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

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
Which, on the face of it, would seem to disqualify them from being able to identify strategic leaders for the future . . .
 
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?
A. There is no establishment, as its a previously fringe benefit of an organisation still structured for a cold war reinforcement function.
Why hasn't it been updated to the 21st century? That's what FR2020 was for.
Why hasn't that happened yet? The good ideas of FR2020 got politicised by the Tories during austerity *
Moving out of conventional conflict in the last couple of decades has shown the value of having this pool available.
Capturing these civvie skills/quals/experience remains a challenge, as does trawling for them (I.e SKIL can't be searched like Linked in yet)
Silos, Feckin silos everywhere


B. See above about organisational structure awaiting modernisation.
Also a DCC Sub-unit with Sp Wpns dets as a training goal produces a reasonable baseline for IRs s
Anyway, the Reserve organises how the Army wants it to.
The nouse to understand what is to be organised and how best optimised isn't commonly understood or agreed on.


*Future Reserves 2020, the British Army and the politics of military innovation during the Cameron era
 
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.
Longer tenure in post for those responsible for the delivery of major programmes commends itself as one simple answer. The present system (Buggins' Turn) incentivises absolutely nobody to deal with Big Bad Issues, but rather to brush them under the carpet for the next poor sod in the hot seat, before moving on to "greater things".

If, perhaps, SA80 or WFM had been helmed by a mature adult whose future reputation hinged on a quality end result, said individual(s) might at the very least have felt entitled to shine a light on the adverse consequences that flowed from dodgy decisions imposed on them from above.

As it is, everybody plays the game for their last coupla years, then fvcks off, mebbe picking up a K, to some sinecure or other, and mebbe a lucrative non-exec Directorship or two, leaving Tommy and friends trying to make the downstream clusterfvck work adequately.

Its beyond a joke.
 
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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.
The Reserve recruits for the PIDs it is established for. It actively recruits specialist skill sets into specialist roles; vets into veterinary roles, engineers into specialist engineer roles etc etc. Everyone else is recruited as a generalist; if they have a civilian skill set that is useful, it’s a bonus that may or may not be useful.

Added note; the failure to identify and use the niche skills of a handful of Reservists is hardly a strategic issue.
 
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Sarastro

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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.
I'm not sure those three examples are particularly comparable. Low-level tactical decisions are recognised as often being imperfect, and don't compare to a long-term conscious decision under pressure; the Tillman incident was clearly not the decision of any one commander and had involvement both above and below McChrystal due to Tillman's public status, and was also a political / PR decision rather than a military one - by the same logic I wouldn't cite McChrystal's eventual firing as 'accountability', more political popularity.

Perhaps the easier comparison is: I've cited an example where two US VSO were publicly held accountable and fired for culpable screwups or incompetence. There are many others - Wayne Grigsby; Tim Giardina; David Paucom; Michael Carey (ICBM commander who got pissed and revealed operational secrets while in Moscow); the other USAF general who was involved in the test cheating scandal; hell, James Mattis fired something like five 1* or above while he was a General and, famously, one Colonel when he was a Brigadier.

Genuinely curious: how many public firings or forced retirements of UK generals can you cite? By public I mean: someone said "X did this, therefore X is retiring / being fired / removed from command".
 

Sarastro

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The Reserve recruits for the PIDs it is established for. It actively recruits specialist skill sets into specialist roles; vets into veterinary roles, engineers into specialist engineer roles etc etc. Everyone else is recruited as a generalist; if they have a civilian skill set that is useful, it’s a bonus that may or may not be useful.
Yes, as above, that's because Defence is incapable of thinking more widely than PIDs. Your argument seems to suggest that the only skills or roles that Defence requires is those which have PIDs? That flies in the face of basically every opinion from VSO or strategic thinkers about the UK military for the past 10 years, all of whom...

Added note; the failure to identify and use the niche skills of a handful of Reservists is hardly a strategic issue.
...say that Defence's inability to identify and use niche skills it requires (through the Reserve or elsewhere) is one of the top strategic issues in the manpower DLOD that they, personally, are concerned about in their role as head of [the Army / Defence / both at differing times].

I mean, really. I'm not particularly inclined to link every LWC YouTube timestamp ever, but this has been the consistent refrain of Richards, Peach, Carter, Carleton-Smith and Barrons, and you can find it in almost any speech they've given since 2010.

They call it a strategic issue because they think there are certain niche but high-impact areas (data science, AI, whatever the annual buzzword is) in which Defence badly needs expertise, but has no ability to man through its traditional structures; which is a pretty good description of a strategic organisational failing. It also makes sense as a strategic issue because, broadly, we're talking areas where there are both small numbers of appropriate individuals and small numbers of roles, so wasting even one of them is high impact. This is the same rationale on which we select Generals, so it shouldn't be unfamiliar...
 
I'm not sure those three examples are particularly comparable. Low-level tactical decisions are recognised as often being imperfect, and don't compare to a long-term conscious decision under pressure; the Tillman incident was clearly not the decision of any one commander and had involvement both above and below McChrystal due to Tillman's public status, and was also a political / PR decision rather than a military one - by the same logic I wouldn't cite McChrystal's eventual firing as 'accountability', more political popularity.

Perhaps the easier comparison is: I've cited an example where two US VSO were publicly held accountable and fired for culpable screwups or incompetence. There are many others - Wayne Grigsby; Tim Giardina; David Paucom; Michael Carey (ICBM commander who got pissed and revealed operational secrets while in Moscow); the other USAF general who was involved in the test cheating scandal; hell, James Mattis fired something like five 1* or above while he was a General and, famously, one Colonel when he was a Brigadier.

Genuinely curious: how many public firings or forced retirements of UK generals can you cite? By public I mean: someone said "X did this, therefore X is retiring / being fired / removed from command".
Not very many.

but you then fail to make the next connection - by publicly firing personnel, the remainder are driven to ever great levels of insecurity about their assignments and careers, with a consequential effect on output. If COA1 becomes "don't be sacked" then COA2 and 3 really don't matter.

There is a middle ground - sack (publicly if you wish) but allow for reinstatement and rehabilitation.
 

Sarastro

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Caecilius

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Genuinely curious: how many public firings or forced retirements of UK generals can you cite? By public I mean: someone said "X did this, therefore X is retiring / being fired / removed from command".
Zero. How many unambiguous errors similar to those made by the US generals can you cite?

There is a middle ground - sack (publicly if you wish) but allow for reinstatement and rehabilitation.
As it happens there's a middle ground that the UK uses all the time which is to simply not give someone another appointment. Once you're a 1* or above, that terminates your service without any fuss at all. The US doesn't have this mechanism (so I'm told) so they need to actively dismiss people to get rid of them.

by publicly firing personnel, the remainder are driven to ever great levels of insecurity about their assignments and careers, with a consequential effect on output
This is a good point. I'm always intrigued what positives people see in the US system that makes them so keen to copy it? I understand the drive to hold people accountable, but if that results in the kind of behaviour we see from US commanders then do we actually want to go down that road?
 
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Presumably by "specialist skills and expertise", he means SA80 drills and section attacks.
Coming from the man who asks others to check their biases...
 
This is a good point. I'm always intrigued what positives people see in the US system that makes them so keen to copy it? I understand the drive to hold people accountable, but if that results in the kind of behaviour we see from US commanders then do we actually want to go down that road?
Having done quite a lot of work with the USN, there is no way on earth I'd trade anything with them - beyond their multiple capabilities. Not their personnel systems, not their maintenance, not their training. I'd like their breadth of capabilities in a heartbeat though.

Although the first three are intrinsically linked to the last one.
 

Caecilius

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Having done quite a lot of work with the USN, there is no way on earth I'd trade anything with them - beyond their multiple capabilities. Not their personnel systems, not their maintenance, not their training. I'd like their breadth of capabilities in a heartbeat though.

Although the first three are intrinsically linked to the last one.
Agreed. I'd add that I like bits of their C2 culture and there are definitely things we could learn from them, but lots of it is significantly worse than ours and not something we should adopt wholesale.

The main things the US have are funding and policy appetite.
 
Presumably by "specialist skills and expertise", he means SA80 drills and section attacks.
No, as this was MACC and they would have been irrelevant, most effort delivered was muscle power and logistics with I suppose the odd specialist being employed in role.

The MOD statement is regurgitation of old news from February. I think you can accept, the Reserves and the Regulars are a bit of an organisational mess with plenty of surplus individuals with no real useable purpose and actual requirements not capable of being met.

The announcement of a review is not to say how well things are going but to come up with a new way of doing things.

There is nothing in the announcement which supports the argument that the Reserve contribution was the delivery of skills and abilities that were not being paid for.
 

jrwlynch

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but you then fail to make the next connection - by publicly firing personnel, the remainder are driven to ever great levels of insecurity about their assignments and careers, with a consequential effect on output. If COA1 becomes "don't be sacked" then COA2 and 3 really don't matter.
I recall the US liaison team in Basrah back in 2005; three officers. We were allowed to speak to the 1Lt, who was not allowed to say anything of consequence on any official matter to us, and was only permitted to deliver the Lt Col's briefing each morning and evening. (Not his fault, he was a pleasant and decent fellow frustrated at how little he was achieving).

Presumably the major debriefed the 1Lt and presented findings to the colonel, who'd populate a PowerPoint with today's numbers for "sorties by the USS Nimitz" and other crucial matters. Three officers full-time to do what a competent British corporal or killick could do in an hour or two, or so it seemed.

Yes, the US liaison to a 2* HQ couldn't really be a NCO because reasons. But now you've got an officer (plus staff) who has to get that "Outstanding" on his fitness report, because it's up-or-out; and he's got to avoid any errors or mistakes that might jeopardise that, or get him withdrawn (so, black mark, career ending, do not reach full Colonel, do not remain in the US Army); so he's petrified that his lieutenant will say or do something that will negatively impact on the perception of his performance and so ensures that they have no freedom of action whatsoever (so anything the 1Lt does, is a wilful violation of direct orders, Not My Fault Boss."

As ATG says, avoiding errors, and covering your back so that anything your subordinates do isn't blamed on you (people making mistakes because they're working twenty-hour days and getting no sleep? Schedule an hour of mandatory time-management and fatigue-awareness classes a day for them! Now, nobody can claim they weren't taught how to do it properly!) rather than addressing the actual problem, is a noticeable issue in the US forces.
 

Sarastro

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Not very many.

but you then fail to make the next connection - by publicly firing personnel, the remainder are driven to ever great levels of insecurity about their assignments and careers, with a consequential effect on output. If COA1 becomes "don't be sacked" then COA2 and 3 really don't matter.

There is a middle ground - sack (publicly if you wish) but allow for reinstatement and rehabilitation.
You're failing to make another next connection - by not publicly holding senior personnel accountable, all their subordinates believe their superiors are unaccountable and held to a different standard they are, with a consequential effect on, well, everything.

You're also making a couple of assumptions about what is desirable: career or assignment security; retaining all officers who want to stay; etc. Frankly, I don't give much of a toss about the career concerns of senior-ish officers. I'd rather they lived up to the stuff they constantly spout at their subordinates instead, because I think that would be much, much more benefit to the whole than any given 1* achieving their career goals. No matter how good that 1* is, the nature of the organisation means they are all effectively interchangeable (as @bobthebuilder alluded to). Any officers who dislike that ethos are welcome to leave, and I doubt it would substantially hurt Defence: probably quite the opposite.

There's a reason I didn't include McChrystal's firing in my examples. I'm not recommending firing for political or trumped up reasons; nor for luck or tactical confusion, or a healthy risk appetite that displays its statistical amount of failures. But for egregious failures of duty or incompetence, following due process and if someone is found culpable, you need to exercise consequence. The UK generally fails to do that: it often fails to do the due process publicly, either, probably because it's unwilling to follow through. Firing people for incompetence isn't going to unreasonably fear those who believe they are competent, quite the reverse. It will make them feel more secure and connected to the organisation.

Finally, given you've previously supported the role of subjectivity in the current reporting system, is it beyond 1 and 2ROs to penalise those who are chronically risk-averse and cowardly because they are afraid of getting something wrong? It's not that hard to work out when an officer is vacant or refuses to make decisions. The bottom line should be that people who behave in the manner you describe aren't fit to the role or seniority they occupy. If our career system is incapable of enforcing that, then the problem isn't holding senior officers accountable for their decisions, it's the career system.

That said: I agree with your middle ground, because within reason people should be encouraged to make and learn from mistakes. However, that argument decreases with age and seniority: the more experienced someone is, the fewer mistakes it's sensible to tolerate, because the less time they have to learn from them and apply better judgement. So, actually, we should forgive more JNCOs, and be more stringent with Generals. A better rationale is: the more senior someone is, the more people they have responsibility for, so the less we should treat responsibility as culpability. A JNCO who falls asleep on stag is directly culpable. A General who delegated responsibility for stag is culpable for the delegation and monitoring, but not for falling asleep. A good system recognises that difference and judges accountability accordingly. But it still has accountability. Again, the issue with your middle ground isn't the accountability, it's how we select for promotion. It's a manpower system which does filtering badly, and pre-selects individuals out too early and for the wrong reasons. I wrote a long thing (with pictures!) years back demonstrating how that happens in a 'thirded' system, so won't repeat myself.

As I said before, you can't just change one part of the machine and expect it to work better, sometimes you need to redesign the machine.
 

Sarastro

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Zero. How many unambiguous errors similar to those made by the US generals can you cite?
Aside from Bastion? Seven, offhand, but only two are public.

Carter should have been held accountable for the blatent figure fixing re: P1 training. That was an integrity shout if anything ever was.

Stuart Skeates should have been held accountable for Bastion - I say that as someone who was there on that tour, under that HQ, and in the email chains and some of the meetings for the CISU advice to the HQ. That HQ was warned, repeatedly, they repeatedly ignored the warnings (for bad stated reasons, too) which directly led to the vulnerabilities that caused the attack.

Of the other four, two were Cols, but made decisions that were self-interested and, again, ignored or rejected advice. The results were pretty serious, but they had moved on. One was a Cav Major, and could have been very clear cut if only anyone had bothered to interview some of the soldiers (but nobody did), I've talked to you about it before.

The other two were actually held accountable. One a Captain for a very poor planning choice that had a massive impact. He was (internally) openly held accountable. The other was a 2* who lost his 3* - so the story goes - due to not acting on something that had been an issue for a long time. However, the fact that he was never officially (even internally) held accountable for it, as is so often the British way, means the pour encouragez les autres effect was negligible.

I think officers often miss the fact that they are in a somewhat rareified information chain, where they more easily hear the rumours that X was held accountable by not promoting. The problem is that soldiers, and the outside world, just see a senior officer who fucks up and then leaves at some point over the next few years. Meanwhile, if their peers get hauled up for something serious, the world falls on their head very publicly. That's what I mean by lack of accountability.
 

Sarastro

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This is a good point. I'm always intrigued what positives people see in the US system that makes them so keen to copy it? I understand the drive to hold people accountable, but if that results in the kind of behaviour we see from US commanders then do we actually want to go down that road?
(and to @jrwlynch)

To be clear, I'm not suggesting we adopt the US system wholesale, or even partsale. Their approach to accountability is, perhaps for exactly the reasons @alfred_the_great said, different and I'd prefer it. As above, I think "letting" people retire is less desirable than actively removing them. There are a couple of other things I think are desirable in the US approach and ethos, but they aren't as simple as copying a policy.

Ultimately I'm just suggesting Leadership 101 - don't hold your soldiers to a higher standard than you hold yourself to.
 

Sarastro

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Coming from the man who asks others to check their biases...
Not sure I understand. If not clear, it was a joke. Perhaps not a very funny one, but not sure what bias I'm meant to be showing? Would help to know, may well be invisible to me.
 

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