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

Alamo

LE
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.
I wasn’t there at the time, but I know more about that task than I would ever have wanted to.

What about the:

-Team Leaders of repeated Theatre Capability Reviews that refused to resource the task with people
- The several EC heads in theatre, PJHQ and DECs, that refused to resource the task with ISTAR kit.
- The multiple comds who refused to allocate guards on a weekly basis, so their weapons could have CWS zeroed to them. Rather we change pers every 24 hours.
- The multiple RSMs who refused to let those pers go on guard in the morning so they may actually get to see what’s in their arcs during daylight, as opposed to in the dark.

But hey, you know, and as I was told multiple times ‘quit yer whining, it’s only Bastion FFS’.
 

Sarastro

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
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.
Ok, so I'm cheating a bit. To be clear, I was responding to this:

Minister for the Armed Forces James Heappey said:
Reservists are an exceptional group of people with specialist skills and expertise in a wide range of sectors. Their integral role within our nation’s Armed Forces has been demonstrated once again in the support they have provided during the coronavirus pandemic.
Cheating, because I've had an eye into this MACP, and so know that the HQ elements stood up for COVID have fired a variety of Reserve (and Regulars, actually) with relevant experience all over the government shop, because they have relevant civilian qualifications or backgrounds. It's actually one of the few examples I can remember when the people with the right experience turned up in the right places (probably because everything else had ENDEX called). I'm not talking SO3 Pandemics or virologists or PQOs, they're just officers or soldiers with relevant experience or qualifications, which seems to have been well recieved. Given there are only a couple of HQs involved in this, I imagine Heappey has visted them and had said individuals pointed out or briefing him, because it's what always happens.

So while, yes, the majority of bodies the military has been provided is what you refer to, I'm betting that when he refers to specialist skills, he's more likely to be thinking of what I said. But fair, that's from insider knowledge, and I may just be reading too much into it.
 

Sarastro

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
I wasn’t there at the time, but I know more about that task than I would ever have wanted to.

What about the:

1. Team Leaders of repeated Theatre Capability Reviews that refused to resource the task with people
2. The several EC heads in theatre, PJHQ and DECs, that refused to resource the task with ISTAR kit.
3. The multiple comds who refused to allocate guards on a weekly basis, so their weapons could have CWS zeroed to them. Rather we change pers every 24 hours.
4. The multiple RSMs who refused to let those pers go on guard in the morning so they may actually get to see what’s in their arcs during daylight, as opposed to in the dark.

But hey, you know, and as I was told multiple times ‘quit yer whining, it’s only Bastion FFS’.
1. They did resource it, that was what the Tongans did. They also said: get the units to provide manpower. Given this is the SOP in every other base...
2. Fair, but ISTAR kit wasn't the core issue, an unmanned perimeter was.
3. Agreed, but...
4. Also agreed, as well as...
5. ...the units who flat out refused to provide pers...but ultimately,

6. The HQ and Deputy Commander of said HQ responsible, who specifically refused to lay down the law to 3. 4. and 5, and answered regular warnings over at least 5 months (how long their rotation had been in post) with variations of: it's fine, nothings ever happened, nothing ever will.

I'm not suggesting any General is ever (or very rarely) directly or uniquely responsible for X thing going wrong. But they do have command responsibility, and that requires commiserate accountability.
 
(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.
to quote the United States' Secretary of the Navy [1]

the Department of the Navy was in “troubled waters” similar to the era of the 1991 Tailhook scandal. He cited the ongoing Glenn Defense Marine Asia case which Leonard “Fat Leonard” Francis bribed Navy officers in the Pacific, the 2017 fatal collisions in the Western Pacific, the failed prosecution of former SEAL Eddie Gallagher and the fallout from the COVID-19 outbreak on carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71).
It saddens me to say: the Department of the Navy is in troubled waters due to many factors, primarily the failings of leadership. Whether [Glenn Defense Marine Asia], ship collisions, judicial missteps or the crisis on USS [Theodore] Roosevelt, they are all indicative of a breakdown in the trust of those leading the service,


Yet the USN has openly sacked relatively junior Officers (and indeed, tried to prosecute them for criminal charges [2]) and yet let the senior Officers go scott-free.

And you prefer "that"?

[1] - Braithwaite to SASC: Navy Department in ‘Troubled Waters’ Due to Leadership Lapses, 'Tarnished' Culture - USNI News
[2] - Disaster in the Pacific , in particular Years of Warnings, Then Death and Disaster: How the Navy Failed Its Sailors
 

Sarastro

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
Yet the USN has openly sacked relatively junior Officers (and indeed, tried to prosecute them for criminal charges [2]) and yet let the senior Officers go scott-free.

And you prefer "that"?
Again, I'm not arguing "the US is better than us we should do everything they do".

"There are some examples where the US has been better than the UK at holding senior officers publicly accountable. The UK should hold more senior officers publicly accountable."

In case this was unclear the four or five other times I've said it, is that pedantic enough?
 

Alamo

LE
1. They did resource it, that was what the Tongans did. They also said: get the units to provide manpower. Given this is the SOP in every other base...
2. Fair, but ISTAR kit wasn't the core issue, an unmanned perimeter was.
3. Agreed, but...
4. Also agreed, as well as...
5. ...the units who flat out refused to provide pers...but ultimately,

6. The HQ and Deputy Commander of said HQ responsible, who specifically refused to lay down the law to 3. 4. and 5, and answered regular warnings over at least 5 months (how long their rotation had been in post) with variations of: it's fine, nothings ever happened, nothing ever will.

I'm not suggesting any General is ever (or very rarely) directly or uniquely responsible for X thing going wrong. But they do have command responsibility, and that requires commiserate accountability.
I think we agree in principle, we’re both products of our time & place when it comes to perspective on the detail. Having owned that problem on both H11 and H13 I’m unlikely to change mine; not a matter to fallout over
 
Again, I'm not arguing "the US is better than us we should do everything they do".

"There are some examples where the US has been better than the UK at holding senior officers publicly accountable. The UK should hold more senior officers publicly accountable."

In case this was unclear the four or five other times I've said it, is that pedantic enough?
I'd suggest the US is awful at holding senior officers accountable, it just likes sacking for public effect.

Stab, stab, look, stab.
 

jrwlynch

LE
Book Reviewer
Again, I'm not arguing "the US is better than us we should do everything they do".

"There are some examples where the US has been better than the UK at holding senior officers publicly accountable. The UK should hold more senior officers publicly accountable."

In case this was unclear the four or five other times I've said it, is that pedantic enough?
For the area I've looked into a little - the couple of recent warship collisions - the buck stops with the ship CO who is autosacked as a starting point; while nobody's addressing the maintenance and manpower problems, the training shortfall and overload - all the province of higher level command who kick problems down to the ships with an attitude of "you're the captain, find a way to make it work".

@alfred_the_great may correct me but I don't believe the USN have hoofed out any admirals for the systemic issues that are fairly widely recognised, yet seem to be "too difficult" to fix (and are certainly beyond any individual CO's remit, and are the sort of things that admirals are meant to sort out...)

Hence, perhaps, the issue - while the USN may sack individuals, are they actually finding out who's responsible for a significant structural problem and addressing the issue? Or just declaring "we've punished the CO, job done, that's how you do accountability"?
 
I'd go further than that: if your interest is accountability, then unless you are in the territory of gross misconduct, malicious intent or mendacity, you need to remove sacking (or any form of "punishment") from the process that establishes and defines accountability.

There is a reason why no evidence given to a Service Inquiry can be used "against" the individual in a disciplinary process. If you were to use the "Just Culture" process, then only 3 of the 11 possible (broad) reasons might then result in a disciplinary process*. And Just culture isn't solely an aviation thing (or accident investigation), it is now being embedded in healthcare, where frankly it is really needed**.


*The 11 reasons: Skill based errors; rules based errors; knowledge based errors; routine violations; exceptional violations; situational violations; organisational gain violations; personal gain violation; recklessness and sabotage. The last three are obviously towards the disciplinary focus.

** Just Culture: A Foundation for Balanced Accountability and Patient Safety
 

nsstab

Swinger
That and the earlier quoted one ringing particularly true for me at the minute.

I had 'a good idea' as a reservist, but the unit responded in the classic military way, "stop gobbing off, we don't want attention drawn to this problem that we have".

As it happens in my civvy career I was in a position to do something about it, and did, getting new and shiny and useful kit to units that needed it - with a lot of graft. As it turns out, I pissed off a 1* who's team were supposed to be looking out for this kind of equipment and introducing it, and I'd made them look bad by being more effective then them. Result - my 'good idea' is being frantically swept under the carpet.

Thus is the story of innovation in the MoD.

Anyway what systemic issue would I fix? Failure to confront incompetence.
The amount of times I've heard 'ah well they move post in a year anyway so no point tackling it'... they move on to cripple their next project and another waste of skin moves in from their latest abortion and the cycle begins again.
 
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...
It's the same rationale on which we purportedly select Generals.

There's evidence that the actual doesn't match the purported, based on your posts alone, I would say :-D , but this is mere observation, not an attempt to trigger digression, and I'm not looking for any replies.
 
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...



...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...
A PID is just a financial control mechanism to manage the labour bill. All big organisations have some sort of establishment system for controlling their manpower bill. Like the forces, they also use some form of job description to actually define the job, the skill set required, the report chain for the role and its remuneration.

Take a big company with multiple, large, dispersed fictional organisations. Say Tesco. They have a standard “establishment” for each size of store, which is the store manager’s authority to hire. They have job specs for every job and hire against that spec. The store manager doesn’t say to himself “now, the CEO says the company needs to strengthen its corporate communications; I’ll advertise for a media expert to fill my casual weekend shelf stacker role” does he? So why should the Reserve be any different?

We all know that various VSO’s have identified the need for accessing niche skills and they have done so for a decade. But that isn’t carte blanche for the chain of command 3-4 levels below to try to recruit people it isn’t established for.

If it’s a strategic failing, sort it out at the strategic level. Create the roles and create the mechanisms to recruit into them and retain people in them. Or so what industry does; buy it in.

Don’t fudge it by looking at the Reserve in the hope that the data science expert you need has joined the Reserve as a rifleman in order to do something different from his daily grind.
 

Mr_Relaxed

War Hero
A PID is just a financial control mechanism to manage the labour bill. All big organisations have some sort of establishment system for controlling their manpower bill. Like the forces, they also use some form of job description to actually define the job, the skill set required, the report chain for the role and its remuneration.

Take a big company with multiple, large, dispersed fictional organisations. Say Tesco. They have a standard “establishment” for each size of store, which is the store manager’s authority to hire. They have job specs for every job and hire against that spec. The store manager doesn’t say to himself “now, the CEO says the company needs to strengthen its corporate communications; I’ll advertise for a media expert to fill my casual weekend shelf stacker role” does he? So why should the Reserve be any different?

We all know that various VSO’s have identified the need for accessing niche skills and they have done so for a decade. But that isn’t carte blanche for the chain of command 3-4 levels below to try to recruit people it isn’t established for.

If it’s a strategic failing, sort it out at the strategic level. Create the roles and create the mechanisms to recruit into them and retain people in them. Or so what industry does; buy it in.

Don’t fudge it by looking at the Reserve in the hope that the data science expert you need has joined the Reserve as a rifleman in order to do something different from his daily grind.
There's also the aspect that whilst your employer might be quite happy for you to be "playing soldiers" at the weekend, as that looks good on the Corporate PR, they would be lot less happy to be the Temping Agency for the Armed Forces, who cannot work out what it needs.

After Iraq and Afghanistan, a number of recruitment firms recommended taking any reference to the Reserves off a CV, and to bring it up at 2nd interview only (and even then be judicious about how you discussed it). When the MoD talked about calling up the Reserves on an active basis for 1 year in 5, any reference to the Reserves gets less attractive, especially when the Government won't put in place the appropriate legislation. They want US levels of commitment, without US levels of support to the individual.

And anyway, if you joined to get away from the grind and do something constructive with your weekend, the majority are not looking to do their day job in uniform for less money, and certainly not in the UK.

The other argument I would put forward is that there is a rank component to this. Some of the skillsets required are in the very expensive range. It's why NHS Consultant surgeons aren't in the Reserves as Corporals.

If the person with the skillset you desperately need (but not every day) is Pte Smith who's a rifleman in the Loamshires,at the weekends, what rank do you employ him as? We've all heard apocryphal tales of "what can he know, he's only a *insert rank here*.
 

Sarastro

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
For the area I've looked into a little - the couple of recent warship collisions - the buck stops with the ship CO who is autosacked as a starting point; while nobody's addressing the maintenance and manpower problems, the training shortfall and overload - all the province of higher level command who kick problems down to the ships with an attitude of "you're the captain, find a way to make it work".

@alfred_the_great may correct me but I don't believe the USN have hoofed out any admirals for the systemic issues that are fairly widely recognised, yet seem to be "too difficult" to fix (and are certainly beyond any individual CO's remit, and are the sort of things that admirals are meant to sort out...)

Hence, perhaps, the issue - while the USN may sack individuals, are they actually finding out who's responsible for a significant structural problem and addressing the issue? Or just declaring "we've punished the CO, job done, that's how you do accountability"?
I'd go further than that: if your interest is accountability, then unless you are in the territory of gross misconduct, malicious intent or mendacity, you need to remove sacking (or any form of "punishment") from the process that establishes and defines accountability.

There is a reason why no evidence given to a Service Inquiry can be used "against" the individual in a disciplinary process. If you were to use the "Just Culture" process, then only 3 of the 11 possible (broad) reasons might then result in a disciplinary process*. And Just culture isn't solely an aviation thing (or accident investigation), it is now being embedded in healthcare, where frankly it is really needed**.


*The 11 reasons: Skill based errors; rules based errors; knowledge based errors; routine violations; exceptional violations; situational violations; organisational gain violations; personal gain violation; recklessness and sabotage. The last three are obviously towards the disciplinary focus.

** Just Culture: A Foundation for Balanced Accountability and Patient Safety
So I agree with both of these - they are versions of the "5 Why's" or Toyota engineering process that I've mentioned on here before. But 3 out of 11 is still more than 0 out of 11.

Let me rephrase my point to say the same thing: the British approach of trying to publicly deflect and deny all mistakes, part of which means rarely holding senior people publicly accountable, is seriously detrimental to overall morale and trust in the organisation. That is an observation I'd use if looking at how to reform how the UK does things.

The point about how things are done at the moment remains the same. While the rest of the military remains largely wedded to a "follow these exact rules exactly or you'll be disciplined" system, regardless of how stupid that system is, it's a serious problem when it isn't seen to apply equally to senior officers.
 

Sarastro

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
We all know that various VSO’s have identified the need for accessing niche skills and they have done so for a decade. But that isn’t carte blanche for the chain of command 3-4 levels below to try to recruit people it isn’t established for.
You say that, but sadly enough people in Defence have had zero faith in the system's ability to reform itself, including the VSO nominally responsible for it, that a significant proprtion of them have given carte blanche (or at least eagerly encouraged) their subordinates to do that. I heard it, Chatham House rules, from a CGS, CDS, several CLF and a VCDS.

Two things are being argued here between myself and about three of you: how things should work, and how they do work. We all keep switching between the two, which is causing a lot of confusion. In this case, how things should work is intractably bad enough that people have instead tried to tinker with how things do work. You are, of course, correct that all that is wrong, but that doesn't help solve any of their immediate problems or requirements.

A2020 and FR2020 both identified that Defence needed a column in its spreadsheet that was headed Niche Roles, without putting much after that. They also explicitly rejected the idea of formally manning Niche Roles through the regular Defence training process. Instead, in a vaguely unplanned way, the Army (at least) shoved them into a magic box marked 'Reserves' in a warehouse far, far away. It promptly spent five years arguing about whether to cut that box from a spreadsheet to save space. Then, five years later, it decided that, since the column was empty anyway, it should actually be headed Pretend Infantry, and wrote lots of articles to the Wavell Room about what should be in the column under Pretend Infantry. At the same time, the requirement for Niche Roles slowly increased. Since he's allowed to use the stuff in his warehouse as he sees fit, and wandering through his warehouse he saw a box with "Niche Roles" marked on it, the guy running the warehouse would finds something useful in the box, and tries to put it to work.

Certainly, this is all an unsatisfactory state of affairs. But is the problem really the guy who runs the warehouse? Seems to me he's the only one behaving sensibly. You may disagree.
 
You say that, but sadly enough people in Defence have had zero faith in the system's ability to reform itself, including the VSO nominally responsible for it, that a significant proprtion of them have given carte blanche (or at least eagerly encouraged) their subordinates to do that. I heard it, Chatham House rules, from a CGS, CDS, several CLF and a VCDS.

Two things are being argued here between myself and about three of you: how things should work, and how they do work. We all keep switching between the two, which is causing a lot of confusion. In this case, how things should work is intractably bad enough that people have instead tried to tinker with how things do work. You are, of course, correct that all that is wrong, but that doesn't help solve any of their immediate problems or requirements.

A2020 and FR2020 both identified that Defence needed a column in its spreadsheet that was headed Niche Roles, without putting much after that. They also explicitly rejected the idea of formally manning Niche Roles through the regular Defence training process. Instead, in a vaguely unplanned way, the Army (at least) shoved them into a magic box marked 'Reserves' in a warehouse far, far away. It promptly spent five years arguing about whether to cut that box from a spreadsheet to save space. Then, five years later, it decided that, since the column was empty anyway, it should actually be headed Pretend Infantry, and wrote lots of articles to the Wavell Room about what should be in the column under Pretend Infantry. At the same time, the requirement for Niche Roles slowly increased. Since he's allowed to use the stuff in his warehouse as he sees fit, and wandering through his warehouse he saw a box with "Niche Roles" marked on it, the guy running the warehouse would finds something useful in the box, and tries to put it to work.

Certainly, this is all an unsatisfactory state of affairs. But is the problem really the guy who runs the warehouse? Seems to me he's the only one behaving sensibly. You may disagree.
I have to say I find this rather bizarre. The mechanisms and structures required to access niche expertise already exist and have done for years (certainly before my career).

In 1982, the Sappers were able to access the expertise of expertise of the nation’s pre- eminent engineering geologist through their specialist Reserve. On every operation I served, we could and did access the deepest capabilities of the UK engineering industry through our own specialist Reserve, the E&LSC and / or through existing framework contracts.

I think the problem you describe is much more to do with the lack of organisational skills amongst the officers of your former corps than anything structural or strategic. If we could reach into the National Grid Company and beyond to source the capabilities needed to rebuild the Basrah Province power grid, why can’t others reach into other industries?
 
The point about how things are done at the moment remains the same. While the rest of the military remains largely wedded to a "follow these exact rules exactly or you'll be disciplined" system, regardless of how stupid that system is, it's a serious problem when it isn't seen to apply equally to senior officers.
It absolutely doesn't. I can guarantee you that with my mortgage.
 

Sarastro

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
I think the problem you describe is much more to do with the lack of organisational skills amongst the officers of your former corps than anything structural or strategic. If we could reach into the National Grid Company and beyond to source the capabilities needed to rebuild the Basrah Province power grid, why can’t others reach into other industries?
I'm not actually talking about the Int Corps. They are terrible at many things - including not realising 10 years ago that Niche Roles were going to be at the centre of everything they did and preparing accordingly - but they're not the worst at gathering and using talent from their Reserves, however haphazardly.
 

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