So How Would You Reform the Armed Forces?

I'm sure we've all had those conversations, both beer fuelled and non-beer fuelled, about what's wrong with the armed forces and what should be done about it. Hell, half of the threads on Arrse seem to be something along those lines. :) So I thought I'd throw it open and see what other people think should be done.

Here's the scenario - It's 2010 and through some way that we wont bother going into you've been made the Secretary of State for Defence in whatever government that's won, be it Conservative, Labour of Liberal Democrat. There wont be another General Election for another five years and you're guarenteed the position until then along with a free hand to do whatever you want irregardless of any industrial/political factors e.g. if you cancel something you don't have to worry about the cry of 'X number of skilled jobs lost'. Also the budget will stay at current levels but is adjusted for inflation year on year. What do you do?

Edit: And note that I put it here rather than the NAAFI since I'd like to get some at least half serious ideas. So no, you can't just say abolish the Navy and RAF. :D
Invade somewhere with valuable resources.

Iraq, maybe.
Complete revamp of defense research, aquisitions, management of defense industrial base, Long term planning processes, eliminate internal politics within the MoD and the services, Rework the legal basis for the covenant, put legal obligations in place so that a government cannot do what labour has done (run the armed froces into the ground).

My first thoughts anyway.

I guess the biggest thing anyone on this site could bring to the job, would be some sense of integrity, honour and decency. Three things which have been severly lacking in government of late.


1. Merge the RAF with the Army so the Army makes the decision what aircraft are bought to support what it is the army has been configured to do.

2. Bring the Marines under control of the Army.


Book Reviewer
Remove all the heads of the RAF and the NAVY who are briefing against General Sir Richard Dannatt and the Army in general to protect their own budgets.

By briefing against the Army, they are obviously not on the same planet as the rest of the human population. The Army is doing the fighting on the ground and losing quite a few blokes, and there is a considerable shortage of the right vehicles and helicopters, not to mention a global shortage of 7.62 ammo for the Gimpies. All things that could be sorted out with a proper increase in the Army budget out of MOD coffers.

The navy has just got it's carriers, the Air Force has got it's Typhoon (with a proper gun now too), so back off, shut up and let the Army get some more money.
Biped said:
Remove all the heads of the RAF and the NAVY who are briefing against General Sir Richard Dannatt and the Army in general to protect their own budgets.
to be honest, i think that story was more likely to be a labour government plant, rather than a reflection of reality.

Divide and conquer etc.

It also makes it seem that the blame does not entirely belong at gordon browns feet.
Bin the civilian 'business' element of defence purchasing. Rather than concentrating on what BAe can provide, and how many jobs in some MP's constitunency it will create, we should be looking at what will be the best tool for the job.
eg DII - In the catalogue for DII you get a wall mount for a plasma screen at a couple of hundred quid. If you go to Argos its £70 (for example).

The other thing I would do is cancel the civilianisation of essential support services. PAYD will never work because, at the end of the day the primry concern for Aramark is PROFIT. DE and MHS are too busy fighting about budgetry constraints and contracts to provide a acceptable level of service to everyone.

Also I would cancel the 100% pension for senior officers. Let them have the same pension rate as the rest of the forces, and use the money saved to increase recruitment and retention.
Have an independant group review the MoD and remove all the pointless self-justified fuckwits that have caused the place to rot.

Have the heads of the services put in their requests for equipement to bring them up to what they think their capacity should be (vehicles, weapons, planes, ships); not what some civil servant thinks we can get by on. Then give them a shitload more money to do it.

Was going to say something about Super-Regiments however that's prob a whole new can of worms.

Reference previous post Spot-on about civilianising contracts.
Ninja_Turtle said:
Have an independant group review the MoD and remove all the pointless self-justified fuckwits that have caused the place to rot.
And with the millions of pounds saved, increase junior ranks pay, improve accommodation both single and married. Make the Armed Forces an attractive proposition for youngsters. Increase School recruitment drives, and with the increased manning levels reduce operational tour lenghths to four months.
Start replacing civvies on camps with uniformed personnel (stores, admin etc) and let the Military run the Military, not a bunch of out of touch suits from Whitehall.
Ensure soldiers going on Ops know that they and their families will be provided for, should the worst happen, Bring back military hospitals with accommodation for families.


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Civilianisation is not always a bad thing, and although now a civilian, I have a long background in uniform. Civilians are cheaper than troops, believe it or not. We do not have medical/dental cover, issued clothing or any of the other expenses that attend serving soldiers, and the pay scale is generally less than what a serving soldier will receive.
This means that by emplying civilian staff a saving is made in budgetary terms, and serving soldiers can be released for more suitable military duties. Added to which, in a unit, the civilian does not get posted every couple of years, so there is a consistency there.

Apart from that, the free market should be used for purchase of equipment. For example, the SA80. The develoment costs on that were stupendous, then came the need to rebuild it to make it work. Ok, it is a very good weapon, but an off the shelf system, already proven and kinks worked out would have been cheaper and possibly more efficient, freeing up more funds.

A return to catering being provided by the ACC would vastly improve the quality and quantity of meals. Local purchase of fresh goods would be cheaper than the present supply.

And cut the R.A.F hotel rate. Make them rough it in 2 star hotels for a change.
I'm not advocating the complete removal of civilians from the loop. They do fufil essential roles, that are better carried out by civvies. Although I think that with regards to messes, MT, stores, there should be a uniformed element in the loop (preferably in charge) so that the end users POV is not forgotten. eg A serviceman would understand more the impact of your MT not picking you up from Brize, or your need to get issued soemthing that isn't in the signal for a det, but that you know you will need anyway.

The thing that grips my sh1t with the civilianisation program is that it is supposed to be supporting us, not the other way round.
We are not here to ensure BAE get a nice juicy contract, or Carillion get their hands on a big building job, or Aramark get total monopoly on food and drink establishments across the board. We are here to fufil our primary role as warfighters in whatever capacity, and secondary roles supporting UK Plc.

Tail wagging the dog anyone?

I've got loads more stuff I'd like to see within HM Forces.
Bin all those stupid, expensive, pointless glossy propaganda magazines that are produced on a regular basis. Isn't that what DII front page is for?
Employ proper contract lawyers, rather than having contracts drawn up by officers with no real legal experience. That way we can have proper programs in place, where if it don't work we don't pay. (JPA, the RAFs RAPTOR pod etc)
Sort out the 37 million different IT systems we've got going on, lets combine what we can, and bin what we don't need. Obvously there is a need for some bespoke, specialist systems; but on the whole there is no need for so many different computers.
The government needs to encourage more faith and support for the military through actions not words. Rather than Broon saying "Love your army/navy/air force" he should show it: Visits to Selly Oak, Headly Court and servicemens funerals but without a media circus following him; new legislation drafted that anyone who abuses someone based on their career especially military or emergency services is guilty of 'hate' crimes; more military participation in public events such as villiage fairs, town shows, carnivals including static displays so that joe public can talk to us face to face; return of the Royal Tournament; are all thing that IMHO would break down part of the divide between services and public.
More openess and honesty. eg Someone dies due to a shortage of body armour, rather than the usual spin fro the Defence Secratary "There was adequate armour in theatre but, due to problems within the supply chain it did not reach LCpl xxx in time, blah blah blah", would it be so radical to say "Look to the the family of LCpl xxx we are truly sorry, we fcuked up, and because of that your son died. Rest assured i will not stop hunting until the person responsible for this is, at the very least, on the dole if not looking at prosecution"

So there you go.
Right i'll get off my soapbox now
directing procurement against priorities for real world sceanario's based on what the Uk can actually achieve rather than the fantasy ideas that politicians and senior officers with dreams of yester-year.

Fully fund specified objectives, or remove the objective.

Never ever undertake military ops without the equipment and manpower required as a result of the estimate process, rather than the political estimate.

Do not allow the RAF, ever, to command ground units at ANY level whatso ever, includinng roles as TF or JTF commanders, never allow an RAF officer to have any command authority whatsoever over a soldier.


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I totally agree about BAE etc. But remember, the reason they get the contracts is that a number of senior ex serving people work for them, or are emplyed as lobbyists by them.

As for civilians in stores, mt etc. Certainly where I work most of them are ex army, and a number have sons serving in far off exoticplaces.

Aramark have been a disaster, from what I hear, as have Spar. During my time N.A.A.F.I was run by themselves, and stocked, accordingly, stuff that squaddies had desired since time immemorial. Books, for instance. Now I know that reading has gone out of fashion somewhat, but to see a rack filled with J.T Edson, Sven Hassel and the like was a joy on payday,as were the racks of Commando comics.

The problems do arise with the large contracts, defence spending is in the hands, generally, of civil servants who have been career orientated. I believe that the American forces put all their defence acquisitions in the hands of serving field grade officers, which may be a better choice.
I'd make Jeremy Clarkson Secretary of State for Defence Procurement. The following form for obtaining kit would then be introduced:

AF FilUrBoots

Dear Mr Secretary of State, we would like some xxxx and can justify it, because (tick the reason(s) that’s most appropriate):

a. It’s really fast
b. It’s really big (and fast)
c. It’s really loud (and fast)
d. The spam’s have already got it
e. If we don’t buy it, the Frogs will get it

Rank: (Not to be less than a Senior Private or equivalent)

Action Today? Yes/Yes
That should speed things up nicely...
might i suggest it would be better to focus on the 'big issues' rather than the little stuff.

Big issues.

1. Defense research, including design of weapons.

Develop a strategy for the 'long term'. By which i do not mean the next government term in office, the end of the next contract.... Design of small arms, for example should a continuous process, so that the skills are maintained in the UK. It would only take a relatively small team to continue developing ideas until a design is required, then, the skilled and experienced individuals can develop a weapon to current needs. The same goes for design and manufacture of ships, planes, subs......

2. Defense Planning.

This should not be in the hands of 'by definition' short sighted governments. The planning assumptions should lead to a list of requirements for the next 50(?) years (the OSD for the longest serving item). This can then form the basis of the defense requirements and the defense industrial strategy. The list of requirements should be as public as possible, so any government shortfall can be seen by the electorate.

3. Plan for the worst.

Part 2 should lead inevitably to having excess capacity for certain functions. e.g. training facilities should be VERY underutilise during periods of general peace. (i am including current ops in this). When WWIII starts, we will then have the capacity to train large numbers of troops and support staff. The same goes for defense industrial capability. Bearing in mind that we are not in a 'total' war, we should NEVER have got to the situation of struggling to produce enough ammunition for current ops. During peacetime, there should certain functions which maintain spare capacity, based on the time it would take to develop additional capacity if the need arose.

4. Keep the politicians of of decision making!!

Ok, the armed forces are there to do the bidding of the current government, but historically, our armed forces have been successful, because the government gave the instruction about the goal of the action, then stepped back to allow 'the experts' to get on with it. From my (civvie) perspective, there is political interference to a degree not seen before in post WWII times.

hmm, ill keep thinking on more stuff.
Fix defence spending at a decent percentage of GDP (say 3.5 %) and ringfence it so that if politicians want to buy votes they have to find it from other parts of the tax revenue.
I would merge the marines and paras to have just one amphibious/land commando regiment. By around 2015 the SA80A2 is rumoured to be getting replaced so I'd buy either the new H&K 416 or Israeli Tavor rifle and buy a heck of a lot more Chinnock helos and Transporter planes.
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