Socialist Worker

Project Selborne: military training outsourced to British, US and Israeli firms

by John Newsinger
Issue No. 2736

Capita is central to the privatised training regime

Capita is central to the privatised training regime (Pic: Conservative Friends of the Armed Forces on Twitter)


The Boris Johnson government has recently awarded a contract for running the Navy and Marine training establishments, including all 16 onshore naval bases, to the Fisher Training consortium.

The contract is for twelve years and is worth £1 billion.

For a lot of people the outsourcing of parts of the military will come as something of a surprise, but, in fact, it began under former Tory prime minister Margaret Thatcher and was strenuously pushed forward under Tony Blair’s New Labour.

The Iraq and Afghan wars were the great opportunity for going down this road.

On one occasion, US secretary of defence Donald Rumsfeld himself praised the Blair government for leading the way in military outsourcing.

Indeed, outsourcing is now absolutely routine in the military. It is just the way the modern military works, something wholeheartedly endorsed by both the Tories and Labour.

One aspect of the neoliberal consensus that Thatcher created and that Blair consolidated in place was that activities that had once been seen as the preserve of the state were now relentlessly outsourced.

Prison privatisation is the best known, but parts of the military were also outsourced although with the minimum of publicity.

This began with military housing but went on to include training, the running of bases, the maintenance of equipment and the provision of supplies.

Fire

Firefighting on British military bases, for example, is outsourced to Capita who undoubtedly have their eye on the civilian fire brigade whenever a Tory government gets up the nerve to privatise the service.

The process has included the use of armed mercenaries in combat roles and this continues today.

As far as naval and marine training was concerned, Babcock was the chosen provider. But its position was being challenged by US companies Raytheon and Lockheed Martin.

Even for the Johnson government, handing over naval and marine training to US companies was probably a step too far. So the contract has been awarded to the Fisher Training consortium which is headed up by Capita but in which the US company Raytheon is also heavily involved.

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The involvement of Capita, or Crapita as it is often called, with its reputation for general incompetence and occasional corruption has attracted most attention.

Apparently, it is even joked at the ministry of defence that the awarding of the contract is part of an army plot to destroy the navy.

Certainly it has served to distract attention from the role of Raytheon. But while the involvement of a giant US military company is serious enough, another partner in the consortium is the Israeli company, Elbit Systems.

Based in Haifa, Elbit Systems generated nearly £3 billion in revenue in 2018. The company has long had a global presence, operating subsidiaries in many countries.

It has been accused of providing spyware which has been used against the Palestinians and also against dissidents and journalists in other countries, including Britain.

It has been the target of successful disinvestment campaigns in Norway, Sweden and Denmark. 

Unfortunately we cannot look to the Labour Party to take up this issue, indeed even mentioning it would probably get people expelled.


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