Changing the army - how?

Cold_Collation

LE
Book Reviewer
It has always struck me as strange that any organisation would trust its long term future to people who are towards the end of their working life.

Carter is 63. Carlton-Smith is 57. A strategic vision for the future of the forces has to look forward 20 years, by which time they’ll be 83 and 77 respectively. Whatever vision they enunciate, they will never have any responsibility for implementing it let alone have a stake in its fruition.
Does that apply, here?

There are plenty of people older whose experience and knowledge are greater and more relevant than that of the two people you mention here.

The problem we have is that we're chasing fads and dismissing tried-and-tested truths... such as the best counter to Heavy is better Heavy (not 'Cyber').

To re-quote a friend of mine who was discussing his retirement with me, the next generation comes along full of bright ideas.

Those bright ideas also came along with the previous generation and the one before... the "Wouldn't be a good idea if...?" and "Why don't we...?" 'revolutions' have already been tried and found wanting. Often we do things as we do because they are the best way(s) of doing them.

The obsession with light infantry, the 'new' and 'transformative', and the determination to dismiss the 'old' has proven to be a very poisonous mix.
 
Does that apply, here?

There are plenty of people older whose experience and knowledge are greater and more relevant than that of the two people you mention here.

The problem we have is that we're chasing fads and dismissing tried-and-tested truths... such as the best counter to Heavy is better Heavy (not 'Cyber').

To re-quote a friend of mine who was discussing his retirement with me, the next generation comes along full of bright ideas.

Those bright ideas also came along with the previous generation and the one before... the "Wouldn't be a good idea if...?" and "Why don't we...?" 'revolutions' have already been tried and found wanting. Often we do things as we do because they are the best way(s) of doing them.

The obsession with light infantry, the 'new' and 'transformative', and the determination to dismiss the 'old' has proven to be a very poisonous mix.
It’s a balance isn’t it? But, and I know it’s a generalisation, people approaching retirement don’t tend to coming up to retirement don’t tend to come up with new ideas.

My conjecture is that we are at a technological tipping point. When Carlton-Smith talks about Ajax being a game changer, he’s talking bollocks. It’s already out of date and close to being outflanked. And that’s before we discuss the fact that it’s crap.

The current senior leadership was dislocated by a bunch of low tech terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq. And they are are institutionally used to managing decline.

There has to be a better way.
 

Cold_Collation

LE
Book Reviewer
It’s a balance isn’t it? But, and I know it’s a generalisation, people approaching retirement don’t tend to coming up to retirement don’t tend to come up with new ideas.

My conjecture is that we are at a technological tipping point. When Carlton-Smith talks about Ajax being a game changer, he’s talking bollocks. It’s already out of date and close to being outflanked. And that’s before we discuss the fact that it’s crap.

The current senior leadership was dislocated by a bunch of low tech terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq. And they are are institutionally used to managing decline.

There has to be a better way.
I'd rather hope that those who are in their winter years career-wise would at least want to leave an organisation in better or as best shape as they can. That can mean opening the door on new thinking, as distinct from shutting it out completely.

Managing decline? Well, we're never going to have an army of historical size. But, the opportunity to inject structure and balance has been missed. I'd go as far as to say stubbornly and wilfully.

Again, I think certain people have gone too far the other way to try and cover their previous poor choices, prejudices and mistakes.

Carter isn't leaving a great legacy, he's leaving a damning one. There is little or no coherence, there are significant and identified gaps that have gone unaddressed, and I feel that we're not setting the trend(s). That's not my own prejudices; conversations with many others around and about help to form my view. We're setting ourselves against the trends.

He's done what he's done all along: kicked things into the long grass.

This quote:

"General Carleton-Smith said that the plans set out for the Army in the Integrated Review reflect “a changing character of war” and therefore “we are changing with it, including taking a significant bet on tech”."

from here:


worries me greatly. A 'significant bet on tech'?

We shouldn't be gambling. We should be looking to inject greater certainty.

There's a two-part response to your point about balance.

Yes, younger thinking and understanding is needed. A good friend works in the road tolling sector in the US and he consciously and deliberately lets app development and digital trend-spotting sit with his younger team members as their understanding is more intuitive. That's key.

But define younger thinking; it's not all teens and 20-somethings, it's also the middle-ranking with a decade or so on the clock.

The new Ranger battalions aren't going to be super-sleuths. They're going to be Tier 2 SF, pretty much. I don't see Tier 1 SF doing really great things against the heaviest of Heavy. SF is a specific role with specific capabilities. 'SF-lite' (no disrespect to those who actually go and do...) isn't going to do as well, and we'll only have three battalions of them.

...and who's riding to their aid if it gets sticky? Not the Heavy-role guys. Warrior is going to be no more.

We need to challenge the persisting notion that 'expeditionary' = 'light'. 'Expeditionary' in fact means 'having the capability to go to places and do meaningful things whatever the opposition may be when we get there'. It won't always be sandal- or flip-flop-wearing religious fundamentalists or drug-fuelled tribesmen.

...and even if it is, then if the entry level to the sorts of drone technology that we're talking about is so low, they'll have it too. Which is even more reason for those going and doing to be doing so with vehicles and other capabilities that offer the right levels of protection. That's not GoreTex and Osprey, incidentally. It's not solely Boxer, either.

I agree about Ajax. Carleton-Smith is conflating the physical platform and the digital capability - or, rather, he's failing to distinguish the two. We need a digital capability but that is emphatically not dependent upon Ajax being delivered.

I would agree that we need an armoured and mobile capability that can host and support the digital capability. That, though, is something different. And besides, how is it that Ajax above all else "has" to succeed and yet all else is a 'Cold War legacy'?

The only reason that Ajax has to succeed is because some VSOs' steadfast support and therefore their reputations rely upon it.

More conflation - this time, of VSOs' legacies and a better army. The two are very different.
 
I'd rather hope that those who are in their winter years career-wise would at least want to leave an organisation in better or as best shape as they can. That can mean opening the door on new thinking, as distinct from shutting it out completely.

Managing decline? Well, we're never going to have an army of historical size. But, the opportunity to inject structure and balance has been missed. I'd go as far as to say stubbornly and wilfully.

Again, I think certain people have gone too far the other way to try and cover their previous poor choices, prejudices and mistakes.

Carter isn't leaving a great legacy, he's leaving a damning one. There is little or no coherence, there are significant and identified gaps that have gone unaddressed, and I feel that we're not setting the trend(s). That's not my own prejudices; conversations with many others around and about help to form my view. We're setting ourselves against the trends.

He's done what he's done all along: kicked things into the long grass.

This quote:

"General Carleton-Smith said that the plans set out for the Army in the Integrated Review reflect “a changing character of war” and therefore “we are changing with it, including taking a significant bet on tech”."

from here:


worries me greatly. A 'significant bet on tech'?

We shouldn't be gambling. We should be looking to inject greater certainty.

There's a two-part response to your point about balance.

Yes, younger thinking and understanding is needed. A good friend works in the road tolling sector in the US and he consciously and deliberately lets app development and digital trend-spotting sit with his younger team members as their understanding is more intuitive. That's key.

But define younger thinking; it's not all teens and 20-somethings, it's also the middle-ranking with a decade or so on the clock.

The new Ranger battalions aren't going to be super-sleuths. They're going to be Tier 2 SF, pretty much. I don't see Tier 1 SF doing really great things against the heaviest of Heavy. SF is a specific role with specific capabilities. 'SF-lite' (no disrespect to those who actually go and do...) isn't going to do as well, and we'll only have three battalions of them.

...and who's riding to their aid if it gets sticky? Not the Heavy-role guys. Warrior is going to be no more.

We need to challenge the persisting notion that 'expeditionary' = 'light'. 'Expeditionary' in fact means 'having the capability to go to places and do meaningful things whatever the opposition may be when we get there'. It won't always be sandal- or flip-flop-wearing religious fundamentalists or drug-fuelled tribesmen.

...and even if it is, then if the entry level to the sorts of drone technology that we're talking about is so low, they'll have it too. Which is even more reason for those going and doing to be doing so with vehicles and other capabilities that offer the right levels of protection. That's not GoreTex and Osprey, incidentally. It's not solely Boxer, either.

I agree about Ajax. Carleton-Smith is conflating the physical platform and the digital capability - or, rather, he's failing to distinguish the two. We need a digital capability but that is emphatically not dependent upon Ajax being delivered.

I would agree that we need an armoured and mobile capability that can host and support the digital capability. That, though, is something different. And besides, how is it that Ajax above all else "has" to succeed and yet all else is a 'Cold War legacy'?

The only reason that Ajax has to succeed is because some VSOs' steadfast support and therefore their reputations rely upon it.

More conflation - this time, of VSOs' legacies and a better army. The two are very different.
There’s a big difference between leaving an organisation in a the best shape as you can and transforming an organisation that isn’t fit for purpose into one that is. Particularly when the planning timeline to genuinely transform the organisation is 10-20 years.

There simply has to be new thinking; the transformation has to be a step change and one that effectively skips a generation. It has to be tech driven because that is where we have been and will be dislocated. Ajax has already been dislocated; it’s last years tech built into the last decade’s platform.

If doing that pisses people off so what? Ask Scott Morrison if he’s really concerned about the French withdrawing their ambassador.
 

Cold_Collation

LE
Book Reviewer
There’s a big difference between leaving an organisation in a the best shape as you can and transforming an organisation that isn’t fit for purpose into one that is. Particularly when the planning timeline to genuinely transform the organisation is 10-20 years.

There simply has to be new thinking; the transformation has to be a step change and one that effectively skips a generation.
And if we had to go to war tomorrow? Do we simply say, "Sorry, we're not ready?"
 
And if we had to go to war tomorrow? Do we simply say, "Sorry, we're not ready?"
Certainly not.

We bluff, borrow, improvise, strip non deployed units to the bone, call up unwilling and untrained reservists, send men into theatre under equipped and ill supplied, and make a public virtue of doing more with less.

When men die unnecessarily, and we suffer national humiliations along the way, we spin, obfuscate and blame others, while highlighting the courage, selflessness and sacrifices of our soldiers and, by extension, ourselves.

Then we get promoted and lead the way in reforming the army (through necessary defence cuts) and preparing for the challenges of a changing battlefield (by embracing diversity) etc. etc. ad nauseam...
 
Is yesterday's news about Aukus the start of something bigger? Is it a further signal that the US/UK are planning to exit NATO and realign away from Europe towards the Pacific?

It would help disentangle UK from the whole post-Brexit mess, help their case for joining the putative Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, and, potentially, dovetail quite nicely with 5-Eyes.

For all the noise that has emanated from the EU about NATO and the need to set up an EU equivalent, it might well be something that is being kicked about behind closed doors.

Food for thought.
 
For hundreds of years Britain was first and foremost a naval power - quite logical being an island on the far edge of a continental landmass. The post WW2 focus on the army was a historical anomaly and now we're about to see a corrective shift back towards prioritising the RN.

VSOs in the army need to take a very large humility pill and start looking for some constructive solutions. I'd start by studying the USMC and understanding their role.
 
I could agree less with this snip. The Army is already shaped for 2022, whether or not it meets its needs.
No it is not, it is simply a collection of similarly dressed individuals capable of little or nothing above a single battlegroup.

As is common you missed the point entirely and instead of questioning you simply came out with a pretty meaningless statement supplemented with the usual get out clauses.

The British Army of 2021 is unfit for any purpose and will be in the same state in 22,23,24 and beyond as far as we can see.
 
No it is not, it is simply a collection of similarly dressed individuals capable of little or nothing above a single battlegroup.

As is common you missed the point entirely and instead of questioning you simply came out with a pretty meaningless statement supplemented with the usual get out clauses.

The British Army of 2021 is unfit for any purpose and will be in the same state in 22,23,24 and beyond as far as we can see.

As long as we can manage a good turnout on the drill square, establish a reputation for smartness, and provide world class ceremonial parades, we'll have a strong foundation to build on as soon as we have a better understanding of future challenges.
It's this unwavering commitment to high standards that gives the British army its versatility, professionalism and war winning qualities.


If you think I'm joking...
 
No it is not, it is simply a collection of similarly dressed individuals capable of little or nothing above a single battlegroup.

As is common you missed the point entirely and instead of questioning you simply came out with a pretty meaningless statement supplemented with the usual get out clauses.

The British Army of 2021 is unfit for any purpose and will be in the same state in 22,23,24 and beyond as far as we can see.
Maybe your point wasn’t clearly described. No surprise there.

There’s nothing that can be done about the fitness for purpose of otherwise of the Army of 2022. Or 23 or 24. It is what it is; you cannot change an institution of the size and diversity of the Army in a year.

What can be done is to create a clear vision of what the Army of 2032 should look like, baseline the mess that is today and create a roadmap of how to get there. And then resource it.

Get the right people in strategic leadership roles. People with the balls admit that the Army isn’t fit for purpose. People with the balls to stand up and fight for the organisation to secure the resources it needs. People with an understanding of organisational change, of programme leadership. People with the courage to take risks on capability gaps.

Because without effective strategic leadership, all we will ever see is decline.
 
There’s nothing that can be done about the fitness for purpose of otherwise of the Army of 2022. Or 23 or 24. It is what it is; you cannot change an institution of the size and diversity of the Army in a year.
This illustrates the problem that has broken the Army over the last decade. So what you are saying in reality is, "it's broken, we know that but it is far too difficult to fix in a short to medium time frame. Ah but wonderful things will be with us in a decade and all will be fantastic then"

The issue is, in ten years time the mantra will be the same.

We are however very clever at spinning bullsh1t

"3rd (United Kingdom) Division, based at the heart of the British Army on Salisbury Plain, is the only division at continual operational readiness in the UK."

"The First Division is the United Kingdom’s persistently engaged force, working with our partners throughout the world through our global hubs. The First Division is the United Kingdom’s and our Coalition Allies partner of choice "

The sad fact is, although claimed otherwise, neither formation is capable of deploying as a Division or fighting as a Division and a large number of our coalition Allies have watched us having our arses handed to us on a plate for over 20 years now.

We need to have a good hard look at ourselves, our current equipment and manpower and come up with a realistic plan as to what we can do and achieve right now and stop issuing medals and top flight OJARs for simply crafting the next piece of meaningless spin to post on the Army website or to dribble from the CDS's mouth.
 
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This illustrates the problem that has broken the Army over the last decade. So what you are saying in reality is, "it's broken, we know that but it is far too difficult to fix in a short to medium time frame. Ah but wonderful things will be with us in a decade and all will be fantastic then"

The issue is, in ten years time the mantra will be the same.

We are however very clever at spinning bullsh1t

"3rd (United Kingdom) Division, based at the heart of the British Army on Salisbury Plain, is the only division at continual operational readiness in the UK."

"The First Division is the United Kingdom’s persistently engaged force, working with our partners throughout the world through our global hubs. The First Division is the United Kingdom’s and our Coalition Allies partner of choice "

The sad fact is, although claimed otherwise, neither formation is capable of deploying as a Division or fighting as a Division and a large number of our coalition Allies have watched us having our arses handed to us on a plate for over 20 years now.

We need to have a good hard look at ourselves, our current equipment and manpower and come up with a realistic plan as to what we can do and achieve right now and stop issuing medals and top flight OJARs for simply crafting the next piece of meaningless spin to post on the Army website or to dribble from the CDS's mouth.
OK, I get you now; your line about crafting the next meaningless spin is spot on. But that’s not what I am suggesting. Spin is spin; it is not a cohesive vision for what the Army of 2032 (or whenever) should look like. The intellectual dishonesty of the last 20 years is staggering.

So a starting point would be a brutally honest assessment of where we are now. But that is not in the interest of today’s leadership as it exposes them for the frauds they are. So it won’t happen

IMHO where we are today is largely irrelevant; it’s fucked. But without a clear vision of where we want to be in ten years, there’s bugger all chance of being anywhere else but where we are today. With more cuts.

There has to be a generational change in the strategic leadership.
 
IMHO where we are today is largely irrelevant; it’s fucked. But without a clear vision of where we want to be in ten years, there’s bugger all chance of being anywhere else but where we are today.

You keep talking about this clear vision, 10 years in the future.

Working on a number of 72k, could you possibly lay out what would be your clear vision of where the Army should be at in 10 years time ?

( I'll remind you at this point on Options for Change and being b@lls deep in Iraq & Afghanistan in less than 10 years )
 
OK, I get you now; your line about crafting the next meaningless spin is spot on. But that’s not what I am suggesting. Spin is spin; it is not a cohesive vision for what the Army of 2032 (or whenever) should look like. The intellectual dishonesty of the last 20 years is staggering.

So a starting point would be a brutally honest assessment of where we are now. But that is not in the interest of today’s leadership as it exposes them for the frauds they are. So it won’t happen

IMHO where we are today is largely irrelevant; it’s fucked. But without a clear vision of where we want to be in ten years, there’s bugger all chance of being anywhere else but where we are today. With more cuts.

There has to be a generational change in the strategic leadership.
I can't say I disagree with any of that but the today situation is where our so called strategic leaders are most comfortable being, doing nothing.

To reshape the Army we need equipment, lots of it and reorganisation. At the moment, we have lost Warrior, are fairly unlikely to receive Ajax and CR3 is looking flakier and flakier. That does not bode well for the future but what is more likely is by the end of the decade we will have at least two additional Divisions, less equipment and manpower and be held in contempt by our Partners and Allies.
 
You keep talking about this clear vision, 10 years in the future.

Working on a number of 72k, could you possibly lay out what would be your clear vision of where the Army should be at in 10 years time ?

( I'll remind you at this point on Options for Change and being b@lls deep in Iraq & Afghanistan in less than 10 years )
Yes I do keep on talking bandit a clear vision. Because that is how you secure the resources and build the programmes that deliver capability.

Of course there are risks; no plan stands contact with the enemy. As for Options, the capability required of the Army was Double Medium / Single Small, of which one of the Mediums was Enduring. Did any VVSO stand up to ministers and tell them we are not established for two concurrent Enduring Medium scale operations. Did they ****.

Fact remains, you cannot change an organisation unless you have a clear vision of the end state you are looking for. Back to SDR. The RAF and RN look pretty much like their SDR visions. Cut a bit, sure.

Now where is FRES?
 
To reshape the Army we need equipment, lots of it and reorganisation.

Are you in a commission based procurement job ?

How about we -

1. Define the role / roles that the British Army will undertake.

2. Reorganise according to those role / roles.

3. Identify and procure the equipment that is ........

a. Necessary.
b. Desirable.
c. Gucci if we have spare pennies

....... to fulfill those role / roles.

Ajax / Boxer are abject lessons in failure by doing what you describe.
 
Fact remains, you cannot change an organisation unless you have a clear vision of the end state you are looking for.

We have been around these houses.

And the fact remains - You cannot dictate an end state when you are not in control of that end state.
 
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