Danny Alexander will today tell Parliament that £2.3bn of defence kit has been designated as “lost” for good, according to a splash in the Times today. The figure will emerge as part of the spring supplementary estimates* produced by all government departments this week.
That raises further questions about the £6.6bn of missing kit exposed by the National Audit Office in 2009.
Alex wrote at the time:
Misplaced stock includes £1.25bn of equipment deployed with troops, such as machine guns, night-vision goggles, encrypted radios and body armour. Defence officials were unable to account for £350m worth of fighting vehicles that were in theory being used for training and operations. The remaining unaccounted assets – worth more than £5bn – are predominantly raw materials and spare parts, ranging from bolts and oil to jet engines and propellers. Problems monitoring stocks of deployed kit have become particularly acute and the value of missing equipment has almost tripled this year. Defence officials say this is partly because of the intensity of operations in Afghanistan.
So what has happened? Have they found £4.3bn of the missing kit or is it still misplaced – and presumed still there? (Which would raise the possibility of future write-offs). Hopefully an explanation will emerge later today; or will we have to wait for the next NAO report?
* The MoD estimate will show that the value military equipment being scrapped in the coming years will be £12bn, according to the Times, although Malcolm Chalmers of the Royal United Services Institute says: “It is not a very helpful figure because it doesn’t tell you how it is calculated.”
The Telegraph meanwhile reports that the RAF is laying off 100 student pilots as the cuts start to bite.