A report from National Audit Office (NAO) has claimed that the British Ministry of Defence (MoD) is spending billions of pounds on acquisition and storage of 'unnecessary' military supplies at a time when it is struggling to generate savings.
The investigation discovered a stockpile of 54-year-old bomb dropping equipment from an old model Nimrod aircraft, despite retirement from service in 2010, along with £4.2bn worth non-explosive items, which had no military demand between 2009 and 2010.
Storage of ammunition, missiles, clothing and medical supplies costs the MoD a total of £277m a year that can be used better elsewhere, the NAO added.
According to the report, £2.9bn was spent on supplies in 2010-2011, and an additional £1.5bn is expected to be invested each year for the next five years by the MoD, which is failing to dispose off a ten-year stockpile of fire-resistant coveralls, even though less than 200 a year are being issued.
NAO head Amyas Morse said: "In the current economic climate, where the department is striving to make savings, it can ill-afford to use resources to buy and hold unnecessary levels of stock, and it clearly does so.''
Public Accounts Committee chairman Margaret Hodge said: "Out of the £19.5bn of inventory the NAO reviewed, they found stock worth £6.6bn was either unused or over-ordered. The government simply cannot afford waste on this monumental scale."
However, UK defence minister Peter Luff stressed appropriate reserves were essential for deployment of the armed forces at short notice for operations worldwide, but acknowledge the need for savings.
"MoD's assets must be more efficiently managed," he said. "We are changing the way we buy, store and dispose of equipment stocks and investing in IT systems to help us record the hundreds of thousands of items in our inventory."
Withdrawal of the UK troops along with equipment from Afghanistan by 2015, and from Germany by 2020, will mount further pressure on storage that must be quickly resolved, the NAO warned.