Decision making in Defence - a shoeing for the current structure

#1
E

EScotia

Guest
#2
I thought the report was incredibly honest and enlightening, and as a result it was no surprise it was published as parliament goes into recess. I particularly liked this bit:

19. This was exacerbated by the unshakeable optimism—at least publicly—from every successive commander that they had the resources, and plan to achieve a ‘decisive’ impact in Helmand. Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, reported never experiencing a “negative briefing” about what was being achieved in Afghanistan. This amounted, in Sir Sherard CowperColes’ words, to a “massive act of collective self-deception”. We all wanted to believe that it was working; we wanted to please Ministers, the armed forces and the Americans. There is nothing new about this; the same thing happened in the early years of the Vietnam war, when the best and brightest round John F. Kennedy knew that the American strategy in South Vietnam couldn't work and wouldn't work; but they used the phrase that we used ourselves in Afghanistan: “Progress is being made, but challenges remain.” It was wishful thinking, rather than some massive conspiracy.
 
#4
Want to know why we went into Helmand? The 'official answer' is no one is quite sure.
I know why. The reason we went in is because operations provide great MS moments** and also help justify a large defence budget.


** I certainly benefited by having a bit of 'operational sunshine' in my OJAR book when it came to command and promotion boards.
 
#6
I know why. The reason we went in is because operations provide great MS moments** and also help justify a large defence budget.


** I certainly benefited by having a bit of 'operational sunshine' in my OJAR book when it came to command and promotion boards.
Thanks for clearing that up. I'd always thought it was because the Reverend Dannatt went up a mountain and God told him Helmand was the promised land for the British Army. I also heard that EM advised successful operations in the middle of nowhere would take the pressure off him over strategic failure in Iraq, and preserve the Army's share of the budget for years to come. Getting you a decent OJAR makes much more sense. I'm pleased you put me right..
 
#7
I posted this elsewhere earlier.

The report is a bit of a curate’s egg unfortunately. There are some absolutely jaw-dropping statements in some of it, like this from Swiss Toni

Lord Browne told us that: “I was never briefed that I was part of the chain of command, and I never considered myself to be part of the chain of command”

I know he was only a part-time SoS, but FFS!

There are some howlers on the carriers as well, many of which appear to have been perpetrated by the buffoon Alan West and bought hook, line and sinker by the committee. This one in the Exec summary is particularly amusing….

“In 1998, to cite another example, a decision was made to configure the carriers for STOVL jets, although they could carry fewer weapons, less fuel, would require dramatic reinforcement of the deck, and meant that the carriers could not take French jets.”

The actual decision in 1998 was to proceed with two 40000te carriers, with the assumption that they would operate what (at the time) was the STOVL strikefighter, but not definitively decided. All of which is public domain, like http://www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/RP98-91.pdf
which states :

The centrepiece of the new strategy of force projection is the planned acquisition of two
large, 40,000 ton aircraft carriers, with a complement of up to 50 aircraft and helicopters
each. The first will have an in-service date of 2012. The fixed-wing component could be
provided by the Joint Strike Fighter but the MOD is also studying a marinised Eurofighter
2000, an upgraded Sea Harrier and other existing US and French naval jets for its Future
Carrier Borne Aircraft requirement.

You only have to look at the open source ACA material from circa 2004/2005 to realise that CTOL was still very much an option. The crucial bit is that round about that time would have been the time to start contracting for the detail design work for a CTOL fit, so that the design option was there in time for fabrication.

As for the idea that the deck would need to be massively re-inforced, all you have to do is the energy calc for a jet coming in at a speed and sink rate commensurate with CTOL ops (which is also heavier btw) compared to that of a VL jet. Deck strength and thickness is driven primarily by the patch load caused by undercarriage loads on the deck. There are some thermal effects, but these are primarily dealt with via coatings.

The report also reports West as saying that : in 1998 he had:

said to the procurement people […] that the new design for this carrier has to have an ability to be converted to have cats and traps at minimal cost. I was told at that stage, “Yes, we will do that. It’ll only take three compartments.”

Given that he was CDI at the time, he would not have had that opportunity. I suspect that it’s the committee mis-understanding the timeline and ascribing remarks he made as 1SL from 2002 to an earlier time.

However, it’s disappointing, in that a committee which tries its level best to hold the government and MoD to account is let down by some of the same basic failings it accuses others of having.
 

OldSnowy

LE
Moderator
Book Reviewer
#8
This investigation was, from the very start, designed by that nice MP for Pentith to get at the MOD for going into Helmand. The CVS stuff was a nice add-on as far as Rory is concerned. He'd much prefer that we'd stuck to working in the North West (and to be fair he was probably right, but noone new that at the time), but here he's just IMHO abused his position as chairman of the HCDC to 'prove' his opinions.

And as mentioned above - anyone who takes anything coming from Lord West as being serious, factually-based and measured advice needs their head looking at!
 
#9
I know why. The reason we went in is because operations are great MS moments and also help justify a large defence budget.
Getting you a decent OJAR makes much more sense. I'm pleased you put me right..
I benefited along with many other mid ranking officers but we didn't drive the decision making which was done at a far higher level. These were the guys whose careers really took off on the back of ops and you can see most of them now in 2, 3 and 4 star positions.
 
#10
Want to know why the new Carriers are getting F-35B? The 'official answer' is no one is quite sure.
I thought it was largely by default, as in the early/mid 90's we were happily operating the Sea Harrier from the CVS. When JSF (I think it was originally called JAST - Joint Advanced Strike Technology) started to appear on the horizon the United States kindly invited the UK to participate.

RAF Harriers also operated from a CVS in the 90's, cementing the idea that operating STOVL aircraft would allow the rapid reinforcement of the carrier in a crisis. I believe there were studies which proved going CTOL would cause the RN all sorts of grief (extra manpower/training) as well as being problematic in terms of a non nuclear/non steam carrier having to supply catapults with steam, and of course the training burden for pilots would make a embarkation of RAF units in a crisis tricky. @jrwlynch might be able to say more.

Then from 2002 onwards things went awry, we lost Sea Harrier, so there were less jets to embark, the Harrier force was committed to Afghanistan, and so on. Then in 2009 the Harrier force left Afghanistan, and the plan (I heard a briefing by the FAA Command Warrant Officer that the future would involve getting more jets to sea for longer periods) to ramp up the skills needed by the ship's company as well as the squadron.

Then in 2010, the Prime Minister listened to the wrong people, decided that it was necessary to cut RN/RAF capabilities as Army personnel numbers would be too politically sensitive. A decision was made to cut an aircraft type - either Harrier or Tornado. As the smaller force, and the one not committed to Afghanistan, Harrier got the chop. The First Sea Lord and others tried to point out the training and skills issues, but to no avail. An attempt to keep a small number of Harrier was rejected.

As part of the jam tomorrow policy, CVF was switched to F-35C, possibly as it could be presented as a capability increase. I sometimes wonder if the anchor faced old b******** on here and other forums that demanded "CTOL or nothing" helped contribute to this. This ignored the training/skills issue, or the additional manpower needed. Meanwhile somebody decided that practicing V/STOL embarkations would do nothing to prepare for a CTOL future (surely moving a jet on a moving deck, or getting the right wind over the deck is the same?), which was used to help justify the decision and to foil the attempts of the First Sea Lord to resolve the skills issue. The meeting that made these decisions lasted about twenty minutes.

The First Sea Lord, and other SMEs, were ignored. Then in 2012 we went back to F-35B. Despite having claimed that CTOL and V/STOL skill sets are completely different, there are still RN personnel about US carriers doing CTOL stuff. A lot of effort is still going into (other) measures to prepare people for having jets on deck again - some things are not public, and I do not know.

So the real question is:

Why did ANYONE think that ripping up a decade of planning, and opting for a CTOL future after a decade of having no jets at sea, was a good idea?

A number of things come to my simple mind - which apply to more poor decision making in Defence:

1. Refusal to listen to SMEs. The First Sea Lord was a former CVS Captain, other experts existed in NCHQ, MOD, and DSTL. Were there views sought?
2. Refusal to learn lessons from elsewhere. Were other carrier operating Navies asked an opinion regarding the skills issue?
3. No System thinking. When a number of interconnected parts interact with each other and rely on each other, major changes to any single part has wide ranging effects.
4. Fast decision making - complex decisions cannot be made fast, as they are driven my emotion and not reason.
5. No peer review - if say a paper proposing a move to CTOL after a jet less decade had been circulated to a number of people who had been Cdr(Air) aboard a CVS, the issue of skill loss would have been made plain, as would things like whole ship aspects.
6. No PDCA. If before an announcement, the proposal was investigated from a "what are the implications?" viewpoint then decision making would be better.
 
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#11
Is the intent still that the FAA F35s will be crewed by joint RAF and FAA crews?
Are the RAF crews going to have to stay combat ready on both versions?
 

Guns

ADC
Moderator
Book Reviewer
#12
I am slowly coming to the opinion that Lord West is trying his hardest to **** the Navy over with his thoughts. It would be best if he just STFU and let the current Navy fight its battles where it should - behind closed doors and with the right people in Government and Industry.

He is becoming like Lewis Page but actually listened too and believed.
 
#13
Four thing come to my simple mind - which apply to more poor decision making in Defence:

1. Refusal to listen to SMEs.
2. Refusal to learn lessons from elsewhere.
3. No System thinking.
4. Fast decision making.
5. No peer review.
6. No PDCA.
7.Numeracy
 

A2_Matelot

LE
Book Reviewer
#14
A number of things come to my simple mind - which apply to more poor decision making in Defence:
1. Refusal to listen to SMEs. The First Sea Lord was a former CVS Captain, other experts existed in NCHQ, MOD, and DSTL. Were there views sought?
Because the programme started a very long time ago I don't know - but I'd bet it started with a straw man or paper from deep with in the Navy or CAP area that seeked to address a capability gap (post CVS) and described options. That would have received a huge degree of review.

2. Refusal to learn lessons from elsewhere. Were other carrier operating Navies asked an opinion regarding the skills issue?
Oddly yes, at least FR and the US, which was sensible given they are our primary allies.

3. No System thinking. When a number of interconnected parts interact with each other and rely on each other, major changes to any single part has wide ranging effects.
Nope, a Systems of Systems approach is taken to all aspects of Naval Engineering

4. Fast decision making - complex decisions cannot be made fast, as they are driven my emotion and not reason.
You are having a laugh, have you any idea how long this programme has been in gestation? Glacial does not adequately describe defence acquisition!

5. No peer review - if say a paper proposing a move to CTOL after a jet less decade had been circulated to a number of people who had been Cdr(Air) aboard a CVS, the issue of skill loss would have been made plain, as would things like whole ship aspects.
The skills issue was widely known and accepted, for a long time the aircrew, handlers and maintenance issues were being spun up. Resolution is an entirely separate issue.

6. No PDCA. If before an announcement, the proposal was investigated from a "what are the implications?" viewpoint then decision making would be better.
In a straightforward procurement yes, however as with many 'strategic' procurements there are political dimensions [not saying thats right] that mean projects depart from the norm and decisions are taken that otherwise wouldn't be. If common sense had said scrap F35, procure F/18 with C&T instead, what would that have meant for UKUS and 5E relations - engineering in the UK etc. Comes back to wider politics.
 
#15
Because the programme started a very long time ago I don't know - but I'd bet it started with a straw man or paper from deep with in the Navy or CAP area that seeked to address a capability gap (post CVS) and described options. That would have received a huge degree of review.

Oddly yes, at least FR and the US, which was sensible given they are our primary allies.

Nope, a Systems of Systems approach is taken to all aspects of Naval Engineering



You are having a laugh, have you any idea how long this programme has been in gestation? Glacial does not adequately describe defence acquisition!



The skills issue was widely known and accepted, for a long time the aircrew, handlers and maintenance issues were being spun up. Resolution is an entirely separate issue.



In a straightforward procurement yes, however as with many 'strategic' procurements there are political dimensions [not saying thats right] that mean projects depart from the norm and decisions are taken that otherwise wouldn't be. If common sense had said scrap F35, procure F/18 with C&T instead, what would that have meant for UKUS and 5E relations - engineering in the UK etc. Comes back to wider politics.
I was talking purely about the decision taken by the Prime Minister the weekend before SDSR was announced - not the CVF project as a whole. Prior to that (a twenty minute meeting allegedly) there was a coherent plan.

Stop birching me!
 

A2_Matelot

LE
Book Reviewer
#16
Stop birching me!
Birch pah, reasons in writing!

I was talking purely about the decision taken by the Prime Minister the weekend before SDSR was announced - not the CVF project as a whole. Prior to that (a twenty minute meeting allegedly) there was a coherent plan.
I'm not sure I wholly believe we went 180 degrees on a 20 min chat. I know there were weeks of recosting and questioning ACA. I don't doubt that in 20mins a decision was made, what I would think is [if it happened as postulted] he was given a brief that presented all the options and the costs and the political/industrial impacts, with recommendations [as per normal] and they were such of such importance he was the one to carry the can
 
#17
Well the policy moved through another 180 degrees eighteen months later, so something was not done well.
 
#18
Is the intent still that the FAA F35s will be crewed by joint RAF and FAA crews?
Are the RAF crews going to have to stay combat ready on both versions?
There will be no 'FAA F-35s' just as there will be no RAF F-35s. All sqns will be jointly manned with the split 42/58 in favour of the RAF.

Moreover, we're only buying one variant: the STOVL F-35B which will be based at RAF Marham and embark on the QEs or deploy to land bases as required.

Regards,
MM
 
#19
There will be no 'FAA F-35s' just as there will be no RAF F-35s. All sqns will be jointly manned with the split 42/58 in favour of the RAF.

Moreover, we're only buying one variant: the STOVL F-35B which will be based at RAF Marham and embark on the QEs or deploy to land bases as required.

Regards,
MM
Amen to that - particularly were it to be a force approaching 100 cabs (not holding my breath). Interesting one for the training stream - are they all going to get to include DCA as part of their core training?
 
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