This week the MSM expressed varying degrees of amazement to disgust at the amount of equipment the military has lost. £6.3bn was one estimate.
Almost 6000 radios valued at £184m and £568m of hardware, including guns, were among the unaccounted assets.
Even more astonishing is that the Ministry of Defence could not give the Commons Defence Committee the number of reservists we have in our armed forces - because they don't know.
Should these 'losses' be attributed directly to the people in uniform or to the civil servants who are employed to care for them? I'd say the blame would be around a ratio of around 10/90. The armed forces never introduced the paperwork involved in logistics and stores; the system was contrived by the civilians in the MoD and over the decades it has become more and more complex. Most of it is still a paper exercise - the reason given is that original signatures are required.
The military haven't started losing equipment in the past few years. It's been happening for decades. But, because of poor procurement when, for example, radios * are ordered which are not suitable for certain situations or are just outdated, the military's prime concern is not to ensure the endless paperwork is completed, but that they have equipment which is efficient. In a war situation poor equipment is going to be cast aside if useless and quarter masters have many more pressing matters to handle than ensuring inefficient items are boxed and returned to UK stores. I had to smile at this first hand account of the MoD supply system.
That is not an excuse for our camouflaged protectors not to improve their recording of lost/damaged/useless equipment but the blame mainly lies with the MoD's system. It's a thankless task trying to find the relevant personnel to sign any document (some stretch to 5, 6 or 7 copies) but it's all part of the UK governments' bureaucracy. Is it any wonder there is such an exceptional number of civilians in the MoD when the important aspects of the military - logistics and procurement - have their recording systems regularly 'updated'. Nobody joins the military to form-fill all day long, especially when they know there's a good possibility that the form and its copies have only a 50/50 chance, if that, of being correctly processed.
It's up to the MoD to restructure their system to allow digital recording but unfortunately they couldn't even manage that without losing around £120m - with nothing to show for it.
So let's not blame our uniformed protectors when it's our civilian administrators who are at fault.
* The image is not necessarily one of equipment used by our armed forces.