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on 30 December 2017
I enjoyed this book, although it is essentially an essay published in response to the 2004 strategic defence review.

The historical anecdotes are interesting, but the more contemporary examples given are hopefully out of date.

Ratheriatingly, Page sets out the problems very well, but offers only a weak and fairly disingenuous proposal to fix it all.

That said, I look forward to any updated version or follow up he may publish in the future..
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on 21 July 2017
Fascinating and deeply depressing from the point of view of this ex National Serviceman. I remember the items of kit that were superb quality, the compo rations (tinned individual daily meals that hadn't been near a cook), the braces, the towels, my Caterpiller D4 angledozer. These were all penny items compared to the spending the book reveals, supervised vaguely by Conservative Britain in all its glory. The overstaffed departments full of highly paid, high ranking officers both in uniform and out, all fighting for their traditional way of doing things and dealing with a state created monopoly; what happened to competion then?
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on 26 July 2017
Over a decade old now, but UK defence policies and procurement are as bad as they were when Page wrote this book. The malign influence of BaE Systems on the MoD is shown all too clearly. As Page demonstrates, we could have had smaller but far more effective forces if procurement decisions had not been warped in favour of BaE - surely the elephant in the room. Any chance of an updated version?
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on 10 June 2017
After you've read this if you are British you'll wish it was a fiction
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on 14 June 2014
a most informative read of how not to spend public money, should be compulsary reading for all politicians, they might learn a few lessons then.
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on 3 December 2012
If you have ever wondered why, despite a large defence budget, British soldiers don't have the right sort of boots, here's your answer. A detailed and rather alarming expose of how the budget is spent on expensive stuff and on useless stuff, and not on useful kit.
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on 10 April 2017
Interesting, but the author does come across a someone with a chip on his shoulder.
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on 31 October 2008
I've always been bemused by my government friends' complaining about the constant infighting between the 3 services (apparently there's a huge argument brewing right now between the RAF and the Navy, which has nothing to do with war and everything to do with the respective authority and budgets of the two forces). No longer.
This book does an excellent job of demonstrating that for all the attempts at bi-partisanship between Tories and Labour over the war, the political tensions within the forces are alive and well and never went away.
And, of course, he shows up massive incompetence within MoD and BAe, which won't be a surprise to anyone who has observed any government project up close.
The writing style is similar to that of Ben Goldacre, of "Bad Science" fame, and Lewis Page seems to have similar concerns about the competence of journalists to hold the government to account on defence expenditure.
Non-military buffs like me will definitely need to use the glossary - a lot.
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on 21 March 2012
In the 12 years I've worked in the defence industry, one thing has become clear to me; vast sums of money have been poured into black holes masquerading as defence projects. Whether it's Westland Apache helicopters costing 50% more than their US-made Longbow equivalents; dithering governments unable to decide between CATOBAR and STOVL aircraft carriers; Frigates unfit for purpose; Billion-pound Destroyers; spending billions trying in vain to stuff AWACs radar into a deficient 1950s airframe, down to an infantryman's rifle that can't empty its magazine without jamming.

The UK has the world's 3rd highest defence budget. Our forces should be among the most powerful and best armed on the planet. They should have all the equipment they need in spades. Yet here we are with an airforce that can barely put up 200 front-line aircraft, a Navy unable to provide its own air cover, and an army that can barely muster 200 tanks.

Lewis Page's book blows the lid on this scandal of epic proportions, and every incompetent politician, civil servant and overpaid contractor should be ashamed. Will anything ever change? I doubt it very much, as Page points out, there's too many vested interests. What's worse, just about every other area of government expenditure also suffers from similar waste, greed and incompetence.

British servicemen are the best trained in the world, and getting them the best equipment should be the MoD's priority. If that means buying American and letting BAE and their ilk go bust, then so be it. The UK defence industry should be there to support The UK armed forces, not the other way around.
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on 9 January 2013
Me: Previously infantry.
First read this not long after it came out but have now felt I had to write a review because it deserves more than 4 stars. I can only assume that those who marked it down have an agenda or are incapable of critical thought.
Basically Page provides an overview of the kinds of equipment used by our Forces and comes to the conclusion that a great deal of what our Forces have is either unnecessary (now) or rubbish (in many cases). If there is good stuff, there's usually not much of it. For example, Page dismisses frigates and destroyers as pointless because hunting submarines (frigate work) is better performed by aircraft or other submarines, while destroying aircraft (destroyer work) is better done by other aircraft because of the threat of anti-ship missiles...only 1 has to get through any screen a destroyer can put up. Therefore a future Navy would consist of either submarines or ships carrying planes...for surface-vessel officers this is not sexy work...no more sleek, dashing surface ships??! Unthinkable! Of course, some surface ships are needed but (to my mind) they would be Patrol ships that are simple, can carry a couple of helicopters and have provision for some troops...perfect for light humanitarian/rescue/evacuation tasks. Needless to say the RN is still busy buying frigates and destroyers. To escort our aircraft carriers perhaps...oh sorry, we don't have any.
Page points out, to this reader's shock, just how over-officered our Forces are. But the Forces are a public organisation and anyone who works in a public organisation today just how 'over-managered' they are (I work in the emergency services now...its just the same) For the numbers in our armed forces, and their combat power, we have a much greater preponderance of senior ranks than the US Marines. And an embarrassingly greater number than the Israeli Defence Forces. This is utterly shameful. And given the complete disarray that both Procurement and Operations are in one has to ask what on Earth do they all do??
What depresses me now is that our armed forces have been allowed to deteriorate to an extent that we are now a liability to our allies, not a help. This is a complete betrayal of our brave soldiers, NCOs and junior officers who have been deceived and died for nothing over the last decade...anyone who believes otherwise is either foolish or in government.
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