A Battalion of Press and Communication Officers

ministry-of-defence

In light of recent news about sacking trainee pilots and Warrant Officers on the Long Service List, a recent parliamentary answer offers good contrast.

Angus Robertson, the SNP Member of Parliament for Moray asked the following question,

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many (a) press officers, (b) internal communications officers, (c) external communications officers, (d) communications strategy officers and (e) other positions with a communications remit were employed by (i) his Department, (ii) its agencies and (iii) each other non-departmental public body sponsored by his Department on the most recent date for which figures are available.

The answer was pretty surprising, or not, depending on how cynical you are.

Communication of defence is important to support the reputation of the armed forces, understanding of military operations and other activities and to support recruitment. These figures include both military and civilian posts throughout Defence, including armed forces’ commands and operational theatres. Savings have been made across the communications area during the course of the current financial year and further substantial reductions are planned. The latest figures for the numbers involved in specialist communications roles are for financial year 2009-10 and were produced in support of a Cabinet Office led exercise to capture such information across Government. They are as follows:

 MOD/armed forcesTrading fundsNon-departmental public bodies
Press officers11281
Internal communications officers5280
External communications officers365260
Communications strategy officers672.50
Other10173

The answer of course failed to provide a total, they never do when questions like this are asked, perhaps the MoD think no one will notice or be bothered to add up.

Leaving aside the trading funds like the Met Office or DSTL and the NDPB’s, the MoD has a grand total of 697 personnel (likely a mix of military and civil servants) engaged in communication activities.

Now we should step back from the initial shock and ask what do they do?

It is fair to say that some of them will be involved with recruiting, dealing with Press/Parliamentary questions and vital internal communications like equipment safety for example,  but can we really justify an infantry Battalions worth of communications officers at a time when we are shedding capabilities and personnel left, right and centre?

As ever, there is a story behind the numbers, are those personnel involved in communications activity in Afghanistan in support of the main effort, are they involved in communicating best practice and safety information, doctrinal publications or any of the various other things that need to be ‘communicated’

It would also be interesting to see the job descriptions, what, for example, is the difference between an external communication officer and a communication strategy officer.. How many are involved with recruiting or internal communications on issues such as safety?

There is always a story behind the numbers

Whatever the real story, at face value that is an awfully big number when we are sacking a handful of Warrant Officers to save money.

UPDATE 1

One of the commenters posed the question about whether these are full-time posts, I suspect they are Full-Time Equivalent posts but maybe some clarification will be forthcoming from the MoD.

UPDATE 2

If you are landing here from Order-Order please note this is a post from 2011, the data is from a Parliamentary Answer and as I have been at pains to point out, of the number indicated, they may well be involved with recruiting, safety communications or operational matters. The point of this post was to raise a question, not make a definitive statement for a cheap political shot

More up to date figures on a similar subject can be found here

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