Serious Thread - What's it FOR?

Glad_its_all_over

ADC
Book Reviewer
I'll declare the extent of my skin in the game - none, particularly. I was a TA infantryman in the 70s and subsequently spent 22 years in the Regular Army, leaving at the very beginning of 2000. SInce then I have hovered around the fringes of the defence, security and risk industry, largely abroad and have engaged quite closely at various levels with various militaries.

The question I have is the one on the thread title. What is the AR actually for? There is clearly no consensus in government, MoD or the Army (Regular and Reserve, both) and there is equally clearly a fundamental perception gap between some Reservists and some Regulars as to the value and role of the Reserve.

To declare some assumptions:

  • The political will to implement US National Guard style TACOS is not there, will not be there and to an extent cannot be there.
  • The AR will remain, whatever its role, a voluntary organisation with few sanctions beyond removal available to commanders.
  • The AR is inherently a good thing and should be preserved in a worthwhile role.

It seems to me that there are potentially three models or strands which might be followed:

  1. Top-up cheap labour for the Regulars. Essentially, lots of junior ranks and a few key watchkeepers and specialist units.
  2. Capability preservers - custodians of capabilities not currently wanted or affordable in the Regular service but important to keep alive.
  3. Formed units capable of mobilisation and deployment with a range of readiness levels, but all requiring unit collective training of varying duration before deployment.

1. is pretty much normal jogging as things are today but not hugely satisfying or interesting for the older, more senior or longer-serving Reservist and makes little use of key and unique skills which individual Reservists have.

2. is potentially interesting as it might permit some heavy metal capabilities to be preserved - obviously at a greatly reduced readiness level - against future contingency.

3. Is most relevant to the classic TA role of mobilisation for existential or general war.
 
Given Defence (consisting of purple colours and in both full and partime flavours) is a function of the state, shouldn't the bigger question be "What is the UK for?"

This article from the Oxford Research Group raises a major issue: no coherent Foreign policy for the application of troops, influence etc

One soldier, echoing the views of others, described the UK approach as “throwing some men here and some men there” and felt that “political vacillation” remained a major threat to the effectiveness of the UK’s approach. Although there is evidence that efforts are underway to start improving the integration of these strategies, our research found that coordination remained personality-driven rather than institutionalised.

And reinforces it here:

two initial findings from a broader project examining the factors for success and failure of remote warfare, namely:
• The current strategic disconnect between stated ambitions for the British contribution to security on the African continent and the activities being run to build partner capacity;
• A short-term approach to partnerships that prioritises tactical activities over broader institutional support and reform that might address underlying causes of conflict.


The Reserves are not the main event, they are either the strategic or operational reserve for the standing army (fulfilling lots of other home based MCI stuff as well).
If the Regular Army is making up stuff to fill the gaps/void in National Strategy, then looking at the reserve is a little too early
 
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Glad_its_all_over

ADC
Book Reviewer
Given Defence (consisting of purple colours and in both full and partime flavours) is a function of the state, shouldn't the bigger question be "What if the UK for?"

This article from the Oxford Research Group raises a major issue: no coherent Foreign policy for the application of troops, influence etc

One soldier, echoing the views of others, described the UK approach as “throwing some men here and some men there” and felt that “political vacillation” remained a major threat to the effectiveness of the UK’s approach. Although there is evidence that efforts are underway to start improving the integration of these strategies, our research found that coordination remained personality-driven rather than institutionalised.

And reinforces it here:

two initial findings from a broader project examining the factors for success and failure of remote warfare, namely:
• The current strategic disconnect between stated ambitions for the British contribution to security on the African continent and the activities being run to build partner capacity;
• A short-term approach to partnerships that prioritises tactical activities over broader institutional support and reform that might address underlying causes of conflict.


The Reserves are not the main event, they are either the strategic or operational reserve for the standing army (fulfilling lots of other home based MCI stuff as well).
If the Regular Army is making up stuff to fill the gaps/void in National Strategy, then looking at the reserve is a little too early
Absolutely true and there is a huge vacuum where any coherent UK national strategy for defence and foreign relations should be.

Given that this is not going to change any time soon (no Western nation is now capable of planning for more than five years or one electoral cycle in the future) and that there are no votes in defence and hence no political interest in it, the Army, we might as well think about gross-cost-neutral things which could be done with the AR to produce something better, if not necessarily fit for an (unknown) purpose.
 

Just_plain_you

War Hero
And model 4: Capability deliverers which the regulars can't afford in sufficient numbers e.g. Med, cyber, linguists etc
 
And Model 5: To act as a distraction to the fact that the whole force concept is actually based on contractor support and Reserves (despite Gen Parkers best efforts) are not the main extra-regular force capability.

TBH, I've got dogs in both fights so not really bothered. I'd rather huge restructurings of the nations miltary capabilties weren't delivered as fait accomplis with no semblance of a public debate though.
 
This part is not true, for example the FCO (Foreign Office) currently has planed up until 2050.
B0llocks

The FCO may have flowery intentions re its manning, posting and honours plot in lieu of political direction, but it is still a servant of a state that hasn't quite decided if it is Atlanticist, continental or commonwealth facing.

UK Grand Strategy is oft claimed to exist by others (c.f Sean McFate in Goliath - he presents a nice 5 point plan, but its all a little too retrospective).

Recently an academic described the UK stratgeic approach to everything as" Disjointed Serial Incrementalism"

Sir Humphrey (Appleby, not @jim30 ) would be proud...
 
B0llocks

The FCO may have flowery intentions re its manning, posting and honours plot in lieu of political direction, but it is still a servant of a state that hasn't quite decided if it is Atlanticist, continental or commonwealth facing.

UK Grand Strategy is oft claimed to exist by others (c.f Sean McFate in Goliath - he presents a nice 5 point plan, but its all a little too retrospective).

Recently an academic described the UK stratgeic approach to everything as" Disjointed Serial Incrementalism"

Sir Humphrey (Appleby, not @jim30 ) would be proud...

Yeah, it's true that they are basically advisers and their job is just to carry out what the government/prime minister tells them - but I recently had a talk from the Permanent Under Secretary and when asked how long into the future they plan, he said they have planned things up until 2050 (that seems to be their cut off point for planning into the future). He had no reason to lie, but whether it's effective planning or not is obviously a different question entirely.
 

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