
• Funding for the Army's only multiple-launched rocket systems will cease, creating a 30-month capability gap.
• Missile systems will be withdrawn from service early, creating a 24-month capability gap.
• The stockpiling of ammunition for deployable brigades such as 16 Air Assault Brigade, currently in Afghanistan, and Apache helicopters, will be reduced.
• Recruitment to the Territorial Army will be "slowed".
• The money available to train University Officer Training Cadets will be capped.
The financial report was drawn up for Gen Sir Richard Dannatt, the commander-in-chief of Land Command.
The general is responsible for more than 70,000 servicemen and women, all of the Army's tanks, artillery and Apache attack helicopters, and has a budget of more than £3 billion - the largest in the Army.
Gen Dannatt, who is due to succeed Gen Sir Mike Jackson as chief of the general staff in the next few weeks, ordered the cuts to prevent further budget restrictions in the future. In the most damaging disclosure, the report states that the Army Base Repair Organisation, which is responsible for repairing the
Army's tanks, missiles systems and artillery pieces, will also have its budget slashed. The report describes this as a "high impact" measure.
The document also states that the predicted rise in the cost of utilities, such as fuel, water and electricity, will mean that several military facilities will have to close, resulting in a "severe impediment to the delivery of operational capability".
The funding crisis is now so severe that senior commanders across the Army have been ordered to organise meetings so that they can travel using "saver tickets".
The document reveals that the building of a security fence at the Army's Dishforth air base, which is the home of 9 Regiment Army Air Corps, where Apache attack helicopters are based, has been cancelled because of the cash crisis. The document goes on to say that the future of the base, in North Yorkshire, is now under review.
Funding will also cease for the Army's sophisticated Multiple Launched Rocket System, which can hit a target with an accuracy of 10 feet from a distance of 43 miles.
The document states that this will mean that, in an emergency, the Army could not deploy the weapon to either Iraq or Afghanistan.
In a recent article in a Ministry of Defence house magazine, Defence Logistics Organisation News, Gen Dannatt appeared to criticise Treasury policy when he compared the demand placed on the Army with the level of Government funding. He said that both Afghanistan and Iraq were proving to be "demanding" theatres and admitted that all the assumptions made about withdrawing troops from Iraq "had not been substantiated".
He went on: "[The Army] has huge demands placed upon us. We are finding ourselves quite finely balanced and taut, added to which is the problem that defence is not financially over-resourced at the moment."
Defence spending has long been a running sore with many senior officers