The Independent on Sunday had a shocking report yesterday on an internal MoD document revealing the truly awful conditions our Armed Forces are forced to endure. It has emerged that not only are our soldiers housed in disgraceful slum conditions and sent to war with insufficient or unsuitable equipment, now growing numbers are having to borrow money from the Ministry of Defence just to be able to eat.
The Ministry of Defence has a large budget - not as large in terms of GDP share as many other countries or even compared to our own country a few years ago, but enough to set right the basic problem of low pay and provisioning for those at the sharp end.
That won't be set right, though, as long as the MoD's priorities and practices are so twisted. This is an organisation that spent £2.3 billion on its own office refurbishment, including £1,000-a-pop chairs, at a time when barracks' ceilings were falling in.
The Ministry's most monumental failure is in procurement, where time and again projects come in late, over budget and - worst of all - useless. One example is the Bowman digital radio system. Initially commissioned from one company, which proved unable to deliver on the contract, it was shifted to another. The second company found itself taking on a project someone else had agreed and thus asked for even more money and to remove various requirements from the contract. The eventual product was 10 years late, vastly over budget at a cost of £2.4 billion and too heavy for an ordinary soldier to carry. It was also too expensive to fit it in aircraft, despite ground to air communication being more essential than ever in our current engagements.
The problems our soldiers face is that whilst they themselves are extremely efficient, organised, professional and disciplined on the battlefield, the legions of civil servants who are supposed to support them are anything but. That those civil servants are pigging out in their refurbished cafeteria in between bouts of bungling billion pound supply contracts while soldiers literally can't afford to eat is disgusting.