If one decides to take a seat and reflect on what makes Britain British (sorry for the Cameron paraphrasing), the military is quite possibly one of the first things that springs to mind. However in a recession as big as the one we are in at the moment, can our country possibly afford it?
Although many people will try to tell you how stretched our military is feeling at the moment, I would like to invite them to explain how we can possibly be given we are currently not fighting any wars, nor personally involved in any conflict. The military’s job basically consists of fighting in conflicts, so surely when we have no conflict we don’t need to spend any money on the military. Or do we?
I would also like to draw your attention to the success rate of the British military in the last few years. Libya has fallen back into the hands of terrorists, Afghanistan is struggling to keep control of its capital city and Iraq has a major humanitarian crisis on its hands. Not exactly an excellent set of outcomes…
But as the title suggests, this article isn’t really about analysing the success of the military, but about looking at how much they spend. I thought that real figures would help us to understand this issue, but what I found was truly shocking. If I said that in 2013 Britain spent £57.9 billion (yes, billion), you would probably be shocked. However what is perhaps more shocking is that as the recession continues, military spending increases! In 2014 the country spent £61.8 billion-just £8.2 billion less than Russia.
To put these figures into perspective, the govenment spent around £18 billion on social security benefits last year. They even spent less on education (approximately £53 billion)! So why are we spending so much on our military? Well it turns out that our friends at NATO have a little quota, apparently, and they think that we must spend at least 2% of our GDP (that’s all of the country’s wealth) on military. How helpful!
However if our military is effective then it is worth the investment, isn’t it? But not surprisingly, looking at where the money goes is quite interesting. Last year the military overspent its allowance by £15 billion-that’s enough to run 30 hospitals the size of Derriford for a year! £1.1 million of this went on headsets for planes which weren’t suitable and ended up being thrown away. There are other unbelievable examples cropping up in the news each day, just to add insult to injury.
However the military is one of the country’s biggest employers. It currently employs around 157,000 personnel, with an additional 75,000 reserve personnel. But these people aren’t as happy as they used to be. According to figures obtained from HM Government the percentage of employees who were satisfied with service life has fallen from over 60% in 2010 to less than 50% last year. We have to scrutinise an organisation that ends up spending more money each year while making its staff (or what’s left of them) less and less happy. Where is the money going?
So, in short, our military employs less personnel each year, is involved in less conflict, has fewer satisfied employees and spends more and more taxpayers money as time goes on. Someone needs to explain this one to me, and I don’t see Michael Fallon offering any solutions…