UK DEFENCE – OF MICE AND MEN
By Howard Wheeldon, FRAeS, Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd.
20 Aug 13. Two specific issues will be covered in this short paper in response to recent events. The first will briefly touch on the proposed sale of historic MoD property assets and the second will comment on a report published in the ‘Mail on Sunday’ that having spent £70m in redundancy payments to get rid of civil service staff at its Abbey Wood procurement headquarter the MOD is now spending as much as £40m to persuade many of them to come back!
Still not content with the ‘slash and burn’ tactics that by 2015 will have seen real UK military equipment and manpower capability cut by around a third whilst leaving the mission unchanged in a last desperate quest to raise funds our MoD masters have finally apparently decided that the old ‘War Office’ building should be put up for sale along with that of the former Brompton Road underground station which, having closed in 1935, was later commandeered by War Department and is still in use today including use as a base for 46F (Kensington) Squadron Air Cadets.
Figures banded around over the weekend suggest that the vast but beautifully designed century old War Office building in Whitehall with its two miles of internal corridors and one thousand rooms will probably raise £100m for Secretary of State Philip Hammond’s coffers and that the Brompton Tube Station site which is close to Brompton Oratory will likely raise at least £10m.
Not for nothing does Mr. Hammond have the nickname of ‘Forensic Phil’ and one may be entitled to wonder what further depths he might yet stoop too in the quest to undermine the UK defence portfolio and other crucial military assets. Perhaps the old Admiralty building located across the road from the War Office in Whitehall with its fine dining room and first floor flat that was until recent times used by the Secretary of State for Defence might be next on the fire sale list? I can have no idea on what future plans are but whilst I am content that Mr. Hammond should lose the former War Office building from the defence portfolio I dislike the thought that yet another big piece of Whitehall is to be sold off by the state into private hands.
I assume and certainly hope that the War Office building is listed meaning that whoever acquires this of national history next year will be limited in the amount of internal building destruction that they can do. And what will the money raised from these various sales likely be used for? I fear that rather than being used to acquire defence equipment or into much needed research and development spend the money eventually raised will most likely go straight into the hands of the Treasury in the certain hope that this will at some point further Mr. Hammond’s own political career.
I am not in the habit taking pot shots at individuals particularly those in defence. Neither do I have any real or particular problem that property assets owned by the Ministry of Defence and that have become redundant and surplus to requirements being sold off provided always that there is no longer a real or projected future need for them.
With SDSR 2015 now less than two years away we can be in little doubt that in the quest for more capability cuts this will provide scope for a further reduction in the number of military bases, land and buildings.
No doubt just as Mr. Hammond does I also hate to see unused assets being retained and money being wasted and thrown down the drain which is why when I saw a report in the Mail on Sunday that the MoD has/will spend “£40 million rehiring an army of civil servants just months after it made 2,300 staff at the Defence Equipment and Supply (DE&S) procurement operation site at Abbey Wood Bristol redundant at a cost of £70 million I am bound to think that something has gone very badly wrong. Many of those that departed Abbey Wood are reported by the paper to have walked away with redundancy p