The Ministry of Defence has admitted that it spends more on computer services than it does on weapons and ammunition for the Armed Forces.
The startling admission came in a statistical publication issued by the department, breaking down how much of the £35bn defence budget is spent with British industry.
Spending on weapons and ammunition for the Armed Forces totalled £1.15bn in fiscal year 2016/17, whereas the MoD spent £1.45bn on computer services in the same period. For the four prior years, spending on computers consistently outpaced that for arms and ammo, with half a billion more being spent on computers than weapons in 2015/16.
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We understand the bulk of the spending was on maintaining and "modernising" the MoD's IT infrastructure, including IT security and the JPA military HR system.
Only shipbuilding and repairing, aircraft and spacecraft, and "technical and financial services" spending outpaced the MoD's expenditure on computers. Even construction, at £1.20bn, lagged behind it.
SNP MP Martin Docherty, who sits on Parliament's Defence Committee, told The Register, with reference to a well-known budget shortfall in the MoD: "We can only assume 'technical and financial services' is a euphemism for filling in that £20bn black hole – but on a more serious note, this underlines the changing nature of war fighting and points towards the substantive problems with the Modernising Defence Review: how does the MoD fulfil legacy capabilities while also undertaking a meaningful modernisation, all within a squeezed budget?"
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"Data processing equipment", a separate category, attracted an average spend of £123m per year over the four years given. As a standalone category, weapons and ammunition includes everything from rifle ammunition to complex weapons such as the Royal Navy's new Sea Ceptor air defence missile system or the RAF's Brimstone guided bomb, as dropped in its thousands on Islamic State terrorists.
The Reg asked the MoD for a fuller breakdown of the top-line figure but was told it will "not release contract detail for commercially sensitive reasons". We know, unsurprisingly, Microsoft features in there. ®