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Gen Nick Carter - a year in post as CGS. Give us a progress update?

Someone (very senior) at that Sandhurst do saying how good it was to 'see so many of the Army's COs and other WTE personnel in one place'...
It looks to me as though to Nick Carter, the Army is a big version of his rifle company.

Surely that wasn't THE big tent. I didn't count heads, but is that everybody?
Ah, the army as one big, happy rifle company. So swift, so bold!
 

Sarastro

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
Old cynic that I am, I'm looking for signs of progress to assess whether optimism is justifiably undimmed, or ebbing away as the dance of the shirtsleeves begins again.

Old cynic that you are, you should know better than that. Jesus could come again carrying a Baker rifle, wearing a faded rifleman's jacket, having won at Waterloo and the Peninsula and beaten off Hitler while smoking a big cigar and making 'V' signs, and there would still be **** all chance of him being able to noticeably change the Army in two years flat. The issue is whether Carter can bed in the changes he wants well enough that they don't get rolled back after he's gone. It's going to be a bit longer before we can judge that. If you don't like it, I'd cite the example of Richards and Newton (that well known stage pair) who fired in much-needed changes all over the shop during their short tenures. Many of them were shelved and forgotten shortly afterwards.

The stuff you are seeing in the media looks like fluff because it is the fluff that the media are interested in. Will it mean long term change? Possibly. But it's just stuff that was going to happen anyway eventually, but is now being gripped and done proactively. This gives the Army and Carter some space to maneuver politically, instead of the usual strategy of digging heels in about everything under the sun, then whining when it gets told to shut up and stand to. It is a strategy that has been used to good effect previously by other elements of Defence. The RAF are very good at it. In short, it is an easy win, or a way to avoid shooting oneself in the foot: not the main event.

There are other reforms going on all over the shop, but not all of them are obvious yet. Many of them the media wouldn't understand, so you are unlikely to hear about. A good number of the individuals Carter has tapped as his project leads, however, are saying interesting, slightly iconoclastic things. He very clearly has a plan, but his MO is to keep it compartmentalized and extremely close to his chest. Even most people in Army HQ are guessing about what other elements are doing. Given the likely resistance to some of the things he is doing, this is understandable, and while not exactly best practice in a functional organisation, is perhaps the wisest option in the dysfunctional monolithic beast he has to work with.

He does have an unfortunate tendency to focus on "the grown ups", i.e. those at a rank between himself and CO level. At no point has anyone I've talked to had the impression that he is a "listen to the voices on the ground" kind of guy. He is also clearly more focused on sorting out the officer corps than addressing problems with soldiers, although I suppose he would argue that the former is necessary to get the latter right. He has also, as far as I can make out, so far dodged real reform of the MS system, except at the General Staff level (which is too late). Aside from the media-friendly fluff like this stuff, the inertial fug of Glasgow seems to grind on to oblivion, broken gears chewing up the machinery as it goes. None of these are ideal, but then you go to war with the reformer you have, not the reformer you'd want.

The clearest steer about where this is all going to go will be after SDSR. That will decide a couple of key elements, such as whether the Reserves project will survive, and whether significant deployments are likely to figure in the next 5 years. Until then, wait out!
 
Sorry. "WTE"?
Where Talent Endures - seems to me to be the current buzz-phrase for "Jobs we give to the sort of chaps who have made the kind of courageous, imaginative and far-sighted decisions over the last several years, that we have wound up in our present rather sorry, dysfunctional and diminished state"

Mebbe that's just me.
 
Old cynic that you are, you should know better than that. Jesus could come again carrying a Baker rifle, wearing a faded rifleman's jacket, having won at Waterloo and the Peninsula and beaten off Hitler while smoking a big cigar and making 'V' signs, and there would still be **** all chance of him being able to noticeably change the Army in two years flat. The issue is whether Carter can bed in the changes he wants well enough that they don't get rolled back after he's gone. It's going to be a bit longer before we can judge that. If you don't like it, I'd cite the example of Richards and Newton (that well known stage pair) who fired in much-needed changes all over the shop during their short tenures. Many of them were shelved and forgotten shortly afterwards.

The stuff you are seeing in the media looks like fluff because it is the fluff that the media are interested in. Will it mean long term change? Possibly. But it's just stuff that was going to happen anyway eventually, but is now being gripped and done proactively. This gives the Army and Carter some space to maneuver politically, instead of the usual strategy of digging heels in about everything under the sun, then whining when it gets told to shut up and stand to. It is a strategy that has been used to good effect previously by other elements of Defence. The RAF are very good at it. In short, it is an easy win, or a way to avoid shooting oneself in the foot: not the main event.

There are other reforms going on all over the shop, but not all of them are obvious yet. Many of them the media wouldn't understand, so you are unlikely to hear about. A good number of the individuals Carter has tapped as his project leads, however, are saying interesting, slightly iconoclastic things. He very clearly has a plan, but his MO is to keep it compartmentalized and extremely close to his chest. Even most people in Army HQ are guessing about what other elements are doing. Given the likely resistance to some of the things he is doing, this is understandable, and while not exactly best practice in a functional organisation, is perhaps the wisest option in the dysfunctional monolithic beast he has to work with.

He does have an unfortunate tendency to focus on "the grown ups", i.e. those at a rank between himself and CO level. At no point has anyone I've talked to had the impression that he is a "listen to the voices on the ground" kind of guy. He is also clearly more focused on sorting out the officer corps than addressing problems with soldiers, although I suppose he would argue that the former is necessary to get the latter right. He has also, as far as I can make out, so far dodged real reform of the MS system, except at the General Staff level (which is too late). Aside from the media-friendly fluff like this stuff, the inertial fug of Glasgow seems to grind on to oblivion, broken gears chewing up the machinery as it goes. None of these are ideal, but then you go to war with the reformer you have, not the reformer you'd want.

The clearest steer about where this is all going to go will be after SDSR. That will decide a couple of key elements, such as whether the Reserves project will survive, and whether significant deployments are likely to figure in the next 5 years. Until then, wait out!
I was struck by Cameron and The Spanish Prime Minister last night. It seemed as if they were calling for regime change in Syria.

In which case, the next five years are going to be interesting and I doubt you could rely on the reserves.
 
Mebbe it did.

But it didn't seem like CMD was contemplating using Tommy to do it.
Who else? The Spanish? The Italians? The Greeks? Change needs to happen, the incessant conflict needs to stop and the flow of migrants needs to be stemmed.

These are issues which MoD should be involved in, when they become involved, it's a no brainer they will, all the assumptions in SDSR2015 will be thrown out... Again.

I apologize, I am not as erudite as you, however I hope you understand my meaning.
 
Where Talent Endures - seems to me to be the current buzz-phrase for "Jobs we give to the sort of chaps who have made the kind of courageous, imaginative and far-sighted decisions over the last several years, that we have wound up in our present rather sorry, dysfunctional and diminished state"

Mebbe that's just me.

Also known as "those selected up"
Interestingly elements of this group (in earlier iterations) are subject of a project at Shriv with 2 principle workstreams: a. Here are ways of how to think and tackle difficult/wicked problems b. Where did all the BYTs we saw at RMAS disappear to?

The second work stream is a very interesting one because of the what/why behind it.
Essentially most of those that have demonstrated the flat/2D thinking are candidates turning up for ICSC. Therefore many of those selected for promotion often require remedial education....



Having said that, at least @ATG and @Caecilius show some signs of hope by being little rebels and posting on arrse
 
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Caecilius

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
He has also, as far as I can make out, so far dodged real reform of the MS system, except at the General Staff level (which is too late). Aside from the media-friendly fluff like this stuff, the inertial fug of Glasgow seems to grind on to oblivion, broken gears chewing up the machinery as it goes. None of these are ideal, but then you go to war with the reformer you have, not the reformer you'd want.

There was a clear statement made by DM(A) at the Land Warfare Conference stating that MS will not be reformed in any real sense as to do so would be too hard.

I also enjoyed the bit where he said 'we looked at whether to go down the reward route or the flexibility route and went for the latter' meaning that we're playing to the lower 50% as usual by making it easier to take time off rather than reward and encourage those who treat this as a career. I suspect the key driver was that flexi-time is much cheaper than working out a meaningful rewards system.
 

Sarastro

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
There was a clear statement made by DM(A) at the Land Warfare Conference stating that MS will not be reformed in any real sense as to do so would be too hard.

I also enjoyed the bit where he said 'we looked at whether to go down the reward route or the flexibility route and went for the latter' meaning that we're playing to the lower 50% as usual by making it easier to take time off rather than reward and encourage those who treat this as a career. I suspect the key driver was that flexi-time is much cheaper than working out a meaningful rewards system.

Indeed. Thought it notable that following the "manning" session during which DM(A) presented that, the questions were - unusually - almost entirely from serving officers, and by far the most aggressive and malcontent over the whole two days. That Para Reg Major sitting stage right who stood up and basically suggested it was a load of bollocks, asking where selection on merit or skills training factored into any of this, was spot on.

I saw him in the coffee break subsequently, getting one of those dangerous make-or-break talks from some Major General. Suspect it went something like this:

"Well done, great question, really the kind of challenging thinking we need. Of course we're very keen to get to the bottom of these problems when identified from below, so we'll definitely look into it. I just wanted to get your name and unit...oh! Funny thing, I was at Sandhurst with your Brigade Commander, I'll be sure to take it up with him..."

etcetera.

Perhaps this is just what happens when you promote people to DM(A) whose idea of common sense is to take their MoD BlackBerry on holiday to China (that stalwart ally with no interest in cyber-espionage) to get it nicked on a train, or who draft memos openly suggesting that leading journalists and academics are "voices" through which to distribute Army lines-to-take, only to find when it leaks that, er, they have a slightly different view of their role.
 
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Caecilius

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
Indeed. Thought it notable that following the "manning" session during which DM(A) presented that, the questions were - unusually - almost entirely from serving officers, and by far the most aggressive and malcontent over the whole two days. That Para Reg Major sitting stage right who stood up and basically suggested it was a load of bollocks, asking where selection on merit or skills training factored into any of this, was spot on.

I saw him in the coffee break subsequently, getting one of those dangerous make-or-break talks from some Major General. Suspect it went something like this:

"Well done, great question, really the kind of challenging thinking we need. Of course we're very keen to get to the bottom of these problems when identified from below, so we'll definitely look into it. I just wanted to get your name and unit...oh! Funny thing, I was at Sandhurst with your Brigade Commander, I'll be sure to take it up with him..."

etcetera.

I did think that was a bit bold. I think MS is the one issue that the entire army agrees (less perhaps those that have made it through the system to the top) is broken and needs urgent repair.

I don't know if you're young enough for CGS's breakfast but there seemed to be an alarming focus on tokenistic recruiting of minorities. Still, not as bad as Gen Wall a couple of years before saying that he didn't care about the talented guys leaving the army after a few years because "they were never going to stay anyway". Sadly, experience suggests that we actually could retain some serious talent if we made only a minor improvement.


Still, at least nobody in green was as offensive as the little sh*t who described military historians as being 'not real academics'. I enjoyed taking the piss out of him at breakfast the next day.
 
Who else? The Spanish? The Italians? The Greeks? Change needs to happen, the incessant conflict needs to stop and the flow of migrants needs to be stemmed.

These are issues which MoD should be involved in, when they become involved, it's a no brainer they will, all the assumptions in SDSR2015 will be thrown out... Again.

I apologize, I am not as erudite as you, however I hope you understand my meaning.

Best option right now is just to step back and let the Russians do it - all the while making correct censorious noises about the evil Vlad - what's not to like...?
 

Sarastro

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
I did think that was a bit bold. I think MS is the one issue that the entire army agrees (less perhaps those that have made it through the system to the top) is broken and needs urgent repair.

I don't know if you're young enough for CGS's breakfast but there seemed to be an alarming focus on tokenistic recruiting of minorities. Still, not as bad as Gen Wall a couple of years before saying that he didn't care about the talented guys leaving the army after a few years because "they were never going to stay anyway". Sadly, experience suggests that we actually could retain some serious talent if we made only a minor improvement.


Still, at least nobody in green was as offensive as the little sh*t who described military historians as being 'not real academics'. I enjoyed taking the piss out of him at breakfast the next day.

Young enough (or at least junior enough) but had been warned off that it was likely to be Carter on send to the kids rather than interesting discussion, so avoided it. The tokenism is mostly about women I think, which is fair enough (and potentially not token at all, were we to recruit an equal % to the population), but it was depressing to hear nothing else from MS. We can recruit all the women and ethnic minorities we want, but the good ones will still bugger off elsewhere when they realise the organisation is a Byzantine clusterfuck with 1950's career policies and little desire to change, just like everyone else does.

That bloke you mention had the emotional intelligence of a rapist on Viagra. I wonder what his thought process was?

Hmm, questions coming up soon. Already asked a 3 minute "question" to show all the senior professional soldiers in the room how much I know about the Army. Check. Asked another 5-minute "question" to tell everyone what I, PhD student extraordinaire, have read on the topic. Check. Been called on as the 'voice of the younger generation'. Check. What's left...? Ah, perhaps I should insult half the academics in the room too!


*hand up*
 
E

EScotia

Guest
I was struck by Cameron and The Spanish Prime Minister last night. It seemed as if they were calling for regime change in Syria.

In which case, the next five years are going to be interesting and I doubt you could rely on the reserves.
Nothing will ever happen in Syria or any of the other countries/areas that are destabalising the West by flooding it with refugees until the UN reforms itself into a proper organisation that does what is should.
 

Caecilius

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
Young enough (or at least junior enough) but had been warned off that it was likely to be Carter on send to the kids rather than interesting discussion, so avoided it. The tokenism is mostly about women I think, which is fair enough (and potentially not token at all, were we to recruit an equal % to the population), but it was depressing to hear nothing else from MS. We can recruit all the women and ethnic minorities we want, but the good ones will still bugger off elsewhere when they realise the organisation is a Byzantine clusterfuck with 1950's career policies and little desire to change, just like everyone else does.

That bloke you mention had the emotional intelligence of a rapist on Viagra. I wonder what his thought process was?

Hmm, questions coming up soon. Already asked a 3 minute "question" to show all the senior professional soldiers in the room how much I know about the Army. Check. Asked another 5-minute "question" to tell everyone what I, PhD student extraordinaire, have read on the topic. Check. Been called on as the 'voice of the younger generation'. Check. What's left...? Ah, perhaps I should insult half the academics in the room too!


*hand up*

I thought it was particularly special when he decided to tell us that the Trotsky quote we'd heard three times already was a misquote, only to come up with a misquote himself. I'm sure he went back to his think tank with the impression that he'd really made himself look good in front of a room full of soldiers.

You did well to avoid the CGS event. It was a series of people who didn't understand what level of issue to raise to CGS and him swatting away awkward questions. He didn't go in for the impressive off the record honesty that General Wall did most of us came away feeling like we'd just been given the party line. That being said, it is amusing watching him try not to upset the politicians when talking about women in the combat arms; he clearly disagrees with opening up the infantry to girls but knows that he can't get away with saying that.
 
I thought it was particularly special when he decided to tell us that the Trotsky quote we'd heard three times already was a misquote, only to come up with a misquote himself. I'm sure he went back to his think tank with the impression that he'd really made himself look good in front of a room full of soldiers.

You did well to avoid the CGS event. It was a series of people who didn't understand what level of issue to raise to CGS and him swatting away awkward questions. He didn't go in for the impressive off the record honesty that General Wall did most of us came away feeling like we'd just been given the party line. That being said, it is amusing watching him try not to upset the politicians when talking about women in the combat arms; he clearly disagrees with opening up the infantry to girls but knows that he can't get away with saying that.
So, was the headline went:

"Army Officers turn up to Carterfest: surprised to find agenda is just all about Carter"

 

Caecilius

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
So, was the headline went:

"Army Officers turn up to Carterfest: surprised to find agenda is just all about Carter"


Sadly I didn't know it was going to be Carterfest beforehand. I assumed it would be like 'Wall's home truths' from the preceding two years. How wrong I was!
 

Sarastro

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
Sadly I didn't know it was going to be Carterfest beforehand. I assumed it would be like 'Wall's home truths' from the preceding two years. How wrong I was!

Yeah. I know the organisers, who tried to keep the home truths aspect going, but Carter isn't interested. Like I said, he makes an unfortunate (and false) distinction between "grown ups" and the rest of us.

As an aside, I don't think he does off the record. You get the feeling even his wife is on a need to know basis. I've seen him be very cagey about personal opinions even at a small private gathering full of allies and confidants. Apparently this is the way of it in Andover too.

That said, I would rather have a flawed reformer than a matey traditionalist. It might have been possible to talk like a human being with Wall, but nothing was ever going to change as a result of your chat.
 
If it's any consolation, the RN just looked at reforming its Officer and Warrant Officer career system. It explicitly turned down the chance as it was 'too involved and challenging'...
 

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