6 July 2010

Trimming de fat from de DoD

Earlier this year the former Chief of the Australian Army, Lieutenant
General Peter Leahy, suggested that the Department of Defence's annual
budget of $27 billion should be cut and the money directed to diplomacy
and foreign aid. This amazingly sensible proposal takes into account the
fact that the current role of our defence force is not to prepare for
some sort of invasion from China or Indonesia, but to stabilise
countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq, where militant factions and
political instability currently serves as both an indictment of the
West's wars in these regions, and a base for terrorism. When it comes to
stabilising a country, erecting a fortified structure in an area like
Tarin Kowt, running daily patrols, finding the odd 'Improvised Explosive
Device' and shooting a few goat-herds turned Taliban guerrillas will
probably cost more, and achieve less, than putting diplomatic pressure
on Afghanistan to adhere to transparent political practices while giving
them concrete aid to do so.
Leahy's proposal was picked up and run with by exactly no-one, despite
the fact that in the preceding months a number of negative reports about
DoD spending had hit the news. These included:
- The National Auditor, following up on a 2006 audit, found that the
Defence Materiel Organisation (the bit of the DoD that buys the bullets)
had failed to tighten its procurement process, despite promises in 2006
that it would. The audit also found $1.2 billion worth of munitions were
not ready for battle, being either broken, in need of maintenance, or
past their use-by-dates.
- The fact that the DoD has replaced its fleet of Leopard-class tanks
(which had never seen battle, Australia never having been invaded by
land) with a fleet of 59 second-hand Abrams-class tanks at a cost of
$550 million, despite the fact that these tanks were prone to engine fires.
- The revelation that, in line with the DoD having to publish all
private sector contracts worth more than $10,000 to the internet:
a) $37,000 had been spent on horse transport. The private
contractor named had no record of said contract.
b) $30,000 had been spent on "stuff" from a marketing and
promotions company.
c) $33,000 had been spent on hiring a Lear jet. The private
contractor named had no record of said contract.
d) $250,000 had been spent for one night at the Hyatt Regency Hotel
in Adelaide. The Hyatt had no record of this contract.
Such waste and lack of concern for public accountability is more
important than the non-issue of Asylum-Seekers which is currently the
focus of public debate. The DoD obviously has money to burn. The
Australian people need to take back $7 billion or so and direct it in a
smarter and more productive direction.

1 comment:

timoti said...

deary me what is this, investigative journalism?

its crazy how completely removed defence is from the budgetry constraints that all other departments face.