Ex-Army chief slams 'Byzantine' MoD
Published 05/09/2010 | 23:52
The former head of the Army, General Sir Richard Dannatt, has launched an attack on Ministry of Defence bureaucrats, accusing them of being detached from the reality of life for frontline troops.
Gen Dannatt, who was Chief of General Staff from 2006-09, described the MoD as a "Byzantine" department which operates in a "cocooned environment" and puts vested interests ahead of the needs of troops, meaning "the man on the ground has been short-changed".
He claimed the Whitehall department did not even take the decision to make its primary focus "strategic success" in Afghanistan and Iraq "in the context of countering global terrorism" until an away-day in 2006 - years after the conflicts began.
Gen Dannatt's book, Leading From The Front, is being serialised in the Daily Telegraph. In the first excerpts, he branded Gordon Brown a "malign" influence for failing to fund the armed forces adequately and condemned Tony Blair's lack of "moral courage" for failing to force his chancellor to do so.
In new extracts, he turned his fire on officials, claiming that it "defied logic" that they were unable to clarify MoD priorities in Iraq and Afghanistan until the 2006 away day. Even then "much of the MoD, in its Byzantine way, was conducting business as usual, in a cocooned environment far distant from the harsh reality experienced by our soldiers", he said.
Gen Dannatt described how a plan for troops to be supplied with new armoured vehicles collapsed nine years after being agreed, and how it "nearly broke my heart" to see American forces operating with exactly the kind of equipment that was needed.
He said he pleaded with then defence secretary Des Browne in 2006 for helicopters and patrol vehicles. And he suggested that much-needed equipment of this type was delayed because of the MoD's focus on expensive long-term projects like fighter jets.
"The protection of vested interests" in industry and politics "seemed to rank higher than the need to succeed in the field", wrote the general.
And he suggested that the MoD lacked political leadership because defence secretaries like Mr Browne and Geoff Hoon were lawyers who did not understand the military.
Gen Dannatt argued that the Government should "replace the idea of a 'balanced force' with something more akin to a 'relevant force'," which would require some expensive items to be scrapped.