A lot has been happening whilst Think Defence has been off air, messing around on the water!
The House of Commons Defence Select has a new Chairman, James Arbuthnot, hold on, that’s the same as the old one.
That’s new politics for you, more of the same.
One of the contenders was Douglas Carswell. I regularly comment on his blog and whilst I often disagree with his somewhat simplistic and often uninformed view of defence acquisition I think he would have made an excellent Chairman, he has a sharp and enquiring mind and would certainly have no fear of the vested interests that make up the government – military – industry axis that despite decades of smart procurement, fast trackers, consultants studies and being an ‘intelligent customer’ is still as much as a dysfunctional basket case as ever.
It’s a shame he didn’t make it.
Patrick Mercer also stood, making a claim for the top spot on the back of his military career. A former Colonel there is no doubt his military experience would have proven valuable but I also think it would have been detrimental. Being an Army officer does not necessarily equip one for an oversight role across the whole defence estate, far from it. That said, I think Patrick Mercer would have been a better choice than Mr Arbuthnot (former Eton Head Boy) and should at least be on the committee.
We have some real defence experience in the MoD and parliament and perhaps a note of optimism is in order, all we need now is the MoD and services to experience a similar change.
Hang on there…
Looks like there is change at the top of the MoD and armed forces as well.
Chief of the Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup will resign later this year, earlier than planned.
Sir Bill Jeffrey, Permanent Under Secretary of State, will go at the same time.
We should not forget the Sir Jock had his tenure extended by Gordon Brown just to stop General Sir Richard Dannatt getting the job and Sir Bill was heavily criticised by the formidable former chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (Sir Edward Lee) for allowing tennis courts to be refurbished whilst presiding over big cuts to service personnel accommodation maintenance and they are both widely seen as being far too close to the former Labour government. It was always a mystery why Sir Bill was appointed in the first place, perhaps his Scottishness had something to do with it.
When the armed forces and civil service become overly politicised it is service personnel that inevitably suffer.
Expect to see the pair of them propping up the benches in the Lords, continuing to draw their pay and feather their overly stuffed pension funds.
Perhaps they will find the bottle to criticise the former government.
If we listen to the press, it will be a soldier in the hot seat but it is the Senior Services ‘turn’ not that it should really make any difference. Expect the senior officers of all three services to be honing their slicing skills because slicing is what they will be doing.
If we have accepted change is needed and in fact in the pipeline, why wait?
Get the pair of them, and a few layers beneath them, out now.
The situation in Afghanistan, the cost problems at the MoD and the increasingly dysfunctional relationship between the MoD, Services and government needs some serious surgery, not just a shuffling of seats at the top.