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British military spending branded as wasteful and out of control by lawmakers

12-15-2010 09:06 BJT

LONDON, Dec. 14 (Xinhua) -- British lawmakers on Tuesday branded the country's military spending as wasteful, out of control, and "entirely unacceptable."

A group of members of Parliament (MPs) delivered their critical verdict on the performance of officials at the Ministry of Defense (MOD), which oversees Britain's military activity, spending, strategy, and future weapons system developments.

They were especially critical of the contract to build two new, large aircraft carriers for the navy. The carriers, at 65,000 tonnes the largest ships yet built for the navy, were to replace a fleet of three smaller aircraft carriers, but the money to build them did not exist, according to the MPs.

They added that not only did the money not exist, no money was found later on to pay for the carriers' construction.

The MPs' report from the Public Accounts Committee said: "In 2008 the department signed a contract to buy new aircraft carriers which was unaffordable, without having identified compensating savings. Because these savings were not subsequently found, it was necessary within a year to delay the project, resulting in an enormous cost increase and poor value for money."

Both carriers will now be constructed, for delivery in 2016 and 2018, but Prime Minister David Cameron only spared them from the budget cuts applied across almost all parts of government spending, including military spending, because breaking the construction contracts would have been more expensive than honoring them.

The annual British military budget is 42 billion pounds (about 66.3 billion U.S. dollars), and the aircraft carriers will cost 5. 2 billion pounds.

Britain's finance minister, chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne, had strongly criticized the MOD after he took office in the wake of the formation of the coalition government in May 2010. He had been keen to tackle military overspending, and inefficiency in project management.

He had planned to cut between 10 and 20 percent off the military budget over the next four years, but settled in mid- October for a cut of 7.8 percent.

Margaret Hodge, the Public Accounts Committee chairman, said: " It is astonishing that the department has failed to develop a proper long-term financial strategy linking its funding to its core priorities and providing a clear basis for making cuts. Instead, it has managed to stay within budget each year by making short-term and ad hoc in-year decisions to cut programs and defer the acquisition of kit. These have led to inefficiency and even greater costs in the longer term."

The report highlighted "serious organizational failings" in the MOD. For example, the former Labor administration, which was in power between 1997 and May this year, had to ax training and close bases in order to increase its planned spending on fighting the war in Afghanistan.

Editor:Du Xiaodan |Source: Xinhua

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