THE defence secretary has come under fire for blaming the Ministry of Defence’s financial crisis on military chiefs.
Liam Fox blamed military leaders for a ‘complete breakdown of trust’ between the MoD and Whitehall which led to a £38bn black hole in the defence budget.
The comment threatens to worsen the fractious relationship between the military and its political masters.
Dr Fox said: ‘I think the MoD consistently dug a hole for itself that it eventually found it could not climb out of.’
In a stinging attack on his critics, he added: ‘It is irritating to hear some of those who helped create the problem criticising us when we try to bring in a solution.’
Outspoken Fox critic and former head of the navy Lord West hit back yesterday, saying: ‘When I appointed captains to ships I expected them to run that ship well. If they kept telling me how bad it was before, I sacked them again.’
The UK National Defence Association said Dr Fox’s suggestion that military commanders were to blame for the MoD’s financial mess was ‘disgraceful’.
The Portsmouth-based group’s chief executive, Andy Smith, said the military had spent a decade constantly at war and was suffering from ‘fatigue’.
He added: ‘The armed forces are being made to carry the can for mistakes made by ministers and civil servants.
‘Pointing the finger of blame at those in uniform is unfortunate and regrettable in light of the fact that our armed forces are facing even greater reductions in front-line manpower and equipment, whilst civilian staff at the MoD continue to be shielded from head count and cost reductions in the short term.’
The shadow defence secretary, Jim Murphy, said: ‘Liam Fox is not the victim but the author of his defence review, which has left holes in our equipment programme and is sacking thousands of service personnel, including those who have served on the front line.
‘Morale is already low – entering into a blame game will only make matters worse. We need solutions not accusations.’