What systemic issues would you change in the MOD or in the single Services?

I do usually enjoy your posts. But this is thoroughly disingenuous: things have changed and quite dramatically, and the utter collapse of manning is only one of them.
Assuming that's aimed at me (there's a quote function, for the avoidance of doubt), I'd be interested if you could list the changes, supply evidence of them, and - above all - convincingly convey how they have come about, given the fragmented, tribal character of the regimental system, the institutional inertia that dogs all large, long-standing institutions, and the fact that strategic leadership of change is simply not possible in an institution whose topmost leadership churns at intervals of less than 3 years, along with every layer below them.

If it ain't aimed at me, I'd still be interested, but you're off the hook, I guess.
 

bob231

War Hero
Assuming that's aimed at me (there's a quote function, for the avoidance of doubt), I'd be interested if you could list the changes, supply evidence of them, and - above all - convincingly convey how they have come about, given the fragmented, tribal character of the regimental system, the institutional inertia that dogs all large, long-standing institutions, and the fact that strategic leadership of change is simply not possible in an institution whose topmost leadership churns at intervals of less than 3 years, along with every layer below them.

If it ain't aimed at me, I'd still be interested, but you're off the hook, I guess.
Noted and amended accordingly. Consider me educated.

I had a stab at putting together a reply and realised that I may agree with your original point. While the definition of a "good" officer has almost certainly changed* and the method of assessment definitely has, that doesn't prevent the assessments being consciously or unconsciously slated to favour a certain type.

However, I would say one thing that has definitely changed (in, say, the past 40 years) is a strong trend in attitude away from making snap assessments and towards elaborate methods of measuring and controlling risk. Whether this is a good thing is an entirely separate question.

*Given that society and the makeup of the Armed Forces has changed quite substantially. I contend that society has changed in a slightly different way to the Armed Forces' perception.
 

lextalionis

Old-Salt
The armed forces of this country are strange beasts. The "glory days" to which they hearken back are almost completely unlike the present-day. Nelson's press-ganged crews were seamen first only fodder for the guns second; the Navy was at its most effective - under Drake, Raleigh, Nelson and Howe - before the professionalisation of the 1860s. In like manner, the Army has had its real glory days under wild aristocrats rather than prim "graduates" of Sandhurst; Wolfe of Quebec, Clive of India, the Duke of Marlborough and even Wellington were made of quite different stuff to the later and seemingly more ineffectual commanders of the Great War and WW2.

The decentralised nature of such times, as well as results' brutal lack of regard for rank (Raglan was the (r)anker that sent the Light Brigade to their doom), perhaps means that armed forces will always become feeble and ineffectual in peacetime. It is perhaps too much to hope that a peacetime army, given to promoting the dull and unpromising, might ever match what was achieved in the youth of the nation.

Reform the Army? You need a war first.
 

Grumblegrunt

LE
Book Reviewer
personally I'd rebuild the whole lot in the image of the USMC, far less top heavy with everything deployable and a decent approach to the reserves.

the MOD itself is no fit for purpose. Abbey Wood is a prime example of mismanagement.
 
The armed forces of this country are strange beasts. The "glory days" to which they hearken back are almost completely unlike the present-day. Nelson's press-ganged crews were seamen first only fodder for the guns second; the Navy was at its most effective - under Drake, Raleigh, Nelson and Howe - before the professionalisation of the 1860s. In like manner, the Army has had its real glory days under wild aristocrats rather than prim "graduates" of Sandhurst; Wolfe of Quebec, Clive of India, the Duke of Marlborough and even Wellington were made of quite different stuff to the later and seemingly more ineffectual commanders of the Great War and WW2.

The decentralised nature of such times, as well as results' brutal lack of regard for rank (Raglan was the (r)anker that sent the Light Brigade to their doom), perhaps means that armed forces will always become feeble and ineffectual in peacetime. It is perhaps too much to hope that a peacetime army, given to promoting the dull and unpromising, might ever match what was achieved in the youth of the nation.

Reform the Army? You need a war first.
“Oh! Fxxk off Grasshopper!” War, Peace, Whatever. The demographics may change but the bourgeoisie elite will never. The inner guard of the Old School will always choose the next General when that person is a 2nd Lt, and everyone else will be the ones marching to the sound of the drum
 

lextalionis

Old-Salt
“Oh! Fxxk off Grasshopper!” War, Peace, Whatever. The demographics may change but the bourgeoisie elite will never. The inner guard of the Old School will always choose the next General when that person is a 2nd Lt, and everyone else will be the ones marching to the sound of the drum
And that's why we'll never win another war.
 
personally I'd rebuild the whole lot in the image of the USMC, far less top heavy with everything deployable and a decent approach to the reserves.
What, with no maritime, no air support (beyond short range fighter-attack aircraft) and no real logistics capability?
 
The armed forces of this country are strange beasts. The "glory days" to which they hearken back are almost completely unlike the present-day. Nelson's press-ganged crews were seamen first only fodder for the guns second; the Navy was at its most effective - under Drake, Raleigh, Nelson and Howe - before the professionalisation of the 1860s. In like manner, the Army has had its real glory days under wild aristocrats rather than prim "graduates" of Sandhurst; Wolfe of Quebec, Clive of India, the Duke of Marlborough and even Wellington were made of quite different stuff to the later and seemingly more ineffectual commanders of the Great War and WW2.

The decentralised nature of such times, as well as results' brutal lack of regard for rank (Raglan was the (r)anker that sent the Light Brigade to their doom), perhaps means that armed forces will always become feeble and ineffectual in peacetime. It is perhaps too much to hope that a peacetime army, given to promoting the dull and unpromising, might ever match what was achieved in the youth of the nation.

Reform the Army? You need a war first.
Back to the realisation that a peacetime military which rotates it's commissioned leadership at every level every coupla years is clearly not in the game of producing a razor sharp weapon for the defence of the nation, but the perfect environment for a perpetual game of career-carving snakes and ladders, in which those best versed in the forms and rituals of the game can flourish. Almost by definition, it would seem, in such an ecosystem good soldiers seem rarely to flourish, and are too soon rotated out to make a lasting difference.
 

Caecilius

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
What, with no maritime, no air support (beyond short range fighter-attack aircraft) and no real logistics capability?
And a plan to ditch armour, tube artillery and most air assets over the next few years to become a pure litoral assault force. Oh, and with all the back-office functions that bloat the UK armed forces (like procurement and C2) done by someone else.
 

Caecilius

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
Back to the realisation that a peacetime military which rotates it's commissioned leadership at every level every coupla years is clearly not in the game of producing a razor sharp weapon for the defence of the nation, but the perfect environment for a perpetual game of career-carving snakes and ladders, in which those best versed in the forms and rituals of the game can flourish. Almost by definition, it would seem, in such an ecosystem good soldiers seem rarely to flourish, and are too soon rotated out to make a lasting difference.
Maybe. There isn't an obviously better way of doing it though, which is why pretty much all western armies use broadly the same system of 2-3 year posts. You've got to have some kind of career progression to allow the organisation to function and if you don't have a war to kill people off then there isn't much choice but to move people through posts at about that pace.

I'm pretty confident the average tenure of command positions for both the US and UK in WW2 was significantly less than our peacetime 2.5 years so it's not the tenure that causes issues per se.
 
And a plan to ditch armour, tube artillery and most air assets over the next few years to become a pure litoral assault force. Oh, and with all the back-office functions that bloat the UK armed forces (like procurement and C2) done by someone else.
but apart from that.
 

Mr_Relaxed

War Hero
Maybe. There isn't an obviously better way of doing it though, which is why pretty much all western armies use broadly the same system of 2-3 year posts. You've got to have some kind of career progression to allow the organisation to function and if you don't have a war to kill people off then there isn't much choice but to move people through posts at about that pace.

I'm pretty confident the average tenure of command positions for both the US and UK in WW2 was significantly less than our peacetime 2.5 years so it's not the tenure that causes issues per se.
I am sure that I have read somewhere that it also caused a problem in the US military post-WW2, in that the Brigade and Divisional Commanders had spent a fraction of their early years at platoon and company level, in a non-Garrison environment, and so later made unrealistic demands on those leaders, having little empathy for them.

Although you can also argue that the RLC 2Lt who had a troop twenty years ago, still thinks in terms of that capacity when he's the CO, despite technology having moved on. There was a documentary some years ago, where a Lt Gen (Pike ?) went back to an AI platoon for a week or so, and he commented that life had really moved on since he was a 2Lt.

But what's being described above is how most careers work, where you want to climb the ladder. A series of jobs that last 2-3 years whilst you gain experience and exposure, establishing your career and employment credentials, before deciding what you want to do for the rest of your life before you can retire.
 
personally I'd rebuild the whole lot in the image of the USMC, far less top heavy with everything deployable and a decent approach to the reserves.

the MOD itself is no fit for purpose. Abbey Wood is a prime example of mismanagement.
My retort to that is this; go and work for the USMC, preferably in an operational environment, for an elongated period.

Then come back to me and let me know your thoughts.
 

Sarastro

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
Maybe. There isn't an obviously better way of doing it though, which is why pretty much all western armies use broadly the same system of 2-3 year posts. You've got to have some kind of career progression to allow the organisation to function and if you don't have a war to kill people off then there isn't much choice but to move people through posts at about that pace.

I'm pretty confident the average tenure of command positions for both the US and UK in WW2 was significantly less than our peacetime 2.5 years so it's not the tenure that causes issues per se.
It's not the command positions that are the problem, it's the management positions. The detrimental fantasy that the present military pursues is that all these roles are broadly interchangable with the same individuals, therefore it's desirable to switch all individuals between staff and command roles at the rate it does. Also, the analogy is false - things which were deemed to be specialist in WW2 broadly had specialist officers who remained in that stream, take the airborne forces for a good example (clearer pattern in the US than the UK).

The present system might be desirable for generalist top-level decision makers (commanders) and for the ultimate goal of effective wartime commanders, the vast majority of whom mostly work on ultra-short-term project planning (operations) with a high level of support (specialist advice). This is why, as you no doubt have plenty of evidence for at present, the military are better-than-average operational planners in crises. Specialist knowledge doesn't change most planning processes, just the variables, so when you are in a crisis or on operations, with a broad remit and high focus & levels of support, the military system works.

It's certainly not desirable for the long-term management of anything that requires specialism...as I suspect you might historically have plenty of evidence for, too. Those type of projects require long-term strategic planning, consistency, and get less support (because outside of crises there is a multiplicity rather than unity of effort, so resources are spread thinner). All of those factors require longer tenure with individuals who have specialist understanding of the subject, because a) it's more specialist by definition, and b) there are fewer in support able to provide that knowledge externally.

The military system mostly consists of the latter kind of project, but mans them with the former kind of personnel system. That's why it doesn't work. Note this still leaves room for 2-minus year generalist military commanders on operations being both achievable and desirable. So tenure is still part of the problem, even though it's not the whole problem.
 

Caecilius

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
not the command positions that are the problem, it's the management positions. The detrimental fantasy that the present military pursues is that all these roles are broadly interchangable with the same individuals, therefore it's desirable to switch all individuals between staff and command roles at the rate it does. Also, the analogy is false - things which were deemed to be specialist in WW2 broadly had specialist officers who remained in that stream, take the airborne forces for a good example (clearer pattern in the US than the UK).
Oh, I completely agree with this. I think we need to clearly distinguish between time in a given role and time in a specialty. The 2-3 year rotation will need to continue in all but a select few roles (eg. major procurement projects); what we should change is the minimal time spent in specialist areas which makes the entire force into dilettantes.

I am sure that I have read somewhere that it also caused a problem in the US military post-WW2, in that the Brigade and Divisional Commanders had spent a fraction of their early years at platoon and company level, in a non-Garrison environment, and so later made unrealistic demands on those leaders, having little empathy for them.
This is a significant problem as well I think. There's a fundamental difference between the skills needed to run an army in peacetime and in all-out war. The big question, because it's the model employed by all western armies except Israel, is the extent to which the peacetime commanders can switch to wartime command for low intensity operations/small wars/COIN then back again.
 
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potter

Old-Salt
This is a significant problem as well I think. There's a fundamental difference between the skills needed to run an army in peacetime and in all-out war. The big question, because it's the model employed by all western armies except Israel, is the extent to which the peacetime commanders can switch to wartime command for low intensity operations/small wars/COIN then back again.
So, what's the answer then? Send the commanders home on half pay until the French start getting uppity again, or loan them to the Ukranians so that they stay current....?
 
Maybe. There isn't an obviously better way of doing it though, which is why pretty much all western armies use broadly the same system of 2-3 year posts. You've got to have some kind of career progression to allow the organisation to function and if you don't have a war to kill people off then there isn't much choice but to move people through posts at about that pace.

I'm pretty confident the average tenure of command positions for both the US and UK in WW2 was significantly less than our peacetime 2.5 years so it's not the tenure that causes issues per se.
I love it whenever a timely classic symptom of the condition shows up to substantiate my diagnosis :thumleft:
 

lextalionis

Old-Salt
Would it be better to move to a largely militia-based system? It'd free up masses of money and it'd help alleviate the military itch to use our forces periodically because they are there.
 
Would it be better to move to a largely militia-based system? It'd free up masses of money and it'd help alleviate the military itch to use our forces periodically because they are there.
No.
Because when you want to use them, there is a full time expectation of success that enhanced community service can't deliver.

You still need them, just not for overseas teeth kicking in
 

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