Question on integrity from a SNCO

Discussion in 'Officers' started by JFKDorset, May 12, 2005.

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  1. This is not an officer knocking post, so please dont read it as such. But I would like to uderstand how the senior officers mind works.

    We live in an age of ever increasing defence commitments yet we have also suffered a prolonged period of defence cuts in strength and expendeture accros the three services.

    The Royal Navy has by admission of the First Sea Lord reached the point where he has agreed to force cuts so serious that they will jeopardize future operations so that the RN can have its future carriers. But now the cuts have been made the Govt is looking for ways out of the future carrier programme and have not placed an order for them. New ships are being built to merchant rather than naval standards to save cash. (We as soldiers need to take note of this because it seriously affects our well being in joint ops)

    The RAF has wrangled command of the Harrier force away from the RN and will now only use the GR9 which cannot defend the Fleet against air attack (shades of 1982). The rest of the RAF is seriously under strength

    The Army is subjecting itself to manpower cuts, limits on training for both the regular and TA. Allowing the AMS to be subject to clinical governence standards imposed by the NHS even though those standards are ill suited to the needs of the three services.
    Allowing introduction of Apache WAH64 to force reductions in the Lynx force, limiting operations by 16 Air assault Bde, as the Lynx is a utility helecopter that can be used in the AT role whilst the Apache has no utility role.
    Reduction in the amount of Infantry Bn's when the new system of fixed role Infantry Bn's could have incresed the Army's overall capability.
    A soldier from every capbadge couold make his own points.

    And accross the three services propetuating the lie that digitalization will make up for insufficient force numbers, therby encouraging the treasury to make further cuts. Digitalization is important but it doesnt put us ahead of the game, it only keeps us at the table and doesn't replace men on the ground.

    I am sure you don't need to be told of the cuts, in manpower, equipment, training and a whole host of other areas.

    My question is this why are the Senior Officers of the three services doing so little to fight back? Isn't it time they fought their/our corner and threatened to resign in protest at the Treasury dictating Defence policy, maybe take a few Cabinet members with them.

    The Joint Chiefs of the Defence Staff act (if you have ever seen them on the teleivised proceedings from Parliament) like sheep, hoping that its the other one's throat that gets cut, rather than facing the reality that until they make a stand everyone is for the Treasury chop.

    Why don't senior officers fight for us?

    Hope to get some informed reply's
    James (SNCO RAMC ex RN)
  2. The fashionable answer is ' they are more worried about their pension or Knighthood' but i think the real answer is democracy. The politicians on behalf of the people decide how much money to spend on Defence - it is not the Senior Officer's role to tell the Public they are wrong - just to make do the best they can.
    However what they SHOULD be doing is spelling out very clearly what is possible with the resources allocated. Unfortunately this goes against the 'can-do' attitude ingrained into the Forces - at any level if you asked to do something even if you are not quite sure if you have enough resources - 90% of people will have a go rather than say No.
    Unfortunately i think we will have to suffer a major military defeat before things get better - until then be prepared for more and more cuts as money is diverted to more 'important' issues.
  3. The other problem is that a lot of the civilian population is largely ignorant of the Forces post-1945 with a slight flicker around 1982. If the population at large were more aware of defence issues, there might be more pressure on the Government to keep the funding up.

    What I propose is a publicity blitz. Start with "Celebrity Barracks". Take a dozen or so Z-list "celebs" and put them through Infantry training. Screen the results on ITV. Follow up with a couple of serious documentaries on the state of the defence budget and the potential gaps (perhaps by throwing up hypothetical situations - such as a Falklands 2010 scenario with no Harrier fleet) in manning and gear.

    Whatever happens though, we need to get away from the "dead squaddie" and "bad squaddie" themes that seem to dominate national news whenever the Army is on the headlines.
  4. Auld-Yin

    Auld-Yin LE Reviewer Book Reviewer Reviews Editor


    Isn't democracy a fine thing? We have a government with a respectable (but much smaller) majority in the house based on a vote for them of around 22%. The smallest mandate in Britain under our current eelctroal system.

    My thoughts - we are being turned into a small nqtion with a past which is in the position of appeasing any country which is not in a disagreement with the Good Ole US of A. Once you fall out with Uncle Sam all our resources will be placed in harms way (i.e. from US forces).

    IMO the only way that the forces will increase in strength is if the unemployment figures become so bad that to get them off the dole they will be coerced(forced) into some form of service. Otherwise I would suggest we don't pick a fight with Switzerland over the next few decades. Their navy will f*ck us.
  5. I too note that they become strangely vociferous apres-retirement.

    Ambition must play a role.

  6. Definatly agree that they don't rock the boat. Mike Jackson was all to eager to stick up for us before he was appointed CGS but look at him now. Did anybody see his interview on Panorama? In one sentence he was saying the British Army is not overstretched, the next he agrees that there are people who go on tour a lot more regularly than others. Surely that is being overstretched. There were guys going over the border on Telic with 20 rounds, that is unexcusable! The problem with the senior officers is that they are very out of touch with the needs of todays army. A few years ago Gen Hugh Pike commanded a warrior on an exercise which was televised. He didn't have a clue (fair one, he is airborne and has never touched armour) and happily admitted that this was all new to him. The senior officers don't realise that we are trying to do a job with very limitted resources. If Ireland had flared up when we were on Telic one we would have been in serious shi'ite. They need to get some balls and stick up for our services before it's too late!
  7. I thought I was in a very very small minority to think that such an event was unlikely - a major defeat. Is Whistleblower thought to be correct in his supposition on this?
  8. I said this a few months back when I first joined ARRSE and I got few unpleasent replies. A major defeat with a major loss of life, where the blame lands firmly and squarely with the lack of funds, failing equipment and lack of troops. Its a schitt scenario and I hope it never happens.

  9. Funny you should say that, a former head of the Defence Select Committee said the same thing. Allegedly.
  10. JFK,

    You are right in what you say. Our Armed Forces are in a perilous state. However, we are at the mercy of politicians who see defence as a necessary evil but one with little vote winning potential. Our top brass should, in my opinion, fight more for the needs of the services as regards manning, equipment, etc but I believe they would have little impact.

    The cost of defence is huge and let us be under no illusion that this all comes down to what the treasury will give us. Whilst we continue to do the job, it validates the politicians plans. We carry out their will and manage to achieve results, ergo, the size and structure of the forces must be correct. What they fail to fully realise is the impact on the individuals in the forces.

    I believe that the good will that each member of the forces has, combined with the can do attitude has been the major reason that we have not been beaten so far. We are making do with too few troops and old kit yet we muddle through. What must be realised is that pot of goodwill is quickly being emptied. Soon, the average soldier will no longer be prepared to put up with the poor return he is getting for going the extra mile and he will stop. The big fear is that he votes with his feet and leaves. With recruiting still a problem, we could end up in a terrible situation. The few men, with no let up in commitments, will mean those left will have to do more. I for one would not hang around andwould jump ship.

    The answer is simple, greater investment. The truth, a bleak outlook for the services.
  11. It's a catch 22 for anyone senior to anyone else. If you are seen to publicly disagree with your boss, how can you expect your subordinates not to do the same to you? On the other hand how can you expect your subordinates to respect you if you are thought to be brown-nosing (and are thought to be doing so at their expense)

    I suspect that our most senior officers do at their level what humble bods like me do at mine - argue like bu ggery behind closed doors but toe the party-line in front of the men. Leadership principles call on me to ensure that I am not seen to be advantaged by a disadvantage to someone for whom I have responsibility.

    Naturally any order that is illegal or immoral or both requires that I win the argument or resign. Thankfully it has never got that far, but I have on occasion found myself having to make the best of a very bad situation, including watching my Sqn forcibly reduced from 160 strong and over-recruited to 120 established and struggling to recruit. Did I argue behind the scenes - you better believe it. Did I put on my rose-tinted specs to keep morale as high as possible, virtues out of necessity, we're so good it only needs us at 75% strength, etc, etc - yep, I did that as well. Had a few CRs that mentioned my "robust and forthright views" along with a few Not Yets for promotion but the Sqn is near full recruitment again and morale is high despite (perhaps because of) troops on every TELIC so far.

    Spare a thought for the high-ups at MOD central if they need to choose, say, between saving a Regt or allowing the Health & SS high-ups to build and maintain a new hospital - now tell me how that fits into any concept of integrity that can have anyone feeling good about themselves.

    Is the outlook bleak? Only if we all get fatalistic about it. If we all keep fighting our corner quietly and professionally and trust our bosses to do the same with theirs we will get the best future we possibly can. As long as the officers realise that it is their job not to let the men's heads go down - that's integrity!

    Will we go through this all again? And again? Probably.

    Is the glass half-full or half-empty? Neither. It's got whatever it's got in it, from there on it's up to you.
  12. I was fortunate enough to have a peek into the process in a previous incarnation.

    I was present when a very senior officer (not Army) was desperately arguing with a very senior Civil Servant about the cessation of a certain project.

    The officer presented what I (mere drone that I am) thought was an unassailable argument that the project should be axed as it had gone well over-budget, was not going to provide was a required and has, in any case, been overtaken by emerging technology. He was rational at first, before becoming increasingly distraught and frustrated.

    The Civil Servant basically said "That's all very well, Jack*, but the Minister isn't going to pull the plug. He's sold it to the Secretary of State as a vote-winner and the main contractor is based in a marginal constituency".

    It was like something out of "Yes, Minister". However, the real eye-opener was then being present when the officer returned to his people and explained how the project was considered of such importance that it had received extra funding and an extension to the deadline and how we were all to focus our efforts on making it achieve the promise we all believed it had.

    I discussed it with him some time later in a bar a long way from there and he explained how he felt that although the project money could have been spent better elsewhere, it was his duty - once he accepted that there was no chance of axing it - to make sure that what the system did turn out was at least of some small use, and that in order to do that he needed to keep his team motivated: revealing his own frustration would have just undermined the project entirely making it expensive AND useless. He also explained that he hoped to be promoted again and that he might have more influence to prevent further stupidities further up the chain.

    Now, we might say that he should have resigned and brought the project down, Samson-like, around his ears. But he had a family and bills to pay and a life dedicated to the Service that he didn't want to chuck in over a politician's stupidity.

    On a separate note, I've always detected the problem as being at the electorate level. "Defence" is somehow seen as a "bad" way of spending tax-pounds, so everyone wants to see us do more with less.

    It is, theoretically, possible to achieve this objective. The right systems and the right technology could allow us to continue dominating battlefields and punching beyond our weight for decades to come.

    Unfortunately, government spending policies mean that we don't have the right systems or the right technology. Digitization could theoretically act as serious force multiplier, making a single soldier worth three or even five what he once would have been. But it has been an opportunity wasted on badly managed projects and poorly-designed software.

    Lessons have been learnt in the last two years and new systems show signs of a more tech-savvy command structure as a new generation of IT-literate officers reach positions of influence. But in the intervening years, lives have been lost and millions of pounds wasted.

  13. Ahh. I call this "A Bridge Too Far Syndrome." See it all the time with our seniors.

    Remember the scene when Dirk Bogarde, playing "Boy" Browning, is shown the SS Panzer Division plotted up in the woods near Arnhem? The intelligence officer is telling him that it's not looking good for the airborne.

    "Too late, the party is on." Says Browning. Allegedly. He doesn't want to upset Monty. He doesn't want to be the one to tell the emperor that his clothes are invisible. He doesn't want to be the fly in the ointment when it's time for tea and medals. So he gets the intelligence officer an appointment with the trick cyclist and gets him moved to the funny farm.

    And we all know what happened next.

    So, unfortunately, the Yes Men will get their way until something horrible happens. Was ever thus, I suppose.

    I also saw that "back to the shop-floor" programme with the old CGS. He was as fit as fook, IIRC. Love the comment from the Geordie platoon sergeant: "Yeah, he's an OK boss, shut's up and does what he's fookin' told."

    Later on, he listened to the guys having a moan. Then he goes back to Whitehall and rips all the boys in silly trousers and comfy jumpers a new arrse-hole for the cameras. "Why wasn't I told the combats were shite? Why don't warrior drivers get tankie trade pay?" etc.


  14. I disagree with this.

    I believe that 'the lads' would rather have senior officers who stood up to civil servants rather than yes men but don't believe this would effect the chain of command within the uniformed services.

    Give non-comissioned ranks some credit. I for one can see the difference between an officer telling a CS where to go and and a Private disobeying a Captain.

    Morale is quite low in the forces at the mo and one of the reasons is the 'stabbed in the back' feeling trickling down from above. Its about time someone stood up for those who have given their lives and those who are waiting in the wings.
  15. Defence cuts are one thing thats worrying enough, but I can understand why the NHS gets the Lions share, and I suppose in times of peace, so it should. It does after all have a war role (treating casualties)

    But the one thing that really worries me is industry. If we were in a protracted shooting war with a nation that actually had an economy and industrial output geared up to a war footing could UK forces replace there battlefield losses?

    I'm not convinced the UK could, as it de-industrializes, becoming increasingly a service sector economy 'taking in washing'