Over the last year the poor quality of housing provided for those in the forces, and the snails pace of improvements, has been an ongoing scandal. There are persistent worries about equipment shortages - over the weekend we heard that only one third of the helicopters vital to operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are operational. The Commons Defence Committee has reported, today, that particular pressure is being put on soldiers are not being given sufficient time at home - the Times says:
"Under Harmony Guidelines no one in the Army should spend more than 415 days away from home in any 30-month period. But as at March 31, 2007, 13.4 per cent of personnel had exceeded the guidelines."
This is all a result of poor management of the armed forces. Proper planning should have made it clear that the armed forces were going to be under particular pressure with big commitments in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as smaller operations elsewhere. There are 72,890 Civil Servants in the Ministry of Defence (XLS) who, between them, should be able to deliver a more efficient use of what is a substantial budget and a Government that, when committing soldiers to war, should ensure that they have the resources in place to do so. Their failure will create long-term problems for the armed forces as experienced soldiers leave, again from the Times report on the Defence Committee study:
"MoD figures show that last year 4.3 per cent of officers and 5.8 per cent of other ranks in the Army left early. The latter figure is nearly 1 per cent higher than normal."