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

Sarastro

LE
Kit Reviewer
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I know more than a few senior Officer who are there for 3+ years in position.

And again, drawing on business examples is fine as long as we are completely honest in not comparing apples and apples. It is easy for a non-bottom fed, highly mobile jobs market to sustain both growth in experience (both depth and breadth) in the lower levels of management, whilst also having a head in place for 10+ years. I don't think that is possible in an Armed Force.
First point. Perhaps the problems are your assumptions. This discussion tends to be approached as if you should only change one variable at a time. That's how organisational change tends to happen in practice, largely because it tends to be undirected, but it's not either how you should plan a new system or how to direct change / fix an existing system. In the latter cases, the main concern should be dependencies.

Some assumptions here you might consider as mutable rather than fixed are:
  • Types of management roles required. i.e. number of officers - for example, is the de facto practice in air forces of pilots being officers necessary or a social hangover...should those officers have management responsibility or is the requirement actually "level headed, responsible individuals who we can trust with £50m of airframe". Is there a real requirement, example two, for the Int Corps to have a disproportionate number of officers when they simultaniously claim that the soldiers do all the intelligence work...does it really require an officer to primarily fill the role of talking to other officers? Do changes in society mean we can re-define the relationship and responsibilities between officers and soldiers?
  • Number of management roles required. Are we really increasing proportional numbers of mid-level officers in case, like the Germans, we have to expand quickly? Or is it unplanned bureaucratic bloat, or self-interest that means managers doing the cutting are the last ones cut. If the answer is actually the former, given they are employed as the latter, will the officers we are producing be actually fit for purpose? How many staff support roles are best served by having military officers in them rather than specialist soldiers or civilians? What is the ideal number of officers for the structure we desire? What is the actual number of officers we have? Are they the same?
  • Should we be aiming to retain all individuals on a long-term career basis (the current assumption, more based on history than what the current leadership states is the aim), rather than planning to be an organisation with substantial lower-level churn (which is what happens anyway) that aims to select and persuade a small proportion to continue to management level?
  • Should the career system have (as at present) both roles and assignment centrally managed, or would it work better (as happens in most other organisations) with roles centrally managed, but assignment decentralised and competitive.
There are plenty more. You can't possibly address an interlocking problem like a manpower system or changing a large, traditionalist organisation like the military, without addressing more than one factor at a time in your plan, because the different factors have all melded together over time like roots growing into rock. To achieve even a small change, you need to work out how the whole system needs to change in support of that: even if you only pursue one of those small changes at a time.

Second point. You're right, it's not comparing apples with apples: some elements of the military system are very different types of fruit. But not, for the most part, the manpower element. Where careers and manpower are concerned, the claim that they aren't apples is largely the military insisting that they are some form of rare cloudberry, when they look, taste, grow, and behave like apples.

I suspect this is one of those things that with you and @Caecilius will fall on deaf ears, but this is absolutely crystal clear once you leave the Forces. The remarkable thing to experience is not that civilians are broadly the same - actually, military / ex-military have a distinct way of thinking. The remarkable thing is seeing how different the military think they are: the abject parochialism and exceptionalism that is displayed by serving military the very second you are no longer wearing a uniform. Given the increasingly contractor / military crossover, in lots of cases this is quite embarassing on their part, and doubly so when they work out that you have the same or more relevant background and experience. I've heard (and experienced) several times the story of this playing out even when it's serving military who the individual served with. It's mostly remarkable for how they don't even seem to realise they are doing it.

This may not apply to the CO of a carrier, who has a role that can legitimately be described as a cloudberry. The point is that the CO of a carrier has spent the vast majority of their career in roles that are apples.

This should be unsurprising, as it's an extension of an effect everyone here recognises: I saw the same effect changing capbadges. Suddenly the previous capbadge behaved as if you couldn't possibly know anything about how they did things, even, in the worse cases, when that individual actually knew you had been their capbadge. It's also the case, obviously, that manpower is the one area where every employee in any organisation has a strong and inherent bias. Service personnel aren't magically exempt from this. This is one (good) reason why lots of organisations hire external consultants for manpower changes, to sidestep that bias.

The revolving door between the public sector, military and civilian contractors has increasingly demonstrated that, for many military roles, the same job can be done with substantially different manpower systems. Many voices have drawn the obvious conclusion that the military career system isn't inherently necessary to these roles. These voices mostly outside the military, but include a substantial proportion of military-linked careers (e.g. Defence academics) and ex-military - exactly the kind of people who various military leaders like Carter and Carleton-Smith have made a point of saying that Defence needs to engage with and listen to for feedback. Yet, on manpower, the response is characteristically to dig in: no, we're an exception. I'd note this is also mirrored here: among the arrserati (or whatever the term is), there's been a long pattern of the ex-serving members in civilian jobs suggesting that the military isn't actually as much of an exception as it thinks it is, while the still-serving ones insist that it is.

This parochialism also happens inside Defence. Between 2010-2014, basically every question about career systems inside the Army was answered by "the NEM is doing that". This particularly applied to people working on FF2020, FR2020 and A2020, who when they questioned career or APC changes as part of the program, got told it was the NEM's responsibility. I worked with someone on the NEM. They were specifically briefed to only look at renumeration, accomodation/geography, TACOS, incentives, etc.* The actual career structures (rank, roles, all the stuff that APC does), they were told, was being dealt with by the SS in projects like FF2020...so the exact opposite of what those working on FF2020 were told. I'm about 50/50 on whether this was intentional (i.e. someone(s) in the Army deliberately briefing different responsibilities to avoid change), or unintentional (i.e. bureaucratic incompetence of one hand not being aware of the other). Either way, the point is the same: in the highest level, most deliberate reviews of the manpower system over the past few decades, nobody formally considered changing the manpower system. Nobody was driving the car.

Manpower remains one of the areas in which Defence and its component parts remains the most intractable or incapable of change, and change is either forced by circumstance ("cut this budget by £Xm") or by external political pressure (falling in line with civilian diversity and gender requirements). Until those inside Defence admit that they are not actually in control, and individual officers are willing to consider that they are unreliable arbiters of this particular problem, then it's never going to change.


* This was anecdotal 5 years ago. It's not now - if you look through the A2020 and NEM papers, there is a glaring black hole where any consideration of the structural career system should be. Neither of them consider it, and various A2020 docs at the time (e.g. https://assets.publishing.service.g...achment_data/file/210470/Cm8655-web_FINAL.pdf 3.6 or https://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Army-2020.pdf 2.38) footnoted that it would be considered in the NEM...which, as above, didn't mention it. So if you're inclined to dismiss this, first ask the question: why did the two biggest reviews of Army / Defence manpower of the decade completely fail to consider structural changes to the career system?
 

A2_Matelot

LE
Book Reviewer
It's definitely improving. It's still not where it needs to be and I'd argue that jHub is just filling a gap that DE&S should be in, but it'll probably get there eventually.
jHub is good at what it does, it has the same issues but has the luxury of focused resource and targeted budgets. It also doesn't do through life capability management. I have an innovation team established before JHub which is equally successful but it stumbles when you want to deliver something at scale into Service. At that juncture you have to go to DE&S or DD.
 
I think underpinning this all is a short-term ideology.

How we get rid of that I’ve no idea.
Long term budgets. Planning expenditure on a budget cycle of 1 year is pretty pointless. The budgets for each area need to be set in a cycle that suits that area. The training cycle for Field units would be better. At least 5 years for projects if not longer.

Posting lengths need to change & should map unit requirements. What's the point of having a 3 year cycle for Field units related to training if the post holders change every 2 years ? You've just wasted 10s of 1000s of pounds sterling by changing the people who are supposed to be leading.
 
Long term budgets. Planning expenditure on a budget cycle of 1 year is pretty pointless.
But that is the actual law - so lobby your MP!
 
Businesses do the same though - an MBA from this school, a degree from that University. There's an accountancy mafia that make the Rifles look like amateurs.

Let's face it, we recruit people like us. We spend 30 minutes on interviews when we made our minds up in the first five. I saw an article some time ago that said interviewers spend the next 25 minutes justifying their decision.

We do the same thing with people we meet. Husbands of your wife's friends is a good measure of this if you think about it. Do you like them all? Or do you gravitate to the blokes with a similar outlook on life as yourself?
I don't - indeed, can't - disagree

What I can contest, however, is that the Army is automatically chained in perpetuity by the same old stultifying stereotype: look how absurd Sarnies Cowan looked when the spotlight swung his way for one thing, and look how different are the implicit assumptions about what 'professional' looks like in the mind's eye (off the top of my head) of a Royal Marine, whose training has been conducted with Orrcifer class working close alongside the ranknfile from end to end.
 
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Long term budgets. Planning expenditure on a budget cycle of 1 year is pretty pointless. The budgets for each area need to be set in a cycle that suits that area. The training cycle for Field units would be better. At least 5 years for projects if not longer.

Posting lengths need to change & should map unit requirements. What's the point of having a 3 year cycle for Field units related to training if the post holders change every 2 years ? You've just wasted 10s of 1000s of pounds sterling by changing the people who are supposed to be leading.
Neither the lack of long term budgeting nor the planning on a one-year cycle are confined to the MoD. All businesses operate an annual budget cycle because that is how they report and how they are taxed. In some ways it’s worse in business; end of year spending to use up tax credits isn’t clever.
 
First point. Perhaps the problems are your assumptions. This discussion tends to be approached as if you should only change one variable at a time. That's how organisational change tends to happen in practice, largely because it tends to be undirected, but it's not either how you should plan a new system or how to direct change / fix an existing system. In the latter cases, the main concern should be dependencies.

Some assumptions here you might consider as mutable rather than fixed are:
  • Types of management roles required. i.e. number of officers - for example, is the de facto practice in air forces of pilots being officers necessary or a social hangover...should those officers have management responsibility or is the requirement actually "level headed, responsible individuals who we can trust with £50m of airframe". Is there a real requirement, example two, for the Int Corps to have a disproportionate number of officers when they simultaniously claim that the soldiers do all the intelligence work...does it really require an officer to primarily fill the role of talking to other officers? Do changes in society mean we can re-define the relationship and responsibilities between officers and soldiers?
  • Number of management roles required. Are we really increasing proportional numbers of mid-level officers in case, like the Germans, we have to expand quickly? Or is it unplanned bureaucratic bloat, or self-interest that means managers doing the cutting are the last ones cut. If the answer is actually the former, given they are employed as the latter, will the officers we are producing be actually fit for purpose? How many staff support roles are best served by having military officers in them rather than specialist soldiers or civilians? What is the ideal number of officers for the structure we desire? What is the actual number of officers we have? Are they the same?
  • Should we be aiming to retain all individuals on a long-term career basis (the current assumption, more based on history than what the current leadership states is the aim), rather than planning to be an organisation with substantial lower-level churn (which is what happens anyway) that aims to select and persuade a small proportion to continue to management level?
  • Should the career system have (as at present) both roles and assignment centrally managed, or would it work better (as happens in most other organisations) with roles centrally managed, but assignment decentralised and competitive.
There are plenty more. You can't possibly address an interlocking problem like a manpower system or changing a large, traditionalist organisation like the military, without addressing more than one factor at a time in your plan, because the different factors have all melded together over time like roots growing into rock. To achieve even a small change, you need to work out how the whole system needs to change in support of that: even if you only pursue one of those small changes at a time.

Second point. You're right, it's not comparing apples with apples: some elements of the military system are very different types of fruit. But not, for the most part, the manpower element. Where careers and manpower are concerned, the claim that they aren't apples is largely the military insisting that they are some form of rare cloudberry, when they look, taste, grow, and behave like apples.

I suspect this is one of those things that with you and @Caecilius will fall on deaf ears, but this is absolutely crystal clear once you leave the Forces. The remarkable thing to experience is not that civilians are broadly the same - actually, military / ex-military have a distinct way of thinking. The remarkable thing is seeing how different the military think they are: the abject parochialism and exceptionalism that is displayed by serving military the very second you are no longer wearing a uniform. Given the increasingly contractor / military crossover, in lots of cases this is quite embarassing on their part, and doubly so when they work out that you have the same or more relevant background and experience. I've heard (and experienced) several times the story of this playing out even when it's serving military who the individual served with. It's mostly remarkable for how they don't even seem to realise they are doing it.

This may not apply to the CO of a carrier, who has a role that can legitimately be described as a cloudberry. The point is that the CO of a carrier has spent the vast majority of their career in roles that are apples.

This should be unsurprising, as it's an extension of an effect everyone here recognises: I saw the same effect changing capbadges. Suddenly the previous capbadge behaved as if you couldn't possibly know anything about how they did things, even, in the worse cases, when that individual actually knew you had been their capbadge. It's also the case, obviously, that manpower is the one area where every employee in any organisation has a strong and inherent bias. Service personnel aren't magically exempt from this. This is one (good) reason why lots of organisations hire external consultants for manpower changes, to sidestep that bias.

The revolving door between the public sector, military and civilian contractors has increasingly demonstrated that, for many military roles, the same job can be done with substantially different manpower systems. Many voices have drawn the obvious conclusion that the military career system isn't inherently necessary to these roles. These voices mostly outside the military, but include a substantial proportion of military-linked careers (e.g. Defence academics) and ex-military - exactly the kind of people who various military leaders like Carter and Carleton-Smith have made a point of saying that Defence needs to engage with and listen to for feedback. Yet, on manpower, the response is characteristically to dig in: no, we're an exception. I'd note this is also mirrored here: among the arrserati (or whatever the term is), there's been a long pattern of the ex-serving members in civilian jobs suggesting that the military isn't actually as much of an exception as it thinks it is, while the still-serving ones insist that it is.

This parochialism also happens inside Defence. Between 2010-2014, basically every question about career systems inside the Army was answered by "the NEM is doing that". This particularly applied to people working on FF2020, FR2020 and A2020, who when they questioned career or APC changes as part of the program, got told it was the NEM's responsibility. I worked with someone on the NEM. They were specifically briefed to only look at renumeration, accomodation/geography, TACOS, incentives, etc.* The actual career structures (rank, roles, all the stuff that APC does), they were told, was being dealt with by the SS in projects like FF2020...so the exact opposite of what those working on FF2020 were told. I'm about 50/50 on whether this was intentional (i.e. someone(s) in the Army deliberately briefing different responsibilities to avoid change), or unintentional (i.e. bureaucratic incompetence of one hand not being aware of the other). Either way, the point is the same: in the highest level, most deliberate reviews of the manpower system over the past few decades, nobody formally considered changing the manpower system. Nobody was driving the car.

Manpower remains one of the areas in which Defence and its component parts remains the most intractable or incapable of change, and change is either forced by circumstance ("cut this budget by £Xm") or by external political pressure (falling in line with civilian diversity and gender requirements). Until those inside Defence admit that they are not actually in control, and individual officers are willing to consider that they are unreliable arbiters of this particular problem, then it's never going to change.


* This was anecdotal 5 years ago. It's not now - if you look through the A2020 and NEM papers, there is a glaring black hole where any consideration of the structural career system should be. Neither of them consider it, and various A2020 docs at the time (e.g. https://assets.publishing.service.g...achment_data/file/210470/Cm8655-web_FINAL.pdf 3.6 or https://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Army-2020.pdf 2.38) footnoted that it would be considered in the NEM...which, as above, didn't mention it. So if you're inclined to dismiss this, first ask the question: why did the two biggest reviews of Army / Defence manpower of the decade completely fail to consider structural changes to the career system?
@Caecilius

Go on

Give us all a reet good bellylaff

Give that post right there a "Dumb" rating :-D

Ya know ya wanna :-D
 

Caecilius

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
@Caecilius

Go on

Give us all a reet good bellylaff

Give that post right there a "Dumb" rating :-D

Ya know ya wanna :-D
I'm confused. Why would I want to?

I agree with much of the post and have made some of the same points previously both on arrse and elsewhere (although not nearly as eloquently as Sarastro). More importantly, I almost exclusively use dumb ratings for posts that contain insults rather than making a polite argument/point.
 
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I'm confused. Why would I want to?

I agree with much of the post and have made some of the same points previously both on arrse and elsewhere (although not nearly as eloquently as Sarastro). More importantly, I almost exclusively use dumb ratings for posts that contain insults rather than making a polite argument/point.
Then you'll have to forgive me when I politely observe that a substantial proportion of your posts on this site, focus on either:

(a) Defending the career system status quo, or

(b) Gaming the career system.

Well, that's how I see them.

Maybe I'm an outlier?

Who's to say? :-D
 

Caecilius

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
Then you'll have to forgive me when I politely observe that a substantial proportion of your posts on this site, focus on either:

(a) Defending the career system status quo, or

(b) Gaming the career system.

Well, that's how I see them.

Maybe I'm an outlier?

Who's to say? :-D
I've certainly defended bits of the career system but that's a long way from defending all of it. Some things need to stay the same because we're an army and not a business but there's a lot that should be changed. It's not a simplistic binary "the career system is all good/all bad".

I don't think you'll find any posts by me about gaming the career system, unless you count the ones lamenting that there's a single path to glory that requires an aspirant CGS to do a handful of select jobs.
 
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I've certainly defended bits of the career system but that's a long way from defending all of it. Some things need to stay the same because we're an army and not a business but there's a lot that should be changed. It's not a simplistic binary "the career system is all good/all bad".

I don't think you'll find any posts by me about gaming the career system, unless you count the ones lamenting that there's a single path to glory that requires an aspirant CGS to do a handful of select jobs.
TBH there’s not a huge amount of difference in the way that day to day leadership and management is executed in business. I’ve had the privilege to get to know a number of CEO of large companies; I don’t think their skill set and approach is much different from VSOs in peacetime.

Entrepreneur founders are often very different. Their traits equate more to those of a wartime leader; the opportunist trait for a start. But founders very rarely make good CEOs; it’s known as the Founders Dilemma, so there’s a parallel there.

So I think you’ve nailed the issue in two ways; firstly your earlier post questioning how to balance wartime and peacetime leadership; the founders dilemma in a different context. And secondly, your comment the singular path to the top. But again, there is a pretty narrow path to the top in business too; CEOs play the corporate game. Unless, of course, you are a that rare beast, a successful founder CEO.

Personally, I’d be looking hard at Shrivenham, but thats another post.
 

jrwlynch

LE
Book Reviewer
Then you'll have to forgive me when I politely observe that a substantial proportion of your posts on this site, focus on either:

(a) Defending the career system status quo, or

(b) Gaming the career system.

Well, that's how I see them.

Maybe I'm an outlier?

Who's to say? :-D
As a sort-of-disinterested (had an enjoyable and useful if short-lived TA time decades ago, now part-time dark blue supporting Andover in a day job) observer, while @Caecilius can be over-sure and annoying on occasion I've not seen him launch any spirited defence of the current Army (or Forces - none of us are perfect) career system.

@Sarastro provided a characteristically clear and well-presented point. Perhaps if Caecilius declines to hammer the mong buttons on it, it's because he (she, xe. ze, it, them? let us maintain political correctness) doesn't vehemently disagree?
 

Sarastro

LE
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The point seems to have been missed. I namechecked @alfred_the_great and @Caecilius because they are still serving, not as a dig at their opinions. My point was that opinions on Defence careers are plagued both by individual bias and a collective bubble that is almost impossible to see clearly until you are outside it, but by definition that isn't sufficiently accounted for by those still inside.

This matters because the exceptionalism ethos means that those on the inside claim only they understand or have an interest in changing the career system, so only they should have control of it. Like any public service, this isn't true, but also like any public service, it's the first area the invisible hands of the institution ensure they have a death-grip on.
 

Caecilius

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
Personally, I’d be looking hard at Shrivenham, but thats another post.
I'm not sure you'd get much disagreement. Officer training and education (at least in the army) needs to be completely overhauled.
 
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Given that ACSC is pretty much the jewel in the crown, I’d suggest that it’s exactly what is needed.

Especially as CDS thinks it’s “too long, too joint, too drunk”...
 
I've certainly defended bits of the career system but that's a long way from defending all of it. Some things need to stay the same because we're an army and not a business but there's a lot that should be changed. It's not a simplistic binary "the career system is all good/all bad".

I don't think you'll find any posts by me about gaming the career system, unless you count the ones lamenting that there's a single path to glory that requires an aspirant CGS to do a handful of select jobs.
I think I’ve said more than once that uniformed Officers should have very little to do with the “business” of defence*; we should be concentrating far more on Operations than money.


*and neither should CS.
 

Caecilius

LE
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Book Reviewer
I think I’ve said more than once that uniformed Officers should have very little to do with the “business” of defence*; we should be concentrating far more on Operations than money.


*and neither should CS.
I mostly agree, although I think CS are appropriate. I also think a large chunk of staff roles would be done better if they were moved to the CS.
 
I mostly agree, although I think CS are appropriate. I also think a large chunk of staff roles would be done better if they were moved to the CS.
But that would mean curtailed careers for an awful lot of Majs, Lt Cols and Cols as they do the rounds of Shrivenham, Andover, Tidworth/Bulford/Larkhill and Aldershot in an array of fairly non-essential staff posts. You would also want to improve MoD CS T&Cs and pay. I've said it many times before and I'll say it again, remove the option to claim CSA when on a UK posting and the enduring staff cohort will self-select themselves into leaving.
 
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Caecilius

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
But that would mean curtailed careers for an awful lot of Maj, Lt Cols and Cols as they do the rounds of Shrivenham, Andover, Tidworth/Bulford/Larkhill and Aldershot in an array of fairly non-essential staff posts.
Yup. The added bonus of having CS doing the staff jobs better is that it would allow us to be much more selective about the officers we keep.
 

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