The Ever Interesting Language of Defence

The use of impenetrable managerial jargon in defence and security

If you want an amusing but confusing ten minutes watch an evidence session for any of the Parliamentary Select Committees. After smashing the TV screen with your boot you might reflect on the evasive and jargon laden language used by the witnesses as they usually try to make themselves look like a David Brent parody in gold braid and sharp suits.

A few weeks ago The Telegraph reported a rebuke given by a member of the Public Administration Select Committee to Professor Dame Sally Davies (Chief Medical Officer), Jon Day CBE, (Head of the Joint Intelligence Committee), Rear Admiral John Kingwell (Director, Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre) and Dr Campbell McCafferty OBE, (Director, Civil Contingencies Secretariat) for the impenetrable use of management speak during an evidence session.

What have we really learned from all this American jargon and management speak? That is the polite way of putting it; I can think of an eight-letter word that might equally be used to describe it. How have we really benefited, as a nation, from all this jargon?

He was responding to a stream of nonsense from the witnesses including;

  • recommendations were taken on board
  • upstream capacity building
  • our generic capabilities and planning assumptions allow us to deal with a range of disruptive challenges
  • the corporate response mechanism is multi-departmental, multi-agency
  • there will be deep dives and experimentation to consider the so-whats for defence and security
  • is always on one level going to be back-casting
  • horizon scanning
  • We were consciously putting ourselves in a space where there were potential political issues
  • It is an up-and-down approach
  • We do not say what the policy—the so-what—is from that picture
  • Global Strategic Trends highlights the number of swans
  • game changers

Tip top!

Curiously absent was transformational, ground truthing and broad utility but I suppose it would not be seen as playing the strategic game with such presentational issues :)

Watch and read more.

For more laughs, pop over to Speak Like a Boss, Bullshit Generator and Bullshit Bingo

Besides the language, it was actually a very interesting session and broader subject.

On a serious point, it is painfully embarrassing to watch, please, just stop it, you sound like idiots.


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