NIS researcher Steven Hendry on the latest row over the cost of replacing the UK's nuclear weapons.
The programme to renew the UK's nuclear weapons system has taken a further twist this week with reports that Defence Secretary Liam Fox is attempting to pass the costs of replacement to the Treasury and off of the MoD's budget.
Against the backdrop of a third delay in the initial gate decision on the new nuclear programme – now deferred until the end of this year – Fox on Tuesday reiterated his belief that the current defence spending programme was “entirely unaffordable” and that amongst other challenges the department faces, there would need to be action to “ensure that the MoD financial management arrangements are effective.”
Moreover, the MoD's financial management has taken a further hit today with a critical report by the National Audit Office suggesting that the MoD must stop “living beyond its means' and predicting that the department will overspend it budget for this financial year by £500 million.
Faced with reductions in its budget and massive overspend it would seem that the MoD's approach to effective financial management is to make someone else pick up the bill for replacing Trident.
Refusing to include new nuclear weapons in the Strategic Defence Review appears to be another example of poor financial management. With budgets tightening and the UK's continued commitments in Afghanistan every item of equipment purchased by the MoD should be scrutinised for its strategic value. To leave out Trident's successor, which will become the biggest single item of expenditure is nonsensical. As Sir Menzies Campbell and an increasing number of critics are saying, Trident and its replacement should be included in the defence review.