back to article Arms biz: Your taxes mainly go on our fat salaries! Ha ha!

Yesterday the UK's arms industry launched its renewed pitch for more government money. Shooting themselves in the foot somewhat, assembled weapons-biz kingpins revealed that - by their own estimation - the UK taxpayer is already supporting at least twice as many well-paid British arms workers as there are (poorly-paid) soldiers …

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Anonymous Coward

Move on

Ah well, nothing new there then.

It is good to see the UK consistent in something?

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Thumb Up

Lions screwed by Fat Cats?

Good stuff Lewis.

Although as an ex GEC / BAe worker I would point out that it's the bosses who get fat salaries, nice little share deals etc rather than the workers. Although we did earn rather better than the "end users"

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Bronze badge

No economist

A simplistic analysis by Lewis who I think hasn't learnt much about the nature of modern warfare. Firstly, it's not obvious that paying the salaries of US highly paid arms workers and salesman that there UK ones is any great gain. After all, at least those paid salaries in the UK and their employers get to pay some of that back in tax. The issues of the net cost to the economy need to be looked at too, Perhaps this analysis ought to consider how many US workers there are in the arms industry.

The second point is that modern warfare. as conducted by western countries. is a highly capital intensive business. The first and second world wars were conducted as much in the factories and industries of the combatant countries as in the field. I'm not sure what the ratio was between WWII workers in arms factories, shipyards, support industries and the like compared to the numbers in the armed services, but I rather suspect it was much higher than you would suspect. These were wars of national logistics, economic, industrial and technological resources rather than just those of armed services.

If you want to take this to a far more logical conclusion over cost effectiveness of military hardware supplies, you might like to consider the way it is done in consumer goods. I'm sure the huge workforces of China, India and other workshops of the world could supply a lot of very high tech equipment, including the research, much cheaper than the US. Of course take this to an even more logical conclusion, and you'd outsource the whole ground-fighting, although no doubt Joanna Lumley would undermine that (one of the things that Western governments have lost the knack of is getting client states to do their dirty work - the fight against Napolean was financed by Georgian commerce and trade).

The UK is already suffering hugely from an imbalanced economy following this self same line that others can produce things cheaper and better than us. We see it in IT, in the car industry and much else. Only in a very few are we competitive (like the pharmaceutical industry). The real problem is sorting out industry and not what amounts to a dialogue of despair.

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Grenade

Soldier's Pay

Yet again the old lie that soldiers' pay is ridiculously low is trotted out. Two things make this utter rubbish.

1. This is the base rate. Only soldiers on initial training receive this rate. Beyond that there are a host of operational payments (6 flights home a year, living in a danger area etc.) which take the average pay up to around 50% more.

2. Comparing this with a person who has to pay for their accommodation and food is not a true comparison. £14k is a lot of money if you have no rent to pay, no utility bills, no food costs.

Stop this underpaid rubbish. It devalues the rest of your publication.

Peter

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Grenade

in short: use money for more useful things

<rant on>

I'd like to see a comparison between the money wasted in the UK for military expenditures and the money wasted by other European countries that don't have the "warrior spirit" (as you say) or "interests abroad" or more simply don't feel compelled to support the US military view of the world.

With that money we could give decent state pensions to elderly people, better education to the young citizens (rather than alcohol asbos) and have a better NHS.

Finally, a smaller military also meant that we would not need to brainwash the youth into the "joy of combat and military action", which is another major advantage for a civilised country.

<rant off>

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Grenade

Wrong math

Police constables do not have full accommodation and food paid for. Neither have defence workers.

So comparing a soldier (or even an officer's) salary to the salary of a civilian without taking all benefits into account gives a very wrong impression about "underpaid". On top of that, there is no tax on the salary during abroad postings and so on.

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Black Helicopters

graphs

If only we could replace all these expensive bureaucratic descision makers with one big computer system capable of monitoring everything like one big net in the sky.

How does the number of civies compare with americas are there figures for that? Are these people working in R&D, boot camps and manning ports etc or are they all accountants. It would be nice to have a pie chart showing a breakdown of job roles here and in america.

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Grenade

Opium or Oil

In future years we will be able to look back with hindsight and simply follow the money but we can't do that yet.

"Other qualities we might desire in a future Afghan state - democracy, rule of law, decent treatment for women, lower heroin exports..."

Well, under the Taliban, you could forget the first three. As we're probably all aware, heroin production in Afghanistan went UP after we invaded. I'm not saying that the UK government has any vested interest in the opium trade...

On the other hand there is the possibility of running that oil pipeline to Turkey that we've wanted for so long...

Let me put it another way. The UK Government doesn't give a damn about democracy or human rights. If it did then there would be far more obvious targets than Afghanistan. They don't care too much about treatment of women either for the same reasons. So what is the real reason that we're in Afghanistan? To waste money? I think not. There has to be a profit there somewhere!

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Joke

take on the job seriously

If the Go vermin decided to finish it (Ha!) then their mateys in industry would have to find another income stream and that wouldn't be fair, especially after the wad that was thrown at RBS, (etc) directors, etc.

As a person with a disability who's benefits and health provision has been cut by draconian (under paid) civil servants, I know exactly where the Go vermin are getting the money to finance the war on terror.

I also know too that the war on terror is being carried on at my own doorstep by me, without any weaponry.

I'm fighting front line actions every day against local factions of the infamously unholy Income Support, DLA, Social Security, Benefits Agency Medical Examiners (who say you're still fit to work in the none existent jobs, whilst in excruciating pain - even though your taking the strong hypnotic pain killing medication), CAB, Housing Benefits Office, The Tribunals Service, Primary Care Trust (who say you can't have the required treatment, even though your doctor recommends you have it), PCSO's, Traffic Wardens, jacked up parking fees and yellow lines and signs put up everywhere. And MP's and police officers who completely disregard their highly paid, specialist advisers, as well as the letter of the law.

PS, does anyone who know where Gordon left the public encryption keys ?

Yes, you'll find them close to critical mass (no, not Gordon slagging off God). I'm talking about the runaway information systems, being driven by those boxticky twats that cannot deal with you if you don't fit into one of the round holes on their screen. They seem to be forming into a herd which is set to stampede all over our beleaguered yet once beautiful Blighty.

Seriously, what the f*ck is serious ?

Oh yes, NIS.

ALF

PPS I have some water bombs going cheap !

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Anonymous Coward

Our early-thirties sergeant is looking at compulsory retirement when he hits forty

There's no job for life for him.

There is, in the defence industry.

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IT Angle

perpetual motion?

If there are 2.5 times as many defence workers as soldiers, and they pay around 40% tax, that would mean that they completely pay for an equally well paid army. And perhaps foreigners would pay dollars for some excess equipment. As you increase the number of defence workers, you can afford a larger army.

It still needs paying for? How about a cash for clunkers programme for the military? Or moving half the MoD to Afganistan, where they can be directly useful?

This article, and my musings, is what Creative Arithmetic (politics equivalent to Modern Maths) is all about.

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Grenade

Following this logic why buy from the USA at all?

Russian gear is cheaper anyway.

And a lot of it is being used on the ground under charter already. To put it bluntly for the type of enemy we face in Afganistan using American gear is a vast overkill and waste of money. The Taleban have no AAA, no early warning radards, no aircraft, etc. Against an enemy like this a 1970-es helicopter is as effective as the most recent superadvanced one.

For the cost of an American (not even talking about British assembled) Apache one can buy a whole squadron of Mi24 Hinds with twice the firepower each to total of 20+ times more firepower.

So frankly, using any helicopters besides Russian there is outright stupid. Most of the stuff in question is manufactured in NATO countries like Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria or Checz republic anyway. So not like we will be sourcing from the "Enemy".

Same for land gear. A Snatch Landrover is not a match even to a 1960-es BMP. Never was, never will be. Same for transport aviation. Same for...

One who cannot remember history is condemned to repeat it.

The Soviet Afghan war was only 20 years ago and we have already forgotten it. Even with their relatively low equipment and supply costs it became a significant contributor to the bankrupcy of the USSR and we still have happy neo-cons trumpeting about this tremendous success. So what do we do 20 years later? We try to go and f*** fight the same war with 10-times higher costs per unit of ammo delivered on target. Yeah, right, successfully winning it... Some other time... Unless we drop the costs by 10+ times this war is doomed for purely economical reasons.

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Anonymous Coward

The economics of QE

I think you completely misunderstand their pitch.

Bank of England pulls some 'magic money' from its ass, it buys gilts (government debt), government spends it on the country, as long as 100% of that money goes into growing the UK domestic economy, then sterling grows by the corresponding value and foreign creditors don't feel like they've been ripped off by currency dilution.

So the game is to find domestic spending. This is what the US did, it created a huge standing army, and weapons manufacture can't be exported to China because China is the scary enemy. So the money stays mostly in the US.

In this scenario, soldiers are leakage. They go abroad, they fight wars, eat abroad, spend abroad, live abroad. The US created discount shops in army bases abroad. So if you go to Germany, each army base typically has it's own retailers, car dealers etc. who all sell in US$ tax free but only to soldiers, they are self contained outposts of the US economy. Thus even the foreign US army bases are structured to minimize leakage.

So what the weapons biz is saying is "look at us, we employ a lot of UK people, we are a domestic industry and we also bring in a little revenue, stick your QE money here and we'll keep it in the UK! Your perpetual motion machine will run for longer if the money goes to us rather than the army."

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Silver badge
Megaphone

EPIC FAIL DOESN'T EVEN BEGIN TO TELL THE TALE

Outsourcing military anything leaves one at the mercy of Capitalist Greed and is the dumbest of moves imaginable..... for one then depends upon the vagaries of the Markets and Gamblers.... Mavericks, for the Supply of Goods which are built to the lowest price whilst professing to be to the highest spec........ and that is an impossiblity in the making.

And it creates virtual armies bereft of military discipline running amok and traumatised by their experiences.

AND I MAKE NO APOLOGIES FOR SHOUTING.

But then War is a Crime against Humanity anyway and yet the stupidest of Politicians appear to be able to Order it with Immunity and Impunity whereas anyone else is liable to be shot dead to silence their Madness. Maybe that is a Loophole which needs to be Plugged Immediately with a Fair and Equitable Similar Sanction being Applied. It would very quickly discourage the Madness and Rid Society of Such Useless Tools and Myopic Psychotic Fools? All men are equal would then ring truer, rather than some thinking that they can do anything without regard to the elimination and prevention of suffering to innocent others.

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Anonymous Coward

Many years back...

... my company supplied a department of the MoD with a pro-forma for some goods.

They paid.

We sent the goods and a receipt / full invoice.

They paid again...

We tried to repay the money - after a couple of weeks and much correspondence (mostly along the lines of "It would take more effort than it's worth" from the department) we gave up and accounted it as a contribution from HMG.

It wasn't a large amount but how many other similar cases are there? Not to mention "leakage" and mis-spend on projects.

Perhaps if all these areas were made "leak-proof" and totally accountable they wouldn't need to ask for more money.

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@Al Fazid

Your water bombs probably contain baby chickens....

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Grenade

All as bad as each other

Week after week we get the same scripted stuff about getting Helo's out to "Our Boys" and it's all the fault of the big bad MOD and the contractors, but the Armed forces themselves need to lok at what they are doing with the kit that they already have.

We have people being blown to bits in Vikings and Jackals on an almost daily basis, and all we get from the army is that they value the ability to manevure over protection (Look at the jackal, you're right over the front axle with nothing between your arse and a buried artillery shell, but it is built in Blighty, so it must be good)

We have the papers screaming about how bad the Vikings are (designed to zip aroud Norway) and how they aren't being replaced quickly enough, but the Mastiff is so large and heavy it needs to travel on roads, which are lacking in Afghanistan. In addition the roads that are there tend to be mined beyond belief, sometimes even within sight of British bases (Please read the MIchael Yon reports from Afghanistan, it gives you a glimpse of the challenges faced out there)

This then brings us to the staple of the UK press that if the roads aren't safe then we need helos to move people. While this avoids people driving down roads that we have no chance of securing, and also highlighting the fact we would rather send out ordnance disposal than use a wheelbarrow to rip out an IED, you then play into the enemies hands by repeatedly giving them the opportunity to bring down a chopper (2 chinooks in the past month or so) . Additionally this also highlights the fact that if we can't drive down a road, how the hell are we supposed to rebuild the country/hand over to the local army.

The current strategy of sending soldiers out to defend FOB's which cannot be supported from Camp Bastion 4 miles away WITHOUT resorting to regular helicopter runs is utter lunacy, and it's time we decided do we want to be there.

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When did free accomodation and food start then ?

Unless things have change since I was in the forces, you do pay for food and accomodation, even if you're living in a hole out in the bondu - It wasn't a lot for food, but it was twice the amount the mess got in allowance per person to feed us I know that. As for free flights, we used to get 3 warrants a year which worked for trains, but nowt else - 12 hours to home from Lossiemouth, get a flight, don't make me laugh.

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Megaphone

Too Srs

Instead of trying to claim our soldiers aren't as underpaid as the article may or may not claim (I mean seriously who cares, are we really arguing that they get free accomodation? They're in a freaking tent in the desert..) we should be looking at how the Government sets up a minister to be in charge of arms procurement then allows that same minister to take over the company he just awarded all the contracts too.

We should be looking at how we are insisting on building our own models of already available equipment, reinventing the wheel on throw cams and loitering munitions.

We should be considering we're an overcrowded island and that our best export is the foot soldier. In remote arenas we shouldn't be shipping British tanks over, use German ones if Germany is closer, use Polish ones if they are closer etc.

We should be looking at our underused fleet of unemployed people instead of ways to keep Lord whoever in a job.

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@ AC 8:25

"On top of that, there is no tax on the salary during abroad postings and so on."

There is at least one Lance Corporal who would say your talking pish.

http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/campaigns/our_boys/2614984/Brown-can-only-squirm-as-squaddie-grills-him-on-heros-tax.html

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FAIL

@ Steven Jones

"...hasn't learnt much about the nature of modern warfare"

What do you actually mean by that?

"I'm not sure what the ratio was between WWII workers in arms factories, shipyards, support industries and the like compared to the numbers in the armed services, but I rather suspect it was much higher than you would suspect."

"I'm sure the huge workforces of China, India and other workshops of the world could supply a lot of very high tech equipment, including the research, much cheaper than the US."

I'm guessing by your phrasing that you don't actually *know* either of these things to be true, so why don't you find out? I'm not saying you're wrong (in fact I suspect you're right, at least about the first one, although the second one's shaky for a number of reasons) but if your point is specifically about the quality of the analysis then surely it would be better to back your argument with something more substantial than conjecture?

Here's some conjecture of my own: Your spelling and pseudo lofty language makes me "sure" you...

1) ...are male (ok that one's easy)

2) ...are not very far out of your teens

3) ...want the world to think you know more about it than you actually do

In the end what you're saying boils down to: "Lewis Page doesn't know what he's talking about". There are plenty here who would willingly debate that point, but after reading your comment I've come to the easy conclusion that he knows a hell of a lot more about it than you.

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Grenade

It's not all it's cracked up to be.

As a nerdy defence industry boffin, I can tell you that it's not that rosy down where I am. Privatised, pissed about and pension fucked, that's us. We don't get megabucks and we are generally poorly managed by some ex forces twat in a hat who was sod all use with a gun.

£1billion was spent on the carriers before anybody got close to cutting steel - that's where all the waste is: committees, discussions, talking bollocks, G&T and Pimms. And the irony is that even though military widgets are the most researched pieces of crap in the world, they are defined by compromise not consensus.

In almost every case, "we" could have bought cheaper, better off-the-shelf kit from the sceptics or even Boris, but no, we have to be precious about owning source code. Still it keeps me in a job I loathe...

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Grenade

Accommodation costs?

I'm no expert here, but I believe that many of our service people around the world do actually have families and children. These dependants are not in the dessert, and not camping out under canvas.

Many of them are in married quarters back here being charged rent, or live 'off base' in private accommodation. How is this any less expensive for the service-people than for anyone else?

I admit that there are all types of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and the support staff who are in it for a career, and will live in barracks or in a Mess with no dependants, but I also believe that this is less accepted than it used to be (and after looking at Aldershot, so called 'Home of the British Army', there is much less of Army provided accommodation than there used to be as well).

So we do need some pay comparability with the private sector, or face the fact that our longest serving members of the armed forces cannot afford what the rest of us regard as a normal life.

On the subject of the Americans, I'm sure that I read that US service personnel are also poorly paid in comparison to civilians. So much so that I believe that a US private, on US soil (thus no overseas or combat pay) with a family would be blow the accepted US poverty line! This almost certainly goes some way to explaining how the US gets more bang-for-their-buck. There are also significant economies of scale. Buying 500 custom-built APV's will almost certainly be cheaper per unit than buying 50. This works across the board from Helicopters to Light Tanks, Destroyers, Aircraft carriers, Submarines, and even down to combat armour and rifles.

It takes nearly the same design effort to produce two Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers as it does a whole fleet of Nimitz's.

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Anonymous Coward

@ Peter Johnson

£14k with no rent to pay? I believe many of these guys have families to support at home.

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Coat

And another thing...

...book sales flagging, Lewis?

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FAIL

Fixing aaaaall the misconceptions

@Peter Johnston 1

Soldiers' pay - food is NOT free, and neither is accommodation. There are mess bills, and the new joys of Pay-As-You-Dine. And that IS the base rate for a new private. A new constable or firefighter gets much more, and has a job that isn't 24/7 and is a great deal safer.

@Wrong Math AC

Soldiers do pay tax, even on operations. Including council tax.

@in short: use money for more useful things AC

We already have a small military. It participates in peacekeeping and nation-building. The current govt has abused the military for political ends, so I presume you won't be voting for them?

@Opium or Oil AC

Most of the worlds (legal) opium (for morphine) is grown in Australia. The UK govt has no interest in illegal opium. The oil pipeline to Turkey? FFS, look at a map sometime. We already have a pipeline to Turkey - Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey. Any pipeline that goes through Afghanistan AND Turkey would have to do some ridiculous contortions.

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Starting from false assumptions

The Taliban didn't "plot to blow up skyscrapers in Western cities", Al Qaida did and General Paetrus says there are no Al Qaida left in Afganistan. So whatever the argument for the war - and like many people I always argued against it - 911 is no justification for the ongoing occupation. Terror groups should be interdicted like criminal gangs, not with occupying armies, perhaps by special forces and intelligence agencies.

Lewis claims a poll shows most people supported the war at the time, but the public were being misled and misinformed by the media and even by the questions in that poll. 70% said they supported action if more than 100 Afghan civilians died as a result. If they had been asked would you support the action if more than 30,000 Afghanis and hundreds of British died, as has happened so far, or that the 'action' would last for 50 years, then the figure would have been significantly lower. Most Brits were assuming the timescales would be similar to the Falkland campaign because that is what the media inferred.

youtube.com/v/hjE2wMWMJwI

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Bronze badge

"It'll all be over by Christmas"

That, I think, is behind a lot of what's wrong. Even without cock-ups like the Chinook affair, it takes so long to deliver a new aircraft, and we're so close to winning, that we decide to muddle through.

The need for another squadron of C-17s was there from day 1. It looks like they could have been bought, delivered, paid for, and worn out before the transport version of the Airbus will be available. How long has it taken to replace Land Rovers with more suitable vehicles?

The thinking seems to be that no war will last long enough for current production to make a difference. There's some truth in that, the process maybe can't respond as it did seventy years ago, biplanes to jets within five years. But we're still unable to replace what's being used up.

And that's what loses modern wars.

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Bloody socialists

In the US, the lobbyists and retired generals get most of the defense money, not the meaningless factory workers or enlisted grunts. That's the way we do it with our limited-access health care system, too.

And we like it.

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Grenade

Defence industry sinkhole

Its well known that the defence industry in the UK is supported by the UK Government as without the UKG the defence industry would go belly up.

Why ?? Simple really.

Company A makes a product. They sell it to African Warlord B. Who doesn't pay. Defence Company A goes to the Government and demands the UKG pay them. Which it does. Company A then goes back to African Warlord B and asks him if he'd like more stuff.

And so it goes on. Its where the budget is disappearing to. Defence companies are happy as they get paid one way or another. The Government is happy as its "protecting" British businesses and jobs. And of course African Warlord is happy as he's go loads of new stuff for free (or he may have paid a 20% deposit up front) to use to continue his personal little war.

And this isn't going to change until the Government grows a set of balls and tells these Defence companies to act like all the other businesses !!

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Anonymous Coward

Before anyone starts slagging off soldiers pay and conditions.

Let's get it out in the open - are contributors saying soldiers are overpaid for their work in conflict zones? I believe they are not.

Soldiers (sailors & airfolks) may, or may not - I think you'll find, get reduced rents & plentiful flights home and the like. The accommodation and food they have been provided has been critisised by Parliamentary committees and others. Leave time includes the (unpredictable) air transport delays. Their tools, PPE and working conditions do not remotely compare in any favourable way with their peers in other Blighty based security, protective and manufacturing industries nor with many of their peers in the field.

It may be the case that much of our defence industry heirarchy is staffed with very well paid numpties deserving little but contempt but dont start giving out about the folks at the bottom of the defence industry pyramid.

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Silver badge
FAIL

Grrrrrrr

I happen to work for a company that supplies bits to the military(as well as other engineering related stuff)

Oddly we're not all fatcats laughing our way to the bank, in most cases on a £100 part we're lucky if we make £5 profit

As for a job for life, this is the 6th job I've had doing the same sort of stuff and as for a pension.... hahahhahahahahahha

The other thing is that not all defence industry production goes to the British army, some does, but about 45% of my work goes aboard to NATO allies.

Finally if we buy all our stuff from the yanks or the russkies then who's going to provide work to 250 000 highly skilled people...

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@Fixing aaaaall the misconceptions

1. Armed forces staff get houses at substantially below the market rate. It might not be free, but it's worth about £300/month.

2. A constable is also a 24/7 position, the duty is absolute even when not "on duty". They also face mandatory retirement, and have to contribute much more pay into their own pension scheme, death in service insurance, legal cover etc. They also don't get a pay rise for every training course attended.

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Grenade

@David Neil

Maybe a stupid question but why don't they just put a big dozer blade on the front of the trucks like http://images5.fotki.com/v61/photos/1/133612/2194466/dozer-vi.jpg then they can drive up and down the roads fine.

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Anonymous Coward

Military Voluntary Tax against Education Tax

I suggest you to give as much as you want as a voluntary tax and leave the rest of us to pay for NHS and education.

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Anonymous Coward

What part of "supreme crime" don't you understand?

"But the fact is that almost all of us thought our government was right to invade in the first place, in the months immediately after 9/11".

I suspect that a disproportionate number of intelligent, thoughtful, and well-informed people were dead set against the idea right from the start. (And I was, too). Among the many, many good reasons for opposing the war:

1. Neither the Afghan people nor the government of the time was responsible, or probably in any way involved, in 9/11. To justify the invasion, the Afghan government would have had to have been directly responsible.

2. Even if Al-Qaeda had organised camps in Afghanistan, that wasn't sufficient provocation. It also had organised groups in the USA, UK, and other countries that were not bombed or invaded.

3. As we know, Al-Qaeda and the 9/11 attackers were mostly Saudi Arabs, having no connection with Afghanistan.

4. The 9/11 attacks required no foreign support. What resources were needed? Flight training - kindly supplied in the USA - air tickets costing a few dollars, and box cutters costing a few cents. And some intelligence, initiative, and determination - qualities which brown, non-Christian people can actually have, surprising as it may seem.

5. No one has ever successfully occupied Afghanistan. Alexander the Great may have come closest - his officials and soldiers were not ejected until after he was dead. Most subsequent invaders have wound up desperate to escape from the country alive.

6. It is all too obvious that the Bush administration's first priority, after its negligence in allowing 9/11 to happen, was to make American voters feel better about themselves and Bush. This was most conveniently done by an application of the Ledeen Doctrine: "Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Ledeen

7. Aggressive war was defined by the Nuremberg Tribunal as "the supreme international crime", and that tribunal hanged people for waging it. Unless we want to make it crystal clear that Nuremberg was nothing more than a kangaroo court dispensing victors' justice, we really have to respect its principles ourselves.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_of_aggression

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Grenade

Trade fair

The point of the arms industry is that they're our most successful export (we're #2 to the USA in supplying the world's nastiest regime, and have more than three times the exports of either of our nearest competitors - Russia and France). And taken as a proportion of the total economy, we're ahead of even the US.

That's why we've (UK/US) started so many wars since the end of the Cold War. They're trade fairs, promoting exports.

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Black Helicopters

Pipeline route

The pipeline in question is planned from Turkmenistan to the coast, via Kandahar province. There are already pipelines from Turkmenistan, but they go via Chinese and/or Russian controlled areas. See

http://www.tehrantimes.com/index_View.asp?code=201745

for more details (yes, I know, but it's originally from a Canadian paper - this was the only link GooNews could find).

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Grenade

Iraq & fries with that

A three page article complaining about the lack of resources for Afghanistan, never once touching on the massive waste of resources that was Iraq.

Why do soldiers get paid less than other workers? Because they start their careers with fewer marketable skills. Soldiers are trained entirely on the job, which they can start at 16. Defence workers are more likely to have stayed on at school, gone to university and got a decent degree, ready to start their careers in their twenties. Literate and numerate, with skills that are in demand across the private sector, they don't need to settle for 14k.

Soldiers may leave the forces well trained, but comparing the salary of an entry-level soldier with a new graduate in the defence industry is the wrong comparison. Compare instead the real choices facing potential new soldiers: joining the army or selling fries.

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Bronze badge

@AC (why anonymous?)

Spelling was never a great thing with me, but as for just being out of my teens, I wish. My excuse is that it was written quickly.

As far as the general points. Yes, I didn't have time to find out the numbers employed in the arms and related industries in WWII. Just a matter of time to do the research (which is why I said I suspected that was the position). However, the point about western powers fighting major wars being underpinned by industry is inarguable. Just try and find a credible historian anywhere that disagrees on that point. It doesn't matter if it was WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam or any major conflict which western powers have been engaged in. They are underpinned by huge industrial inputs of resources. In comparison, the Chinese (in Korea), the Vietnamese, Taliban used far higher proportions involved in the direct fighting. Those combatants seek to neutralise the West's equipment advantages by changing the manner in which such wars are fought.

As for India and China being able to both manufacture and research at cheaper rates than the west? Well that one is a virtual truism. I work in an industry where off-shoring such activities is absolutely the norm for economic (anbd sometimes educational) reasons. There are strategic reasons why this isn't done with defense industries. However, there is also a very good argument that we have already given up the strategic technologies required to make this credible Some might say there's not much point in being able to design the software for a missile guidance system if you can't, for instance, secure your supplies of semiconductor technology.

I've no doubt Lewis knows about the practicalities of being in the armed services and dealing with inadequate equipment. However, he's no economist, and is fond of repeating selective stories on environmental matters in anything but an objective manner. If you engage in polemics, as he does, then expect some robust responses.

None of this covers the issue of whether we should be directly involved in Afganistan. There is certainly a security threat from that area, but we are long past the days when there were large numbers of conscripts that we can through at manpower intensive wars (as there was when my father was sent to Malaysia during his national service). Fighting wars like that in Afganistan are very expensive, even when the West seeks to do so on its own terms. Outsourcing the manufacturing of arms to the US does not fix that problem, and there is a solid case to be made that it will damage the economy and reduce national defence capability. That's not to say that weapon procurement does need to be all "in house", but we are not in the position of, say, Saudi Arabia, where extensive oil revenues can be used to pay for such expensive imports.

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Anonymous Coward

Soldier's pay

Re: Peter Johnston 1

2. Comparing this with a person who has to pay for their accommodation and food is not a true comparison. £14k is a lot of money if you have no rent to pay, no utility bills, no food costs.

--

When I was a soldier, we had to pay accomodation and mess bills. Ok, so they weren't that much then, but since accomodation and mess services have been PFI'd, the costs have increased and quality decreased. There was also kit upgrades to pay for. As I understand things now, costs have increased much faster than pay.

Pay then did vary a lot by trade, and trade would affect getting chances of hazard pay or overseas duty. No overtime though.

The ones I felt sorry for then were the Lieutenants. I was offered a commission, but looked at the pay vs increased costs of accomodation, mess bills, dining in, uniforms etc and declined.

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Pay comparison

Some research has put (possibly outdated) numbers against those army benefits.

A private with no qualifications on minimum salary gets £1390/month [source: The Telegraph]. Housing subsidy worth £300/month [source:BBC]. PHI/life insurance worth £100/month [what I pay]. Pension contribution worth £350/month [source: army.mod.uk + Scottish Widows]. Whilst on tour add £300/month [source: The Telegraph].

Works out to an equivalent salary of £27,500 assuming 6 month tour, ignoring specialist pay, retention bonus etc.

By contrast starting pay (post-training) for a constable is £25,000 [source: policeoracle.com]

Starting pay for an arms worker £24000 + pension + healthcare [source: BAE systems]

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@AC 02/09/09 11.48 GMT

Just a mo. How many of these graduates have to risk their lives in their daily work?

When figuring out how much a person gets paid, the experience and qualifications count for a lot but you do have to factor in how much accountability and responsibility the role has, along with how much risk their is to life and limb.

There is a world of difference.

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Bronze badge

@Tom Welsh

The Taliban were directly involved in the support of Al-Qaeda and it provided a base for their operations. It's not a matter of debate or controversy. that is an established fact. What is also an established fact is that the Taliban (then the de-facto Afgan government) either refused, or was unable to do anything about, the presence of Al Qaeda camps and activities in the country. The presence of such establishments may not be essential to all aspects of terrorist warfare, but it is a great enabler, and not something that could be ignored after the events of 9/11. In any event, the very symbolism of the attack on the Twin Towers guaranteed a US response, Merely tightening up security, without any direct attempt at retaliation, was never going to be acceptable to the American people as a whole.

Afghanistan is not to be mixed up with Iran. Involvement in the latter, beyond containment, was a strategic and financial mistake of the first order, driven by the zealoutry of the Bush government . Aghanistan and the neighbouring Pushtan areas of Pakistan remain a potent threat; not just to the West, but to India and much of Pakistan. it appears likely to remain so, unless some political containment deal can be worked out. That probably remains the West's best hope, but such negotiations do not occur in a vacuum. As with Northern Ireland what is impossible at some points in history becomes reality later, as circumstances and attitudes change.

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Defence Workers Underpaid? Hardly..

Having access to the pay grades of BAE staff I can confirm that the lowest grade employees (excluding apprentices) get paid £17k+, plus shift enhancements, overtime, a annual bonus and quite often more than one pay rise per year.

And these are the guys at the bottom of the ladder. Seriously, two short planks could outwit a large number of them.

Let's not even start on how much management get in bonus payments each year.

Anon for obvious reasons.

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So what new..

So what new?

Never heard of the 'Military Industrial Complex'?

Eisenhower first coined the phrase: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qdrGKwkmxAU

Norm Champsky will also get you up-to speed on the issue.

Bottom line: War is a Racket

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Dead Vulture

Soldiers should stop moaning

£14k tax free and with free accomadation and food and bills? For a job that requires no minimum requirement on intelligence, and requires no qualifications! These solidiers are doing rather well. Take into account the amount of tax and rent/mortage/bills the rest of us have to pay and we'd have to be earning £40k to be able to have £14k of disposable income.

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Grenade

Re: Defence industry sinkhole

Dan 7 gets it:

"Its well known that the defence industry in the UK is supported by the UK Government as without the UKG the defence industry would go belly up. [...] Company A makes a product. They sell it to African Warlord B. Who doesn't pay. Defence Company A goes to the Government and demands the UKG pay them. Which it does. Company A then goes back to African Warlord B and asks him if he'd like more stuff."

People doing all the high tech flash-bang wizardry should be working on a space programme or something. The middlemen should go fuck themselves. How's that for policy, Britards?

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FAIL

Rewriting history eh?

>"in the months immediately after 9/11. Al-Qaeda was operating openly in Afghanistan at the time, with formed military units, as an honoured guest of the Taliban government - and the Taliban maintained that stance after the Twin Towers fell."

Come off it, it was only eight years ago, have you got no bloody memory at all? Apart from the fact your description of the sequence of events is temporally incoherent (In the months *after* 9/11 ... and they kept on doing that *after* the towers fell? Was that first 'after' meant to be a 'before'?), you appear to have replaced your personal memory with some half-rememered-half-mythologized official version of history.

What actually happened after 9/11 was that the Taliban government clamped down hard on Al Qaeda, shut down their training camps, and was in the middle of negotiations to hand over Osama Bin-Laden to an international tribunal (the sticking point being that the Americans wanted him handed directly to them and the Taliban were pushing for an international body along the lines of the ICJ/Hague tribunal under the auspices of the OIS).

But you don't remember that, do you? Forgot all about it and replaced your own memory with the official history, haven't you? I'm sure you're a good little soldier, but if you would care to replace the propaganda in your brain with actual historical facts, it's all still out there on the web. Here's the first article I dug up after spending five seconds on google:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2001/oct/17/afghanistan.terrorism11

Read all of it please, not just the first paragraph, or you might end up only seeing what you want to see and missing the pertinent facts. The Taliban government wanted, as any government wants before it extradites someone, to see a prima facie case. The USA refused to show any evidence because their stance was that everyone must just obey their orders unquestioningly or get bombed. After the bombs started falling, the Taliban in desparation even offered to hand him over without seeing evidence - but the USA refused. Because they wanted to kill lots of uninvolved people out of a twisted and sadistic impulse for revenge.

It was a war crime. The people and government of Afghanistan weren't involved and they were willing to follow the requirements of due process and international law - and were criminally invaded for trying to stand up for the rule of law. The USA government, let's not forget, had been planning the invasion BEFORE 9/11 and had already begun covert action in the country.

Seriously, what's wrong with people? This was only a few years ago, how can you not remember? Were you paying no attention at the time? When shit like this happens, it's IMPORTANT for crying out loud: PAY ATTENTION. Or a few years will pass and you'll have it all twisted up and wrong in your head, like you apparently do. Are you a man or a goldfish?

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/1550366.stm

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2001/oct/14/afghanistan.terrorism5

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0WDQ/is_2001_Oct_22/ai_80338979/?tag=rel.res2

http://www.boston.com/news/packages/underattack/pdf/091901.pdf

http://www.j-n-v.org/AW_briefings/ARROW_briefing005.htm

Oh, and re: training camps. Read paragraph 6 of

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/03/17/world/a-nation-challenged-qaeda-s-grocery-lists-and-manuals-of-killing.html?sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all

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Anonymous Coward

@All

Sorry to say, but as a rule..

Shit education = shit jobs = shit pay = shit conditions

In most countries, the grunts on the ground, usually come from poorer backgrounds and will struggle to find work that pays more than the minumum wage, therefore are unlikely to be able to afford a shitty council flat. So the £14k a year to many seems a GOOD deal.

As more and more people get better educated, then less will feel the need to enter the forces, therefore they can either a) up the wages to that of an well educated person (who is going to pay for this?) or b) accept we can't help America fight it's political wars all the time.

As for supporting the families back home, what utter bollocks, my wife has to work to help keep a roof over our heads, why can't theirs?

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