UK military at risk as MoD facing £16.9bn shortfall in equipment budget - ‘Black hole’

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UK military at risk as MoD facing £16.9bn shortfall in equipment budget - ‘Black hole’

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Oliver Trapnell

By Oliver Trapnell

Published: 04/12/2023

- 22:47

Updated: 05/12/2023

- 07:49

The MoD has yet to receive any additional funding to make up for inflation

The MoD is facing a massive shortfall to the tune of billions of pounds as spending outpaces available resources, a Government watchdog has said.

According to a report by the National Audit Office (NAO), a “black hole” has been discovered in the armed forces equipment budget, totalling £16.9billion.

The sum equates to the largest budget deficit since the spending plan was published in 2012.

However, forecasts modelling the next few years predict the funding gap could balloon to as much as £29.8billion.

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“The MoD acknowledges that its equipment plan for 2023–2033 is unaffordable, with forecast costs exceeding its current budget by almost £17billion,” Gareth Davies, head of the NAO said.

“This is a marked deterioration in the financial position since the previous plan.”

Davies added that deferring choices on spending priorities would be damaging in the long run as the MoD would get worse value for money should programmes be cancelled, scaled down or deferred because they are unaffordable.

According to the report, inflation has contributed to the increased costs.

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However, the MoD has yet to receive any additional funding to make up for it.

A spokesperson for the MoD slapped down the claims, saying the NAO report was a “dated snapshot”.

“Whilst this report recognises the significant impact global headwinds and high inflation has had on UK defence, it does not and could not accurately reflect the current or future state of the Armed Forces Equipment Plan,” An MoD spokesperson said.

“The report is not based on a full Equipment Plan and is a dated snapshot from April 2023.”

The NAO’s report did not include the cost of projects outlined in the 2021 review and its accompanying papers.

The damning report comes after one of the UK’s most advanced nuclear submarines was relegated to prot while it awaits repairs.

HMS Audacious, the Royal Navy’s Astute-class nuclear-powered submarine, has been hailed as one of the most sophisticated underwater vehicles ever constructed.

However, an expert warned it was a “serious issue” for national security to have a submarine built to defend Britain shelved for a year while a dry dock capable of fixing the vessel is repaired.

National security fellow at the Council on Geostrategy William Freer, warned it was likely there were times when the UK had zero attack submarines in the water to defend the nation.

“The Astute-class submarines are one of the most capable underwater platforms in the world, but there is no point in having them if they are unable to be made ready in an acceptable time frame,” Freer told the Express.

“It is believed that there have been times this year when none of the Royal Navy’s attack submarines have been at sea, which is a serious risk.

“If the British public knows there are vulnerabilities from a lack of readiness in the Armed Forces, then the Russians and the Chinese will also definitely be aware.”

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