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

I'm sure we've had this discussion before.

Perhaps ARRSE doesn't learn from itself...
 
Just out of interest. Does anyone think they can put a figure on how much it ends up costing the Armed Forces with changing tack every 2 years as the top headshed change and we end up going down a new dead end ?
 
Just out of interest. Does anyone think they can put a figure on how much it ends up costing the Armed Forces with changing tack every 2 years as the top headshed change and we end up going down a new dead end ?
Compared to what? There is no alternative.

Equally I'd suggest there is no "dead end" - it is a continually altering beast.
 
Just out of interest. Does anyone think they can put a figure on how much it ends up costing the Armed Forces with changing tack every 2 years as the top headshed change and we end up going down a new dead end ?
Do the Armed Forces really change tack with every new CDS (most of who serve three years)? I don’t think they do; CDS is effectively Chairman of the Board; he doest personally set the agenda.
 
I'm not specifically talking about consulting here, I'm talking about the general inability of Defence to match external SEQ to Defence roles. Regardless of whether top level consultants (by which, by the way, I don't mean McKinsey types who I think are broadly schills - I mean people or companies with specific expertise in an area who hire it out) are or would be available through the Reserves, when the Defence can't even match specific, low-level external SEQ to specific low-level Defence jobs when it's of obvious benefit to them, the high level stuff is a moot point.
It’s something of a niche problem though, isn’t it. One that only really affects a few specialist roles. @twentyfirstoffoot is spot on when he points out that the Reserve’s role is predominantly to provide riflemen and JNCOs.

It’s also suggest that it is a problem that is largely corps specific; some are much better than others. When I was serving, the Sappers were pretty good at finding niche expertise from within their Reserve.
 

jrwlynch

LE
Book Reviewer
It’s also suggest that it is a problem that is largely corps specific; some are much better than others. When I was serving, the Sappers were pretty good at finding niche expertise from within their Reserve.
until 'not that long ago', N2 was the Reserve.
 
Do the Armed Forces really change tack with every new CDS (most of who serve three years)? I don’t think they do; CDS is effectively Chairman of the Board; he doest personally set the agenda.
Nor is he, nor any member of the continually rotating Board ever personally held accountable for any decision that it makes, which makes for some astonishingly sloppy decision-taking over critical matters of the long-term/mahoosive cost/ major impact variety.
 

Caecilius

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
Nor is he, nor any member of the continually rotating Board ever personally held accountable for any decision that it makes, which makes for some astonishingly sloppy decision-taking over critical matters of the long-term/mahoosive cost/ major impact variety.
I think a desire to hold people accountable is laudable, but what mechanism do you propose to do it? The Chiefs leave their jobs long before any of their decisions come to fruition.
 
I think a desire to hold people accountable is laudable, but what mechanism do you propose to do it? The Chiefs leave their jobs long before any of their decisions come to fruition.
I’m genuinely unsure what people mean when they talk about accountability, particularly around strategic leaders. Sure, the private sector is much more ruthless over failures on the way up, but it’s not very good at firing poor strategic leaders. They usually get a hefty handshake to go, long after they have wreaked severe damage on the organisation they lead. I think it’s safe to say that no CDS in my memory has wreaked severe damage on the Services.

In some ways, the service approach of short term leadership tenures mitigates against the damage that a toxic senior leader can wreak given longer in post. Going back to that Harvard Review article I linked to, maybe you dodge a bullet by avoiding the period between Sophomore Slump and Performance.

The reality is that most people will never lead anything beyond a small team. They have no concept of what strategic organisational leadership looks like because they’ve never directly been exposed to it or aspired to it, let alone actually taken it on.
 

Caecilius

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
I’m genuinely unsure what people mean when they talk about accountability, particularly around strategic leaders.
Me neither. I think the idea that negligent decisions should result in negative consequences for the person making them is sound, but that presupposes two things:

1. That decisions were indeed negligent rather than well-meaning but wrong (or even right at the time, but made in circumstances that rapidly changed).

2. A mechanism to punish people once they've left post.

I think unambiguous examples of negligence from our very senior decision makers are vanishigly rare, and I fear that post-career punishment for VSO who make poor decisions would end up encouraging the next crop of VSOs to make no decisions at all.
 

Sarastro

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
It’s something of a niche problem though, isn’t it. One that only really affects a few specialist roles. @twentyfirstoffoot is spot on when he points out that the Reserve’s role is predominantly to provide riflemen and JNCOs.
That's not actually the case, at least not as it's currently structured.

Look at the relative sizes of the Reserve and Regular components of the Army. They are not remotely proportional (I'm talking paper manning - actual manning is obviously a mess). Things like the Int Corps have nearly a 1:1 Regular/Reserve ratio, whereas the Infantry has something like a 3:1 or less; Cyber roles (real ones, not renamed SO3 IT) are weighted towards the Reserves, while roles such as armor or aviation barely exist in any functional sense in the Reserves. The question: what value does the Reserve have to Defence (i.e. compared to the Regulars) therefore heavily weights niche white-collar skillsets, while the value of the Regulars to Defence (i.e. compared to the Reserve) is heavily weighted towards traditional military roles with high equipment or time investment costs.

Value and role isn't defined by mass. Amazon is probably the biggest employer of delivery drivers in the world. Are they a delivery company? No. Google's major source of revenue comes from advertising/search, but their search arm is a tiny proportion of their total employees and they wouldn't be recognised as a marketing or PR firm by anyone else in that sector.

In a period of rapid expansion or conscription, the Reserves might be about providing riflemen or JNCOs. But that's not its current role, and it wasn't even really its role during the closest analogue, the Afghan/Iraq period, where it was much more likely to provide specialists (doctors, vets, OA, PSYOPS, interrogators, and, despite your protests, media ops!) or spare officers / SNCOs for HQ and base roles, than it was a rifleman on patrols.

The value that the Reserves provide is precisely the ability to get niche and specialist skill sets that Defence cannot or will not train itself, or in sufficient numbers. That is written all over FR2020, and it's baked into the paper size and ORBAT of Reserve units, it's just been forgotten in the utter mess that followed.
 
Me neither. I think the idea that negligent decisions should result in negative consequences for the person making them is sound, but that presupposes two things:

1. That decisions were indeed negligent rather than well-meaning but wrong (or even right at the time, but made in circumstances that rapidly changed).

2. A mechanism to punish people once they've left post.

I think unambiguous examples of negligence from our very senior decision makers are vanishigly rare, and I fear that post-career punishment for VSO who make poor decisions would end up encouraging the next crop of VSOs to make no decisions at all.
Agree entirely. There are very few people who have the balls to stand up and make strategic decisions whether in government, uniformed service, the public sector or business. Very few of them make negligent decisions; they simply wouldn’t achieve senior leadership if they where inherently diligent.

Those most likely to make bad decisions are those with an incentive to do so. In business, it the agency dilemma where executives act in their own interests rather than in the interests of the organisation they lead. Those interests are usually financial. That is creeping in to the public sector; salaries in government agencies and qangos are enough to influence behaviour. As are titles.

It’s not like there’s a bottomless pit of talent to select from. There’s an interesting statistic about business: 3% of the population will start their own business and of those businesses, only 5% will survive the first five years and 1% will reach £1M turnover. The stats for senior leaders in the public sector will be similarly brutal.
 
That's not actually the case, at least not as it's currently structured.

Look at the relative sizes of the Reserve and Regular components of the Army. They are not remotely proportional (I'm talking paper manning - actual manning is obviously a mess). Things like the Int Corps have nearly a 1:1 Regular/Reserve ratio, whereas the Infantry has something like a 3:1 or less; Cyber roles (real ones, not renamed SO3 IT) are weighted towards the Reserves, while roles such as armor or aviation barely exist in any functional sense in the Reserves. The question: what value does the Reserve have to Defence (i.e. compared to the Regulars) therefore heavily weights niche white-collar skillsets, while the value of the Regulars to Defence (i.e. compared to the Reserve) is heavily weighted towards traditional military roles with high equipment or time investment costs.

Value and role isn't defined by mass. Amazon is probably the biggest employer of delivery drivers in the world. Are they a delivery company? No. Google's major source of revenue comes from advertising/search, but their search arm is a tiny proportion of their total employees and they wouldn't be recognised as a marketing or PR firm by anyone else in that sector.

In a period of rapid expansion or conscription, the Reserves might be about providing riflemen or JNCOs. But that's not its current role, and it wasn't even really its role during the closest analogue, the Afghan/Iraq period, where it was much more likely to provide specialists (doctors, vets, OA, PSYOPS, interrogators, and, despite your protests, media ops!) or spare officers / SNCOs for HQ and base roles, than it was a rifleman on patrols.

The value that the Reserves provide is precisely the ability to get niche and specialist skill sets that Defence cannot or will not train itself, or in sufficient numbers. That is written all over FR2020, and it's baked into the paper size and ORBAT of Reserve units, it's just been forgotten in the utter mess that followed.
Completely missing the point that doctors, vets, professional engineers etc etc are specialists recruited in to the Reserve because they are vocational professionals.
 

Sarastro

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
Me neither. I think the idea that negligent decisions should result in negative consequences for the person making them is sound, but that presupposes two things:

1. That decisions were indeed negligent rather than well-meaning but wrong (or even right at the time, but made in circumstances that rapidly changed).

2. A mechanism to punish people once they've left post.

I think unambiguous examples of negligence from our very senior decision makers are vanishigly rare, and I fear that post-career punishment for VSO who make poor decisions would end up encouraging the next crop of VSOs to make no decisions at all.
Hmm.

Look at the difference between the way the UK and US handled the Battle of Bastion fiasco. You could barely get more unambigous that the officers in charge (2* and 1*, so on the edge of VSOs if not strategic leaders) were negligent, they failed to act on Week 1 Day 1 Responsibilities of a Commander by failing to secure their perimeter. Some of their subordinates died; millions of damage was caused; UK/US military competency took a visible public hit. I bet we both know of cases where junior soldiers or officers were fired and RTU from theatre for much less: falling asleep on stag, or losing a radio, for instance.

The US relieved the 2* USMC commander: even as it made the point that he wasn't unilaterally responsible, it essentially said the buck needs to be seen to stop somewhere, bad luck big chap.

The UK fucked around, prevaricated and made excuses, all the way up to 4* level (there's video of David Capewell explaining why none of it was our fault even though Bastion security it was a UK responsibility under a UK sub-HQ and the Deputy Commander; we ran the guard rotas; and the CI/Sy unit whose recommendations were ignored was British) to a HoC committee, and promoted the Deputy Commander to be Commandant RMAS. I'm sure, given the amount that Sandhurst goes on about moral courage and the importance of practicing what you preach, there was a rash of resignations from VSOs or Sandhurst DS at the time that I'd be able to find if I asked around...

Some of what you say is true, it's of course difficult to tie down accountability at the strategic level. But the Army, at least, still breed a culture of shoulder sloping that is notably worse than our international peers, and it partly continues because there's an inverse relationship between how senior you are and how likely you are to be called on it.

To put it another way: I've seen more (actually, much more) accountability imposed on Arab strategic leaders than ones in the British Army. Even the ones with wasta. That's not a great position on the ladder to be.

EDIT: I originally wrote Messenger briefed the HoC, but it was David Capewell as CJO. Bootnecks, they all look the same.
 
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Sarastro

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
Completely missing the point that doctors, vets, professional engineers etc etc are specialists recruited in to the Reserve because they are vocational professionals.
Yes, but not the rest of the people I mentioned. Also, that misses the reality that I've seen lots of examples of Reserve units recruiting X person explicitly because they believe their civilian skillset may be useful, even if they're recruiting them as a soldier or JNCO. As I said above, the fact that Defence The Organisation is incapable of making square shape boxes, doesn't mean that Defence The People don't recognise the value of square shape pegs, and find ways to recruit (and, sometimes, even use) them.

You've also not challenged my point that the way the Reserve is recruited, organised or used suggest that it's not primarily interested in producing riflemen. Yes, it recruits proportionally more vocational professionals than the Regulars do. That was my argument.
 

Caecilius

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
The stats for senior leaders in the public sector will be similarly brutal.
Yup. About 1 in 2000 officers becomes CGS (0.05%).

But the Army, at least, still breed a culture of shoulder sloping that is notably worse than our international peers, and it partly continues because there's an inverse relationship between how senior you are and how likely you are to be called on it.
I don't think that's quite true. I agree that we have a culture of senior shoulder sloping that needs to be addressed, but other armies are similar. McChrystal's earlier career exploits are a good example of this, showing both that the buck didn't stop where it should have and that in the long run the US Army may have made the right decision. General Miller is possibly another example of an early catastrophic f*ck up not being punished and resulting in a talented individual being allowed to keep serving.
 
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In a period of rapid expansion or conscription, the Reserves might be about providing riflemen or JNCOs. But that's not its current role, and it wasn't even really its role during the closest analogue, the Afghan/Iraq period, where it was much more likely to provide specialists (doctors, vets, OA, PSYOPS, interrogators, and, despite your protests, media ops!) or spare officers / SNCOs for HQ and base roles, than it was a rifleman on patrols.
Yes but what about the Chartered Accountants?

You are being somewhat duplicitous with your argument, apart from the PQ types employed by the Army as PQ types the spares were employed exactly the same way as a 'spare' regular. That the Reserve was incapable of producing any type of formed unit (apart from one or two unique instances) was the fault of the Reserve not the Regular Army.

This idea that the Reserve is nothing other than a pool of heavily disguised professionals masquerading as soldiers is complete and utter nonsense. Where is the establishment for this Ghost Force? What specialities, in what numbers for what eventualities?

Why so many Reserve Infantry Bns if they are not Riflemen and JNCOs? Or is it one massive CSE organisation?
 
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If we adopt a USN/USMC culture of punishing Commanding Officers for systematic faults that exist pan-DoD/DoN then I (and many others) will simply f*ck off.

The USN already has a problem in generating OF4 COs, and it's only getting worse.
 
Yup. About 1 in 2000 officers becomes CGS (0.05%).



I don't think that's quite true. I agree that we have a culture of senior shoulder sloping that needs to be addressed, but other armies are similar. McChrystal's earlier career exploits are a good example of this, showing both that the buck didn't stop where it should have and that in the long run the US Army may have made the right decision. General Miller is possibly another example of an early catastrophic f*ck up not being punished and resulting in a talented individual being allowed to keep serving.
what did Miller do wrong?
 

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