Expect lots of briefing and counter briefing in the next few months as Lord Levene submits his final report on another round of defence transformation.
If you cast your mind back to August last year when Lord Levene was appointed to the Defence Reform Unit I predicted sparks woudl be flying round about now, especially in light of continued budgetary issues and the fact that he has form in this area.
The Guardian has reported today on some of the suggestions in a draft copy that has been circulated and no doubt designed to be leaked to the press to gauge initial reaction.
Some of these include;
Thinning the ranks at the very top of the military. At the moment each service has, effectively, two chiefs – one responsible for strategy and management, the other for operations. Levene believes that there should only be one chief for each arm. Under this model, operational control would be pushed down the chain of command from a four star rank to a three star.
Absolutely, but it shouldn’t stop at the top. All services have suffered from rank inflation and a balooning of staff positions. If we are to get the knife out, lets be serious about it and ignore the cries about skills and experience loss.
Establishing a new appointments committee that would be responsible for choosing the highest ranking officers in the army, RAF and the Royal Navy. The committee would be chaired by a non-executive director, chosen by the defence secretary. At the moment, the services make most mid-ranking and senior appointments in-house.
I think I would rather see the CDS appointed by the Defence Select Committee rather than the SoS Defence, but in general this makes sensem, my only reservation is that there has already been an over politisization of the senior officers and we should guard against this making it worse. There is room for free thinkers and radicals but although they seem to get aqueezed out now would this make it worse?
Creating a new defence board that will have only one member of the military sitting on it. This would be the overall chief of the defence staff, currently General Sir David Richards. At the moment, chiefs from all three services sit on the board.
Expect competition for the CDS to get ‘proper serious’ and I am not sure about this one, on the face of it, the Cheif of the Defence Staff is supposed to be service agnostic but human nature means this is a tough trick to pull off.
Getting rid of many of the other minor boards that are responsible for managing different projects. In their place, individuals would be appointed to run them, and be held accountable for delays or overspending. This would cut down on bureaucracy and save money.
Extending the time that some officials spend in posts at MoD headquarters from two to four years. This could provide greater continuity, particularly in important areas of procurement and strategic planning.
This has been a long time coming as the merry go round of both civilian and military posts, especially in major projects, has led to a culture of change for change sake, career driven decision making and a serious lack of continuity that results in our depressingly familiar cost and time over runs.
Is 4 years enough?
An interesting quote from Himan G Rickover on the matter
When doing a job — any job — one must feel that he owns it, and act as though he will remain in that job forever. He must look after his work just as conscientiously, as though it were his own business and his own money. If he feels he is only a temporary custodian, or that the job is just a stepping stone to a higher position, his actions will not take into account the long-term interests of the organization. His lack of commitment to the present job will be perceived by those who work for him, and they, likewise, will tend not to care. Too many spend their entire working lives looking for the next job. When one feels he owns his present job and acts that way, he need have no concern about his next job.