Slimming the ranks

#1
Article from The Economist. No time to comment.

Bagehot: Slimming the ranks | The Economist

[h=1]The army’s prowess owes as much to military culture as hardware. Treat it with care[/h]Jan 19th 2013 |From the print edition












EARLY in the British army’s war in southern Afghanistan, in 2006, Lieutenant Tim Illingworth of the Light Infantry found himself in a tight spot. He had been attached to an Afghan unit sent to clear the Taliban from Garmsir, a small town in the Helmand river valley. But its commander lay dead in the dirt beside him, the troops were fleeing and, from a mud building in front, the 26-year-old British officer was being raked by Taliban fire.
His response, for which Lieutenant Illingworth received Britain’s second-highest award for gallantry, was to grab the dead Afghan’s grenade-launcher and fight back. Almost alone on the battlefield, he fired three grenades and emptied seven magazines into the Taliban position. Hopelessly outgunned, “while exposed and under withering fire”, according to his medal citation, he then fell back, dragging his brother officer’s corpse by the foot.
This talent drain is a worrying aspect of a much bigger change. Britain’s defence budget is being slashed, and its small but robust armed forces—a crucial element of the country’s claim to global influence—heavily cut back. By the time the army leaves Afghanistan, nearly 10,000 soldiers will have been laid off, including many now fighting there. By 2020 the army’s strength is due to fall by a fifth to 82,000, its lowest level for centuries. It will have been dramatically reshaped, too, greatly reducing Britain’s ability to project force. And there may be further cuts yet. Late last year the Treasury demanded an additional £735m ($1.2 billion) from the next two years’ defence budgets plus a 1-2% annual reduction from 2015. The second cut, which will apply across Whitehall, would bite deep. Top brass say it could mean a further loss of capability, perhaps in amphibious warfare, or cutting Britain’s revered special forces. David Cameron, the prime minister, who shows no loss of appetite for deploying troops—including to Mali, where he sent a transport plane this week—is worried about the headlines this would generate.It is hard to comprehend the risks that well-trained soldiers embrace. At the end of a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, the British public would rather not try. According to a poll by YouGov, 77% want the troops back from Afghanistan, where 439 British soldiers have died so far. Yet the army is not unhappy. After a shaky start in Helmand, it feels it has acquitted itself well, and it is enjoying a lot of public sympathy for its sacrifices. What is more, British soldiers like fighting. It is, to simplify only slightly, what they join the army to do. Mr Illingworth “loved every minute” of his tour in Iraq and two tours in Afghanistan. In fact, as the army prepares to leave Afghanistan by the end of next year, it has the opposite problem: a sudden exodus of its best young officers in anticipation of leaner, less violent times ahead. Mr Illingworth is now running a mining company in Liberia. “It’s slightly depressing how many guys are calling up to ask me how I managed to get this job,” he says. “If there’s going to be no operations, everyone’s going to leave.”
Deeper cuts look likely, however. Britain is broke. And it still spends a lot on defence—only America, China and Russia spend more. Yet the implications of this diminution go well beyond the loss of expensive kit, such as fighter jets, or historic regiments. The army, as Lieutenant Illingworth’s derring-do illustrates, is not like other public services. It has a peculiar culture of excellence: no British police officer must be prepared to die in the line of duty. The austerity-inspired reforms now in play threaten to dilute that—in effect, by making the army more normal. That is why losing talented young officers is such a troubling augury: because they are among the army’s most distinctive attributes.
British officer recruits tend to be better educated than those of other Western armies. Over 80% are university graduates; half the current chiefs of staff went to Oxford or Cambridge. By comparison, the American army attracts few recruits from Ivy League universities. Other European forces, which until recently were largely based on conscription, attract even lower-flying officer material. There are several reasons for this, including the British army’s early move to professionalism in 1960, the high status afforded to young officers by the regimental system and a history of relentless operations—the last year the army was not engaged overseas was 1968. And its importance cannot be understated. Another of the army’s biggest strengths, its non-commissioned officers, is partly a tribute to the judgment of the young officers who select them for promotion from the ranks.
A bit less eager for action
The coming shrinkage is likely to make the army a less attractive career, leading to a less able and ambitious officer recruit. The new army shaped by the cuts will be more home-based—with 20,000 troops due back from Germany by 2020—than at any time since 1792. It will also be less expeditionary, less ready, less full-time, after a big expansion in the reserve, and will have fewer opportunities for senior command. The terms of service of this stay-at-home army, it is logical to imagine, may fall more into line with those of other government departments, with higher salaries but fewer perks, and more recourse to employment tribunals. The army might even end up unionised, speculates Hew Strachan of Oxford University. It would be a very different force from the one Mr Illingworth joined, eager for action.
The worst may be avoided. It is not the first time Britain has slashed the defence budget or pondered what sort of forces it wants or can afford. It did so in the 1960s, before Northern Ireland erupted, and in the 1990s, before its recent decade of wars. And new conflicts may arise: the world is hardly peaceful. Yet the budgetary pressures on Britain’s armed forces, and thereby on the military culture underpinning them, are unprecedented. It is tempting to think the army that emerges from this austerity may have less appetite for fighting, as well as fewer capabilities. For a warrior nation, that would be an historic change.
[SUP]Economist.com/blogs/bagehot[/SUP]
 

DangerMouse

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#3
Hmm... Very interesting. When I left, 9 months ago, I know the sappers had 3 times as many young officers signed off as they would normally plan for. I'm not sure if the trend has continued or is the same for other capbadges?
The numbers are appalling in the RA, and a number of other capbadges. The "offer" - pay, pension, allowances (CEA, LSAP, et al), and lifestyle just doesn't justify the disadvantages of service life. Expect a huge spike in redundancies once Tranches 3 and 4 close, too: people who would otherwise sign off are hanging on in, in the hope of a payoff. That's not the worst problem for DM(A), though. It's not the short-term, current losses that are the main threat to the Army, I suggest:

There is a lot to be said for getting out now, before the rush. The majority of my peers from ICSC(L) intend to leave at their Immediate Pension Point (IPP). The freezing (and thus in real-terms, reduction) of salaries, the diminution in pensions both from RPI to CPI and, post-Hutton/2015 in overall value, the ever-greater restrictions on Continuity of Education Allowance (CEA), the diminishing opportunities for overseas service, the gradual-but-inexorable ratcheting-down of Terms and Conditions of Service (TACOS) towards civilian comparators (without recognising the concomitant improvement in quality of life inherent to the latter), and the insidious but unacknowledged effect of the looming spectre of four years of rolling redundancies on personnel’s emotional commitment, all result in an organisation which is vastly less attractive than that which we joined. The Army’s atavistic response to gapping and MS (posting) pressures appears to be the ever-more-rigorous application of the, fundamentally-flawed, MS Binding Principle, in the form of directed postings, inflexibility and institutional inertia. This will only work for so long: the presence of a £250,000+ pension pot manifesting itself at our peer group’s 16-year point acts to suppress the immediate impact of all of these changes, but I fear that there is a bow wave of mid-ranking officers biding their time, accruing their savings, and building their CVs, who the Army will lose at a rate which it can not yet begin to appreciate: the second-order effect of redundancies may only be reaped when, in due course, officers in each cohort who necessarily steeled themselves and their families for redundancy, but apparently survived it unscathed, arrive at their IPP with far clearer visions than generations hitherto, of the opportunities in civilian life – and act accordingly.

If the Army mishandles these people in the present - and it is mishandling them, it will lose them in the future.

(Slightly-amended extract from an unsent letter)

(And it's going to get worse - see the LAND Component Main Effort thread, AKA There is no money, the Army is going down the tubes thread, here: http://j.mp/LANDcomponentFuture)
 
#4
I was told that one of the effects of three years of redundancy packages is that sign off rates have dropped off as people wait to see if they have a potential windfall, which doesn't bear out the sappers piece Tricam. I may have been given duff gen though...

Speaking to a civvy mate he said that the hardest thing to do in business is manage planned decline / reverse growth. Economies of scale kick in and everything starts getting more expensive and it then becomes nigh on impossible to break out of a vicious circle of rising overheads and falling morale. I would be interested to hear views from ex-forces on the outside or TA who know about this sort of thing. How does the Army manage its contraction without causing an implosion?

Also, there is a huge - and perhaps arrogant - assumption that the Army will be alright in the end. After all, we have survived 300+ years, haven't we? Just because "Maj X" or "Colonel Y" leaves we will still have plenty of good quality blokes left to fill their boots, or so the argument goes. On the flipside, we now have a career that appears to promise less operations, less adventure, less pay, less security (job, pension, and CEA etc). If this is the case then of course we will attract and retain less good people.
 
#5
Last man csjt - The reports of 3 times as many having signed off only applied to junior officers who are not eligible for redundancy anyway - so mo point in individuals waiting to see what happens. It was reported back to us from APC at the time from adjutants etc so pretty reliable. I'm just not sure if the trend continued or perhaps has now stabilised.
 
#6
The numbers are appalling in the RA, and a number of other capbadges. The "offer" - pay, pension, allowances (CEA, LSAP, et al), and lifestyle just doesn't justify the disadvantages of service life. Expect a huge spike in redundancies once Tranches 3 and 4 close, too: people who would otherwise sign off are hanging on in, in the hope of a payoff. That's not the worst problem for DM(A), though. It's not the short-term, current losses that are the main threat to the Army, I suggest:

There is a lot to be said for getting out now, before the rush. The majority of my peers from ICSC(L) intend to leave at their Immediate Pension Point (IPP). The freezing (and thus in real-terms, reduction) of salaries, the diminution in pensions both from RPI to CPI and, post-Hutton/2015 in overall value, the ever-greater restrictions on Continuity of Education Allowance (CEA), the diminishing opportunities for overseas service, the gradual-but-inexorable ratcheting-down of Terms and Conditions of Service (TACOS) towards civilian comparators (without recognising the concomitant improvement in quality of life inherent to the latter), and the insidious but unacknowledged effect of the looming spectre of four years of rolling redundancies on personnel’s emotional commitment, all result in an organisation which is vastly less attractive than that which we joined. The Army’s atavistic response to gapping and MS (posting) pressures appears to be the ever-more-rigorous application of the, fundamentally-flawed, MS Binding Principle, in the form of directed postings, inflexibility and institutional inertia. This will only work for so long: the presence of a £250,000+ pension pot manifesting itself at our peer group’s 16-year point acts to suppress the immediate impact of all of these changes, but I fear that there is a bow wave of mid-ranking officers biding their time, accruing their savings, and building their CVs, who the Army will lose at a rate which it can not yet begin to appreciate: the second-order effect of redundancies may only be reaped when, in due course, officers in each cohort who necessarily steeled themselves and their families for redundancy, but apparently survived it unscathed, arrive at their IPP with far clearer visions than generations hitherto, of the opportunities in civilian life – and act accordingly.

If the Army mishandles these people in the present - and it is mishandling them, it will lose them in the future.

(Slightly-amended extract from an unsent letter)

(And it's going to get worse - see the LAND Component Main Effort thread, AKA There is no money, the Army is going down the tubes thread, here: LAND Component - Main Effort or Not?)
Agreed. You have, however, omitted to include the hugely damaging effect on pension accrual that the current pay freeze is delivering.
 

DangerMouse

Old-Salt
Moderator
#7
Last man csjt - The reports of 3 times as many having signed off only applied to junior officers who are not eligible for redundancy anyway - so mo point in individuals waiting to see what happens. It was reported back to us from APC at the time from adjutants etc so pretty reliable. I'm just not sure if the trend continued or perhaps has now stabilised.
That reminds me of another example - apparently AGC(ETS) were losing officers at the rate of one per week until six months ago when the flood dried to a trickle as everyone now waits with bated breath to see whether they can get a golden parachute in to an organisation that isn't going downhill rapidly...
 
T

Taffd

Guest
#9
Why is the Bootie in the foreground the only one with his beret on the right way? Are the rest French?
 
#10
Interesting article.

I see the author believes that the officerdom of the British Army compares favourably to its western contemporaries due to their comparatively more impressive education.

I've read some harsh critiques on the Army's general Officer quality though, particularly when measured against the US. I've also saw the contrasting viewpoint made that an Army is perhaps better for not having the bulk of its Officers come from the most exclusive learning establishments.

Does this make a difference? Or is it in fact better to have more academic types as officers?
 
#11
Why is the Bootie in the foreground the only one with his beret on the right way? Are the rest French?
Good question - the Paras appear to be WW2 and printed from a reversed negative (or re-enactors ...).
 

DangerMouse

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Moderator
#12
...I've read some harsh critiques on the Army's general Officer quality though, particularly when measured against the US. I've also saw the contrasting viewpoint made that an Army is perhaps better for not having the bulk of its Officers come from the most exclusive learning establishments. Does this make a difference? Or is it in fact better to have more academic types as officers?
1. What/where are the critiques that you've read? - if they're publicly available, would you provide links, please; if they're internal analysis, please PM me and I'll give you my DII address.

2. I don't think that there's a dichotomy by between "academic types" and "non-academic types". Officers must be many things - commanders, leaders, managers, inspirational, compassionate, intelligent and - yes - educated. The US has got this right to an extent we can only dream of. They mandate professional qualifications, and encourage their officer cadre to challenge themselves and embrace learning opportunities; we are prepared to take officers who scrape a Third in Geography, then cruise through the rest of their career without ever opening a non-fiction book... More pertinently, MOD encourages this: the Modular Masters Programme, an ideal, cheap, compromise accepting the reality of limited time and money, allowed officers to study in their time, but at MOD's expense. It was taken as a cost-saving measure in PR10, as part of the death-by-a-thousand-cuts that has dealt a fatal blow to the terms and conditions of service on which we all joined.

So, yes, I believe that educated officers (and soldiers) are essential. It think that we're failing to attract and retain them though, and that - come Tranche 3 on Tuesday, and Tranche 4 within a year of that, and then SDSR '15, we have little chance of reversing that trend.

Some quotes and articles:

"The nation that insists on drawing a broad line of demarcation between the fighting man and the thinking man is liable to have its fighting done by fools and its thinking done by cowards."

- Sir William Francis Butler - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Francis_Butler

“No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.”

- Confucius

“Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill. Without books, the development of civilization would have been impossible. They are engines of change, windows on the world and lighthouses erected in the sea of time. They are companions, teachers, magicians, bankers of the treasures of the mind. Books are humanity in print."

- Barbara Wertheim Tuchman, 30 Jan 1912 – 6 Feb 1989. American historian and author. Best known for her best-selling book The Guns of August, a history of the prelude to and first month of World War I, which won the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction in 1963. Tuchman focused on writing popular history, covering topics as diverse as the 14th century and World War I, and sold millions of copies.

“Books, purchasable at low cost, permit us to interrogate the past with high accuracy; to tap the wisdom of our species; to understand the point of view of others, and not just those in power; to contemplate — with the best teachers — the insights, painfully extracted from Nature, of the greatest minds that ever were, drawn from the entire planet and from all of our history. They allow people long dead to talk inside our heads. Books can accompany us everywhere. Books are patient where we are slow to understand, allow us to go over the hard parts as many times as we wish, and are never critical of our lapses. Books are key to understanding the world and participating in a democratic society.”

- Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World : Science as a Candle in the Dark (New York: Random House. 1995), Ch. 21 : The Path to Freedom, p. 357.

We've arranged a global civilization in which the most crucial elements — transportation, communications, and all other industries; agriculture, medicine, education, entertainment, protecting the environment; and even the key democratic institution of voting — profoundly depend on science and technology. "We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology" This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.

- Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World : Science as a Candle in the Dark (New York: Random House. 1995), Ch. 2 : Science and Hope, p. 26

"In no other profession are the penalties for employing untrained personnel so appalling or so irrevocable as in the military."

- General Douglas MacArthur
Or this article from a decade ago, from which I learnt some of that advice back in 2002:

The Uniformed Intellectual and His Place in American Arms
Col (Retd) L J Matthews US Army
ARMY Magazine, Jul 02

The British officer's calculated aversion to brains was noted by wartime Prime Minister Lloyd George (19161922), who caustically observed that the "military mind ... regards thinking as a form of mutiny."
P 18

In its most basic sense, an intellectual is preoccupied with ideas and the play of the mind. This suggests a speculative mind, one given to reflection and efforts to see behind surface appearances. It suggests a mind that refuses imprisonment within conventional thinking or stale orthodoxy, but looks to see all sides of issues and insists upon discovering truth for itself rather than having truth prescribed. Moreover, it understands the complex, elusive and provisional nature of truth, "intuitively grasping that things are rarely as simple as they seem. It suggests a mind that gives vent to the imagination, that is open to innovation, that seeks to be creative, that looks always for the best way to do things today rather than assuming that the well-worn path is preferable because it's where we've always trod before. The interests and curiosity of the intellectual are not compressed within the narrow confines of today's duty assignments, but rather range freely to all fields of disciplinary and cultural endeavour, not only for life's enrichment-though that is vitally important-but also to provide the broadest possible context in which to measure and examine professional concerns.

The intellectual thinks beyond the sound and fury of the daily grind, hearkening to George Santayana's caveat that if we "cannot remember the past we shall be condemned to repeat it," but embracing just as warmly Alvin Toffler's qualification that "if we do not change the future we shall be compelled to endure it - and that could be worse." The intellectual is thus given to reading because, while personal experience is indeed an instructive mentor, it can never rival humanity's collective wisdom and experience as reflected in books. The intellectual takes it as an article of faith that just as the unexamined life is not worth living, so the unexamined profession is not worth following. Hence he regards the pursuit of truth as more important than the trappings of rank and station. So far as the military intellectual is concerned, he is wed to the belief that in war against a competitive foe, we shall have to outthink that foe if we are to be successful in outfighting him.
P 20

The list of those American officers who possessed an intellectual sensibility but who, when the chips were down, proved themselves as illustrious combat commanders, goes on and on. Certainly their success validates Sir William Butler's apt admonition that the nation which "Insists on drawing a broad line of demarcation between the fighting man and the thinking man is liable to find its fighting done by fools and its thinking by cowards."
P 21 (General Sir William Francis Butler - British General, 1838-1910)

Liddell Hart made an observation concerning young British officers:
Ambitious officers, when they came in sight of promotion to the generals' list, would decide that they would bottle up their thoughts and ideas as a safety precaution until they reached the top and could put these ideas into practice. Unfortunately, the usual result, after years of repression for the sake of their ambition, was that when the bottle was eventually uncorked the contents had evaporated.
P 40
And war is only getting more complicated - technologically, politically, and legally, viz:

These six cases deal primarily with the issue of whether Iraqi civilians who allegedly lost their lives at the hands of United Kingdom soldiers, in non-combat situations in the United Kingdom-occupied Basrah region of Iraq, were “within the jurisdiction” of the United Kingdom when those killings took place. …Jurisdiction is established when authority and control over others are established. …It is well beyond surreal to claim that a military colossus which waltzed into Iraq when it chose, settled there for as long as it cared to and only left when it no longer suited its interests to remain, can persuasively claim not to have exercised authority and control over an area specifically assigned to it in the geography of the war games played by the victorious. I find it uncaring to the intellect for a State to disclaim accountability for what its officers, wearing its uniforms, wielding its weapons, sallying forth from its encampments and returning there, are alleged to have done. The six victims are said to have lost their lives as a result of the unlawful actions of United Kingdom soldiers in non-combat situations - but no one answers for their death… Jurisdiction flows not only from the exercise of democratic governance, not only from ruthless tyranny, not only from colonial usurpation. It also hangs from the mouth of a firearm. In non-combat situations, everyone in the line of fire of a gun is within the authority and control of whoever is wielding it.

…As a leading partner in the Coalition Provisional Authority, the United Kingdom Government were “vested with all executive, legislative and judicial authority” over that part of vanquished Iraq assigned to them, the United Kingdom went a long and eloquent way in its attempt to establish that it did not exercise jurisdiction over the area assigned to it. It just stopped short of sharing with the Court who did. Who was the mysterious, faceless rival which, instead of it, exercised executive, legislative and judicial authority for three years and more over the area delegated to the United Kingdom? There unquestionably existed a highly volatile situation on the ground, pockets of violent insurgency and a pervasive, sullen resistance to the military presence. However, in the Basrah region, some authority was still giving orders, laying down the law (juris dicere - defining what the binding norm of law is), running the correctional facilities, delivering the mail, establishing and maintaining communications, providing health services, supplying food and water, restraining military contraband and controlling criminality and terrorism as best it could. This authority, full and complete over the United Kingdom military, harassed and maimed over the rest, was the United Kingdom's.

…I confess to be quite unimpressed by the pleadings of the United Kingdom Government to the effect that exporting the European Convention on Human Rights to Iraq would have amounted to “human rights imperialism”. It ill behoves a State that imposed its military imperialism over another sovereign State without the frailest imprimatur from the international community, to resent the charge of having exported human rights imperialism to the vanquished enemy. It is like wearing with conceit your badge of international law banditry, but then recoiling in shock at being suspected of human rights promotion. Personally, I would have respected better these virginal blushes of some statesmen had they worn them the other way round. Being bountiful with military imperialism but bashful of the stigma of human rights imperialism, sounds to me like not resisting sufficiently the urge to frequent the lower neighbourhoods of political inconstancy. For my part, I believe that those who export war ought to see to the parallel export of guarantees against the atrocities of war. And then, if necessary, bear with some fortitude the opprobrium of being labelled human rights imperialists.


Al-Skeini and others v. The United Kingdom - 55721/07 [2011] ECHR 1093 (7 July 2011) - http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/sites/eng...ocnumber":["887952"],"itemid":["001-105606"]}


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#13
There remains a need for well educated officers and soldiers. The contiguous problem to the retention of 'good' young and middle rank officers is the retention and recrutiting of soldiers with similar abilities, brains and education. When they go, all the officers won't save the day with no 'raw material of manpower.'

While I can see the problem in meeting the needs for recruitment and retention among officers, do stop and think about the problem of recruiting the right type of young man as a private soldier!! Within a short time we could have a situation where no young man with a decent non university education would even give a thought to joining the Army as a soldier!
 

DangerMouse

Old-Salt
Moderator
#14
...stop and think about the problem of recruiting the right type of young man as a private soldier!! Within a short time we could have a situation where no young man with a decent non university education would even give a thought to joining the Army as a soldier!
I agree with you - modern warfare is increasingly complex, and there is no place for 'thick, uniformed thugs'. But are we not already in the position where young people with decent educations and middle-class backgrounds regard the Army as 'Sandhurst or nothing'? I've not served at a training regiment recently enough to comment on current recruits (I'm thinking particularly of combat arms, too), but I ask the question because I remember being told a) by one Scottish infantry Phase 1 instructor that 40% of their recruits were functionally illiterate, and b) by some senior officer, that the Army is simply failing to compete with both outside employers and the other two services - that a well-educated 18 year-old with good prospects might join the RN or RAF, but not the Army.


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#15
I agree with you - modern warfare is increasingly complex, and there is no place for 'thick, uniformed thugs'. But are we not already in the position where young people with decent educations and middle-class backgrounds regard the Army as 'Sandhurst or nothing'? I've not served at a training regiment recently enough to comment on current recruits (I'm thinking particularly of combat arms, too), but I ask the question because I remember being told a) by one Scottish infantry Phase 1 instructor that 40% of their recruits were functionally illiterate, and b) by some senior officer, that the Army is simply failing to compete with both outside employers and the other two services - that a well-educated 18 year-old with good prospects might join the RN or RAF, but not the Army.


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I suspect you're on the right lines there. I also suspect that the 40% functionally illiterate comment fits not just the Army but an awfully large lump of civvy street too.

It certainly appears that the Army of today, and tomorrow, will be a very different and somewhat less 'enjoyable' organisation than the one I joined in 1967. I fear the result of the present cutbacks could very well be 'thick uniformed thugs' led by mediocre at best officers. It wouldn't be the first time in history that it happened, but I pray to God that I'm wrong!! The police 'police by consent' although they often seem to forget it .... and the Army can only carry out its role properly when it has respect and approbation from the rest of society.
 
#16
1. Primarily the account I read in Losing Small Wars by Frank Ledwidge amongst other, less noteworthy (at least less remembered) sources. There is an impression in me that there exists an established, though perhaps vast minority, and perhaps mostly unspoken, opinion with regard to the apparent incompetence of British officers.

2. Your paragraph here seemed to acknowledge the superiority of the American officer system/way of doing things. Are they more pragmatic and brave in general? Your quote from Butler: How much of a broad line of demarcation has been drawn between the thinking man and the fighting man in the British Army? If 80% of Army officers are University graduates, then the line of demarcation can't really get much broader. Edit to add: and if there is a high soldier rate of functional illiteracy, as described in above posts, then broader than I thought.
But does Butlers conclusion ring true for the British Army in the modern age?

And the weight of importance that you put on reading, and staying smart, and your submission that not only can BritArmy officers squeeze in with a 3rd and never pick up a nonfiction book again, but that the MoD might even encourage it... Well, you got me a little confused as to your own opinion on our officers general quality and whether a university education, often privileged, equals actual smarts.
 

DangerMouse

Old-Salt
Moderator
#17
It's a vastly different organisation to that in to which I commissioned at the end of the 1990's, even. I was speaking to a very impressive Guards CO two years ago, who suggested that the British Army reached its high water mark for respect and accomplishments in 1999/2000 - i.e. Kosovo and Sierra Leone, and that we've been on an inexorable moral, political and financial downward cycle ever since. I tend to agree.

(There is already a thread on the future of the Army, here: http://j.mp/LANDcomponentFuture, and there is extensive criticism of the last decade's foreign and security policy here: http://j.mp/herrickinfo.)


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#18
It's a vastly different organisation to that in to which I commissioned at the end of the 1990's, even. I was speaking to a very impressive Guards CO two years ago, who suggested that the British Army reached its high water mark for respect and accomplishments in 1999/2000 - i.e. Kosovo and Sierra Leone, and that we've been on an inexorable moral, political and financial downward cycle ever since. I tend to agree.

(There is already a thread on the future of the Army, here: LAND Component - Main Effort or Not?, and there is extensive criticism of the last decade's foreign and security policy here: http://j.mp/herrickinfo.)


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Have we ever been the secondary protagonists of a war before? The UK was never a ramora, always the Apex shark. Following other nations into war... I think that has something to do with our fall from grace too. All of a sudden we're Beta, the unnecessary handers in an otherwise square go. Is that not a shame and a ball shrinker for a nation and Army with our rich history?

its something in the air.
 

DangerMouse

Old-Salt
Moderator
#19
1. Primarily the account I read in Losing Small Wars by Frank Ledwidge amongst other, less noteworthy (at least less remembered) sources. There is an impression in me that there exists an established, though perhaps vast minority, and perhaps mostly unspoken, opinion with regard to the apparent incompetence of British officers.

2. Your paragraph here seemed to acknowledge the superiority of the American officer system/way of doing things. Are they more pragmatic and brave in general? Your quote from Butler: How much of a broad line of demarcation has been drawn between the thinking man and the fighting man in the British Army? If 80% of Army officers are University graduates, then the line of demarcation can't really get much broader. But does Butlers conclusion ring true for the British Army in the modern age?

And the weight of importance that you put on reading, and staying smart, and your submission that not only can BritArmy officers squeeze in with a 3rd and never pick up a nonfiction book again, but that the MoD might even encourage it... Well, you got me a little confused as to your own opinion on our officers general quality and whether a university education, often privileged, equals actual smarts.
Thanks for the Ledwidge reference: I like him - I've read some of his work, and I've bought Losing Small Wars, but I've not had time to read it yet.

This is just my opinion, but I'd suggest that we are after different things in our company officers (2Lt-Maj, at RD) than we are for their broader, and longer-term career. I don't care how brave the SO2s and SO1s in FinMilCap in Main Building are, but I do expect that when they were subalterns at RD that they could do the business. Different career stages, different demands. The trick is for RCB/AOSB to identify people with the ability to do both, for RMAS and special-to-arm training to prepare them for their early career, and for MOD to fund the training required in career stage 2 and beyond, and to fund APC so that we have the TACOS to retain them.

I'm suggesting that "80% graduate" means nothing - university is now merely a middle class rite of passage. I don't believe that we're selective enough at RCB/AOSB, but I fear that is because we can't afford to be. I am told that January intake at RMAS (CC131) has started a number of platoons understrength, and that is because ARTD can't get the numbers through the door. I.e. we must take who we can get. Once we're in service, we traditionally have not recognised or rewarded continuing education, let alone funded it, with the result that "the way up the greasy pole" is to eschew such efforts, and instead do something which selection and promotion boards will recognise. That's not a criticism of the officers - I've been very happy with that system! - rather it's a flaw of the system, I'd suggest.

General Nick Carter has said that he aspires, in his brave new 'Army 2020' world, to make having a second degree (i.e. a Masters) mandatory for unit command (i.e. battalion/regiment), but it is unclear where the funding and time for such study will come from, in an era in which we are £Billions short of money already. (Then there's the much-vexed question of 'what qualifications do we recognise?' Is a First in David Beckham studies from The Former Brixton Polytechnic going to be treated as equal to - or better than - an Upper Second in Physics from Oxbridge?...)

Anyway, I'm off to bed - night! :)


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DangerMouse

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#20
...All of a sudden we're Beta, the unnecessary handers in an otherwise square go. Is that not a shame and a ball shrinker for a nation and Army with our rich history?
No. We don't go to war for glory or for tea and medals, or even for the sake of our "rich history", we go because there is no other option, having exhausted all of the alternatives. To do otherwise is a betrayal of those who we send, and who we ask to pay a terrible price: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/u...mys-bloodiest-day-in-afghanistan-8458865.html


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