Colonel Stuart Tootal: Brown is responsible for underfunding of troops

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The Independent Online

As one of those who participated in the invasion of Iraq in 2003, I would expect some pretty tough questioning of Gordon Brown at today's inquiry into the conflict with regard to the provisioning of our armed forces.

As the Chancellor, the now Prime Minister was ultimately responsible for the significant underfunding of the military at a time when we were deploying for war. The prospect of conflict in Iraq was known about months in advance, but much of the kit that we needed only reached us just before we crossed the desert border leaving us little time to train with it. Some never arrived at all and some of it, such as the Snatch Land Rovers we were forced to use, was very obviously sub-optimal.

It is true that the equipment situation in Afghanistan, in terms of weapons systems, better armoured vehicles and soldiers' individual kit has improved. But the consequence of a decade of underfunding is still all too readily apparent in other critical areas, such as helicopters; an area of deficiency identified in the Strategic Defence Review of 1998, but never made good despite the repeated demands of commanders; most notably in 2006 when UK troops first entered Helmand.

The Prime Minister must be pressed on why this was allowed to happen. Additionally, he must be asked if he agrees that the present procurement system still needs to be sharper and more responsive to meet the requests of commanders on the ground to ensure they get the kit, in the right quantities, when they ask for it both before and during operations.

Finally, he must be asked, if he remains in power after the next election, whether he will do something to bring about much-needed reform to the procurement process and defence funding in the forthcoming, and long overdue, Strategic Defence Review.

Colonel Stuart Tootal, who served in the invasion of Iraq, went on to command the 3rd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment during the initial push into Helmand, Afghanistan, before leaving the army

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