Two year postings detrimental to the army?

Discussion in 'Officers' started by Plant-Pilot, Jun 11, 2004.

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  1. This is aimed more at the staff officers out there, but why should the career structure of the staff officers take priority over the well being of the army as a whole?

    A staff officer gets his desk in whatever branch of the headquarters and at whatever level and spends a certain time learning the job and meeting the people they are going to working with. Nothing wrong so far.

    They then spend a year making decisions, writing letters, reports and changing policy and doctrine. A lot of this will look very good on paper, and some of it (even if it hasn't been tried before) may actually work. It doesn't matter though because if it doesn't it's going to land on the desk of the next person in the job as the one who made the decision will have been promoted or at the very least have moved on to another desk at another HQ.

    Keep somebody at a desk for 4 years and they know that a lot of the flack for silly/bad decisions is comming back their way and at the same time, any praise they are due will get to them as well.

    It's got to be better than the policy ping-pong we've got used to and budgets being set by people who know they are going to be long gone when they don't work out. Time for officers to work for the good of the army, not just their careers.
  2. Cannot agree more!

    I've seen so many decisions - not always bad, by any means - being overturned and replaced by other decisions - again, not bad necessarily - on the change of a post-holder. This means constant nugatory work. This is true at all levels from the lowliest SO3 up to the big-cheese 4 star.

    Trouble is that completion of a staff tour is, for many, just a tick in the box required for promotion and a decent command. Four year staff tours would provide decision-making stability and allow SOs to see things through to completion. This would mean longer in post at SO3/SO2 level and longer to other tick-box postings and promotion and would therefore not catch on.
  3. This is also true of officers sent to the DPA. The constant need to change something to get noticed has screwed up as many defence projects as the contractors have. And they then get posted before the consequences arrive with a good report.
  4. Increasing tour lengths for staff officers will not improve the officer corps. Officers need as much as experience as they can get in a variety of jobs.

    The US Army has a system whereby they get a senior officer - 1 to 3 star rank, and leave him to manage a project for 5 or so years. If successful - fine he keeps his rank and pension, but if not - then he is sacked. This ensures accountability and rewards success. It is in the top echelons that we need continuity not at the SO3 - 1 level.
  5. I disagree. Part and parcel of good command is understanding the mechanics of how a decision is made and the outcome of that decision. What is the point of giving someone a role to play in that process if they then don't see a decision/project through to the latter stages. There is little ownership in these circumstances, even less direct accountability, and like the government of the day, when it all turns it's toes in the air it's always the fault of the previous incumbant. In many ways it just promotes the "teflon coat" mentality so many officers get when they hit SO2/Maj. There is an overwhelming sense that any career minded Maj to Col is inculcated with the value of "it's not my issue, I never started it and by the time it comers to fruition it will be the next man's problem and I'm not going to tie his hands any more than I would want mine tied coming into a job so you'll just have to live with it" mentality.

    In industry no project would be given to a project manager for a finitie period of time less than the total length of the project itself unless the PM was sacked or moved on of his own choice. It's commerical suicide when the stakes are high, a fact the MoD ought to recognise.

    You are damned if you do and damned of you don't here. I can just see the headlines: Army has more top brass than soldiers. While I recognise the strengths of this argument and agree in broad terms I would suggest this would be harder to achieve in reality. In purely mathematical terms the US Ar has enough soldiers to justify the number of 1* plus ranks, we don't, unless you are going to appoint one or two * ranks only to oversee all staff projects, which they couldn't effectively do unless they had a staff big enough to manage the workload, in which case they aren't overseeing the staff work directly, just overseeing the overseeers, which is where we are now.

    The only logical argument is to look to the medium term and increase officer recruiting to allow for longer and more focussed periods in staff positions. I'm not advocating the old RAMS/Mons split of reg and short service officers, but looking to keep officers at SO2/1 posts for longer and having the manning numbers of officers to fulfill those roles and maintain strength in regimental appointments has to be the way to go.

    At SO3/2 level I can see an argument for NRPS/FTRS type appointments from the TA for 2-5 years in non-deployable roles that have the attraction of service benefits while PM'ing various issues through the staff process. I know of a number of TA officers who would be interested in this type of job and who have PM skills thart are sorely needed, but are put off by the relatively small number of these jobs that are forecast or the relatively short life of the project. Fair enough if you have no ties or responsibilities and are looking to fill a work gap in your CV for 6 months, but what about the married Capt with 2 kids that would like a 3-5 year contract? Surely that is a much better solution all round for the army, the individual, and the tax payer?

    Again, and ref my last, I would disagree. I would suggest to you what is needed is a degree of continuity at all levels, including SO2/1.[/quote]
  6. "In industry no project would be given to a project manager for a finitie period of time less than the total length of the project itself unless the PM was sacked or moved on of his own choice. It's commerical suicide when the stakes are high, a fact the MoD ought to recognise."

    One of the features of the Astute submarine project once BAE took it over from Marconi was the very short periods between MDs. At one point it seemed that all a MD needed to do to get moved on was to state publicly to the staff "I shall be here until we put the boat into the water". Enough said really.
  7. Excellent responses and many thanks for the replies.

    Let me deal with the main points to date:

    If only. We cannot increase the size of the offr corps. We have to work within current quotas.

    The SO3/2 level is where we need the bright, ambitious thrusters who have something to lose if it goes wrong. Nothing against NRPS/FTRS but these are not the type of officers we want in these jobs.

    I agree in principle but we cannot do this at every rank structure. Incentivise the senior person or more if you can, and increase their tour lengths to the maximium possible.

    I agree - these are the last type of officers we want in these appointments.

    There is of course the acquisition stream for officers now. This is for officers who want equipment type jobs for the remainder of their career and excel in this type of environment. Further details are here:

    If it was possible to place officers in 5- 8 yrs equipment appointments then it would have been done years ago. The acquisition goes some way to address this and I gather, has been largely well received by all.

    Comments from anyone in the acquisition stream please ?
  8. Like with so many things, this argument does not make itself. It's about time those in the command chain put their foot down and refused to play ball to each and averey round of cuts and deployments that the tin-pot dictator in No 10 feels like making. If the Govt wants the job done, and that includes the proper management of staff functions, then it needs to be told that it has to allow the proper resources to be found. It simply isn't acceptable that the MoD can employ people responsible for "Diversity" and hire out at great expense to the public hotel facilities for members of staff to drop in and be lectured by members of stonewall about transgender and other issues for homosexuals as happened recently (and commented upon at great length on this site), yet kit is not properly acquired that is vital and in short supply because there aren't enough competant staff officers to go round, and someone with lots of scrambled egg on their hats should be thumping tables and telling the politicos to shove it where the sun don't shine and start resourcing us properly.
  9. If only life was as simple as this then it would have been achieved I assure you !
    With you on this one - what are we coming to - barking mad idea in my view.

    The aquisition stream is a step in the right direction towards what we all want - which is recognised to be a problem.
  10. I just want to clarify, for the purposes of anyone reading this and jumping up and down in glee at being able to take that comment out of context, neither Ramillies or I are advocating dealing with diversiyty or other issues in the MoD if that is what it chooses to do, what we agree on is that it is morally indefensible to divert scarce financial and management resuorces to an issue like this (and not isolated to this, but it is a glaring example) when soldiers are being sent into difficult and dangerous circumstances without the correct kit that is vital for their safety and protection, especially when the excuse that is used for not issuing it or getting in theatre in time is a lack of financial or managemenbt resource. The day that we have enough soldiers, kit, and logistics support to get it where it is needed when it is needed is the day I wholeheartedly support the MoD's drive for spending time and money on non-core issues. Seeing as the former will never happen though I will always remain concerned at the amount of resource devoted to the latter.
  11. To add my 2p's worth to this discussion.

    I am a qualified project manager with more than 5 years experience of managing a whole variety and range of projects - though mainly in the online and advertising arenas.

    However, I was in charge of the design and build of the latest army careers website and the new TA websites. This being the case i had plenty of opportunity to see the project management and resourcing of projects by the military at first hand.

    If it was a commercial company running these projects - you, the military, would have gone bust. It is commercial and project scope suicide to constantly change over the personnel managing projects.

    The major problems that i identified and fed back into the chain of command (I was still serving in the TA at this time and to Colonel recruiting interviewed me orginally for my place / sponsorship at RMAS) were as follows:

    1. The staff involved in the projects didn't have a good or in some cases even adequate understanding of the areas they were working in.

    This could be remedied by having people in post for longer and providing them with adequate training in the relevant field, or by employing people who have military experience (serving TA or former regular or former TA) and are now working in the relevant civilian market place. (Personnaly i would be delighted to work for the Army again).

    2. The staff did not have a good hand over process - there was little or no concise and relevant briefing information available to them internally - the desk officers spent the first 3-6 months in post chasing their tails and meeting with the contractors to get a picture of what was going on and what - if anything was in the pipeline.

    This comes down to a number of factors -
    a. The officers in these positions don't have the training
    b. Some are coasting as they see it as an easy posting
    c. Some don't care as they are about to leave
    d. There are little or no proper processes in place as no one is there long enough to make them stick...though i do realise that there are civ staff there to help, but they normally go along with what ever the desk officer wants them to do.
    e. Things are not properly documented or referenced - hence huge scope creep once techies and politicians (both in and out of uniform) get involved and the process of "wouldn't it be nice if it did..." kicks in.

    This could easily be remedied again by having someone in place for longer periods of time and by having an adequate handover / cross over period - 1 week ain't enough when there are multiple projects going on across a number of different mediums.

    3. Due to high turnover of desk officers due to retirement / postings etc there was little harmony, residual knowledge or co-operation between the various departments - e.g. Dinfo did not work in partnership with army recruiting and COI and frequently put obstacles in their way as they felt that they knew more about the topic of online marcomms than anybody else...

    Again this could be solved by having someone in post for longer, with better training...

    4. Quality of some (not all) of those in these postings.

    5. Serious lack or initial investigation into projects being carried out.

    We all know the adage that "time spent in recce, is time seldom wasted" - but you don't do it...

    I would guess that this is due to budgetary constraints, but i can guarantee you that if you spend 50K researching and evaluating the feasibility of the product / project you will probably save 100k building it!

    6. Consistency of message and briefings and financial management.

    I do realise that you can't have SO1's and SO3's in place for 5 years (in some cases) due to promotional and operational requirements - but this doesn't preclude the military from employing a project manager or similar position that will be in place and who will see the project through from its inception to its completion.

    As i have said above there are plenty of us out in civvie street who would be ideally employed in this role - we have military experience, we have the relevant industry experience and we know how to manage and run successful and financially viable projects. This knowledge is now being used for commercial gain and is lost to the forces...

    In the short term it is a grave mistake to not employ TA personnel who wish to do FTRS (Home) postings in areas that they have experience in.

    Also it is a grave mistake not to find former military personnel to help out with the running of these projects and this would resolve some (not all) of the issues with getting quality and qualified officers in to oversee projects, as there would always be a permaneant fixture in the organisation and running of the project.

    I am more than happy to discuss the above offline with anybody or over a beer :D
  12. I would go so far as to say that if you can't put a serving officer in place for the time necessary to do a good job then you should be using someone else - maybe someone recently retired, TA FTRS or a good civvy project manager.

    The purpose of these appointments is surely to produce the goods, not fill in 2 years on someone's CV.

    I await your comments with interest and a large wall to hide behind.
  13. HEYY!!! Line_Grunt just said that, only he used about 20 times more words!
  14. I have to agree with Line_Grunt completely. Here in civ-div ,and rapidly increasing in numbers in the army I should not doubt, there are now many technical posts and positions where it takes over a year to bed yourself in. Systems mangement for example (my job) often requires great lengths of time to 'orientate' yourself to a new system. The military career\job structure requires far to much change in too short a space of time to allow anyone in somesuch position to fulfil their role effectively. How they start to address this I don't know, but the creation of some more specialist roles and trades may have to be considered.