Sorting out the MoD\’s bureaucracy

Lord Levene’s defence reform unit will call for a sweeping overhaul of the structure and management of the MoD, saying that military chiefs must be made accountable for their own budgets.

The ranks of senior military officers could also be thinned out, and new, more flexible rules on promotion introduced.

Typical.

When you\’ve an entirely dysfunctional military bureaucracy, reform the military but not the bureaucracy.

There was no need at all to have M\’Lord Levine prepare a report.

It\’s all in here.

6 thoughts on “Sorting out the MoD\’s bureaucracy”

  1. So Much For Subtlety

    Look, again I don’t dispute the main point but the British Armed Forces have been heading the Tin pot Banana Republic direction for some time. This is especially true of the Top Brass. We now have more Admirals than Naval vessels. The Royal Navy has just 40 ships. But we need for some reason to have 41 Admirals.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/defence/3073680/Admirals-outnumber-warships-in-Royal-Navy-report-shows.html

    Notice their claim – the Admirals are needed to supervise major projects. What major projects? You mean glorious efforts like the Nimrod? What we don’t f$%k up, we don’t produce ourselves. We simply do not design new major warships any more. We buy our important kit straight from the Americans – Trident for instance.

    Notice the other claim:

    “Nearly all the ships and submarines are commanded by officers that are three ranks below that of rear-admiral. ”

    Three ranks below that of Rear Admiral? What the Hell are they doing?

    The Army is no better.

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article6969921.ece

    “Although the size of the trained Army has shrunk to about 100,000 soldiers, there are now 255 members with the rank of brigadier or above — or one for every 400 service personnel …. There are now 65 generals in the Army, with 43 major-generals, 17 lieutenant-generals and five four-star generals. In addition there are 190 brigadiers, a one-star rank; 20 more than in 1997.”

    Keeping in mind that there are only six British Divisions (five really). They are made up of what would be called elsewhere regiments (and commanded by a colonel) but which we call brigades. Even so there are fewer than 19 of them, not 190.

    “In the RAF there are 36 top brass: three air chief marshals, nine air marshals and 24 air vice-marshals.”

    Britain has a grand total of four Groups – commanded in the past by Group Commanders (ie the equivalent of a Colonel). One of which is purely administrative.

    “There are four British generals serving in Afghanistan, including Lieutenant-General Sir Nick Parker, who is the UK National Contingent Commander and deputy to the overall American commander, General Stanley McChrystal; and Major-General Nick Carter, who is in charge of all forces in southern Afghanistan.”

    Britain has fewer than 10,000 soldiers in Afghanistan.

    In short Britain’s Armed Forces have been heading in a Third World direction for far too long – as typified by an inflation of titles in lower commands and an explosion in senior ranks.

    Yes, the MoD needs to be thinned out. But so do the higher commands of the Armed Forces.

  2. SMFS – even comparing the number of Admirals to the number of ships is admitting gross rank-inflation.

    Major (‘rated’) ships used to be commanded by a Captain (lesser ships only got a Commander). An Admiral would be in command of a squadron of several ships.

    41 rated ships is perhaps just enough to justify the early 19th century system of 10 Flag Officers; an Admiral of the Fleet in overall command, and then 3 squadrons (Red, White & Blue), each with an Admiral, a Vice-Admiral and a Rear-Admiral.

    That would give each of the 9 (excluding the Admiral of the Fleet) 4 or 5 ships to command; anything less than that would be ridiculous.

    Under them, probably about 60 captains (1 for each rated ship plus a few spares to cover leave and shore jobs).

  3. Surreptitious Evil

    The problem is “civil service rank equivalence”. The CS decree that their rank structure maps on to the military rank structure. Therefore a Grade B1 CS is a full Colonel etc. Therefore, if you have a role which can switch between CS and military and the CS Grade for the role is B1, the fact that it could be done by a Sergeant Major in between shouting at people for having insufficiently gleaming footwear is beside the point.

    We simply do not design new major warships any more. We buy our important kit straight from the Americans – Trident for instance.

    But we designed and built the Vanguard class submarines in the UK. As we designed and built the warheads. Yes, the rest of the ballistic missile weapons system was bought in.

    And we design and built the Astute, buying in Tomahawk and Sub-Harpoon – but Spearfish is our own. And the T45s …

    Keeping in mind that there are only six British Divisions (five really).

    There are 2 real divisions – 1(UK) Armoured in Germany and 3(UK) Mechanised. The “regional divisions” are purely an administrative construct (and if they survive, I’ll be amazed.)

  4. Surreptitious Evil (#3) said:

    “we designed and built the Vanguard class submarines in the UK”

    True – 25 years ago.

    “Spearfish is our own. And the T45s ”

    erm…

    Spearfish – the torpedo – 25 years ago (after the Falklands showed that the previous one couldn’t hit a barn door if it were tied to the handle)

    T45 – isn’t that the updated version of the Hawk, that was developed by the US and mostly built by Boeing? But OK, it’s based on the Hawker Siddeley Hawk, which was developed by the British – 35 years ago.

    “we design and built the Astute ”

    The sub that was so behind-time and over-budget that the MoD had to call in the Yanks for design assistance when it became clear that BAE wasn’t up to it?

    I hear what you’re saying. We need all these MoD pen-pushers so that we can design and build all these super-dooper weapons. But because the MoD is stuffed full of pen-pushers, the only thing we designed & built in the last 25 years would have been a disaster if we hadn’t got the Yanks in to rescue it.

  5. Surreptitious Evil

    I hear what you’re saying. We need all these MoD pen-pushers so that we can design and build all these super-dooper weapons.

    Did I say that? Actually, if you look carefully, the contribution of the MoD CS to the design of those systems is close enough to 0 to be eminently ignorable.

    Anyway, the Falklands didn’t show that Tigerfish “couldn’t hit a barn door if it were tied to the handle“, it showed that a (specific) specialist anti-submarine torpedo was useless for sinking skimmers.

    T45 – Type 45 – “Daring Class” if you want. The one with the duff French missile system.

    But because the MoD is stuffed full of pen-pushers, the only thing we designed & built in the last 25 years would have been a disaster if we hadn’t got the Yanks in to rescue it.

    That’s an interesting assertion as to both fact (where it is wrong – we’ve designed and built loads of stuff – clearly MoD project management is worst, not that it is ever much good, the bigger the project gets – WIMIK, PCS, L115A3) and to causation. I’d like to see any evidence.

    Personally, through long experience (and, no, I am not MoD CS, nor do I work for BAE) I would generally ascribe the manifest failings to two separate causes – firstly, that the MoD are useless at writing contracts, partly because of political interference, hence you end up with stuff like the Aircraft Carriers. Secondly, that large-scale projects get managers who have upwardly mobile careers. Therefore need to be seen to be “doing something”. And as, if you were going to start again, you wouldn’t start where you are now (this applies to pretty much any project, it isn’t a MoD problem), you can “do something” to make the project more relevant – which will require ripping stuff up and rework.

  6. So Much For Subtlety

    Surreptitious Evil – “Actually, if you look carefully, the contribution of the MoD CS to the design of those systems is close enough to 0 to be eminently ignorable.”

    So to recap, we have a civil service that contributes nothing, being supervised by dozens of Admirals who do nothing, in order to produce weapons that don’t work?

    “Anyway, the Falklands didn’t show that Tigerfish “couldn’t hit a barn door if it were tied to the handle“, it showed that a (specific) specialist anti-submarine torpedo was useless for sinking skimmers.”

    Except it wasn’t much use as a special anti-submarine torpedo either as it could not be used at the sort of depths you find submarines these days. But Tigerfish shows the problems with procurement. Not just in Britain but all over the world.

    The initial concept developed in the mid-1950s was for a very fast (55 knot/100 km/h), deep-diving torpedo driven by an internal combustion engine, carrying high pressure oxygen as oxidant, guided by a wire system developed from the Mackle wire-guidance study dated 1952[1][2] using data transmitted from the firing submarine sonars and using an autonomous active/passive sonar developed from the abandoned 1950s UK PENTANE torpedo project.

    So it started out as a copy of the Japanese Long Lance system with a few added modern bells and whistles. Fine. When was it issued?

    The Mod 0 failed its initial fleet acceptance trials in 1979 but was nevertheless issued to the fleet in 1980. The Mod 1 DP (dual purpose) anti-submarine and anti-ship model also experienced problems, though a redesigned version (Mod 2) passed sea trials in 1978 and was issued the following year.

    So not a specialist anti-submarine torpedo then. This project dragged on for 25 years. How long does it take to produce a weapon that works using 1950s technology?

    We actually know the answer to this. Because of the clusterf**k that was Tigerfish, it was more or less immediately replace by the Spearfish. Contract placed in 1983. Full production by 1988. See – we can design weapons that work when we want to.

    The real answer is clear – these procurement parades don’t exist to produce weapons. They exist to protect Admirals’ jobs. As we buy so few new weapons we have to drag out every single project for as long as possible or they would have nothing to do. Even if the weapons are worse for it.

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