Ministry of Defence must sell-off assets to stay ‘fighting fit’

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Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, will say that the government must “sweat our buildings and land” to support the armed forces and balance the books

The Ministry of Defence must prepare to sell off airfields, old barracks and military vehicles to help keep the Armed Forces “fighting fit” and supply those on the front-line with the equipment they need, Michael Fallon will say on Wednesday.

The Defence Secretary is expected to say that despite significant savings the “job is far from over” and the government must “sweat our buildings and land” to support armed forces personnel.

He will say that the armed forces has already “got rid of” old property including disused barracks, a country house, polo fields, the Old War Office and Brompton Road underground station for £380 million.

He will add that the Ministry of Defence needs to “ask more questions about our assets” including 57 separate sites within the M25 while asking how many airfields and military vehicles are needed.

It comes as the size of the army is being cut by a fifth to 82,000 and David Cameron has repeatedly refused to commit to maintaining Britain’s defence spending at 2 per cent of the country’s Budget after the election.

Mr Fallon is expected to say in a speech at the Institute for Governmenti n London: “The job’s far from over. With continuing demands on our resources, with the cost of manpower and equipment rising, and with competition from emerging nations increasing efficiency in defence cannot be a one-off.

“As in any big organisation MOD must not merely be match-fit it must be permanently fit. Every year we should be looking to take out unnecessary cost, to improve productivity, and to sweat our buildings and land so we can better support the front line.

“Over the past four and a half years we have shaken up the system, made big savings, and delivered capabilities. All this while meeting NATO’S 2 per cent and 20 per cent targets. Today Defence is fighting fit with a balanced budget able to invest in the kit and people we need to keep Britain safe.”

He will contrast the government’s current approach with that of the previous labour government. He will say: “In 2010 we inherited a chaotic legacy with a £38 billion budget black hole, taxpayers shouldering the cost of overruns and a culture beset by the inability to take tough and timely decisions.

“The results of our reforms are clear – now there is a balanced budget, cost savings and equipment programmes that are overwhelmingly on time.”

He will say that Britain’s needs to go further in “rationalising our defence estate”.

He will say: “We have got rid of old property we don’t need. Whether it’s an old barracks, a country house, some polo fields, the Old War Office or Brompton Road tube station sold for £53m. That approach has generated sales of nearly £380 million.

“We’ve taken the same tack with equipment selling 123 surplus armoured vehicles to the Latvian Army and bringing in almost £40 million and strengthening friendship with a critical Nato ally. Now we need to ask more questions about our assets – do we need 57 separate sites within the M25, how many airfields do we need, how many cars and vehicles do we need, and how do we go further in rationalising our defence estate?”

The Telegraph
Steven Swinford 
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