Ex-Army chief hits out at ‘cocooned’ MoD

By Alex Stevenson

Former head of the Army General Sir Richard Dannatt has suggested “vested interests” within the Ministry of Defence (MoD) let down troops on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The general, who has faced accusations of becoming politicised both while in Whitehall and afterwards because of his involvement as an advisor to the Conservative party before the general election, has long been an outspoken critic of the Army’s underfunding.

In his memoirs Leading From The Front, which are being serialised by the Telegraph newspaper, he accused the MoD of prioritising its own turf wars over the wider struggle against the Taliban and Iraqi insurgents.

“The sad reality of that time was that much of the MoD, in its Byzantine way, was conducting business as usual, in a cocooned environment far distant from the harsh reality experienced by our soldiers on the front line of Helmand or Basra Palace,” he wrote.

“Sadly, the protection of vested interests within and between the services, others relating to industry or others with a political flavour, seemed to rank higher than the need to succeed in the field.”

Gen Dannatt attacked former prime minister Tony Blair for lacking the “moral courage” to challenge his chancellor, Gordon Brown, over restricted spending on the armed forces.

He said the latter’s “malign” influence blocked the funds needed for the MoD to fulfill the requirements placed upon it by the strategic defence review.

The ex-Army chief also attacked the systemic lack of understanding caused by successive defence secretaries.

“To put the point bluntly, it took me 37 years to be ready to command the Army; I am the first to recognise that it is a terribly tall order to ask very competent lawyers like Geoff Hoon or Des Browne to grasp the essentials in 37 hours,” he added.

This perspective did not limit his frustrations over former defence secretary Des Browne, however, whom he briefed upon taking on the role in 2006.

“How much of my letter he understood I never really knew,” he noted. “I think the wider issues passed him by completely.”