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SDSR - Radio 4 -The World This Weekend

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SDSR - Radio 4 -The World This Weekend

Old 10th Oct 2010, 19:06
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SDSR - Radio 4 -The World This Weekend

Heard this on Radio 4 at lunchtime today. This man, albeit an actor reading the officer's essay for very good reason that becomes apparent from the outset, talks a lot of sense and most of it (if not all) is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth! It is definitely worth a listen and it's good to hear a military man (no Service identified) making the points that nobody else in government or the senior echelons of MOD (both military and civilian) are prepared to!

Fast Forward to 19.50 and pay attention:

BBC iPlayer - The World This Weekend: 10/10/2010

(you can't get me; I'm retired)
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Old 10th Oct 2010, 20:39
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I heard it when broadcast. A good piece. I only hope that it is published wider than the Radio 4 listeners.
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Old 10th Oct 2010, 20:41
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Heard it too. Thought it was a play at first.

His opinion of the MOD was pretty low. I wonder if he has ever worked at main building?
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Old 10th Oct 2010, 22:02
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Wow. Now I am worried. The few Armed Services friends I have, gave me cause for concern by the way they spoke and argued for what or who would get chopped. Then ultimately how threadbare our collective ar5es were going to be after the review. After that thoughtful, but all too well informed item, I think I'm quite worried as to what the politicians and civil servants are going to leave us - the country - with.

I have no axe to grind, I speak as a member of the public who is very aware - and intensely proud - of our armed services and now one who is very, very concerned.

I too share Climebear's wish that the item should find a far wider audience than Radio 4 - influential though that is. I believe the 'Today' programme has been de rigure since Margaret Thatcher was found to be a regular listener.

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Old 10th Oct 2010, 22:42
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Fortunately Big Dave is a listener too. I hope he got the message.
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Old 10th Oct 2010, 23:16
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What message is that? The UK's Defence problem is indeed the MOD of course. It costs us all a far higher percentage of our GDP than most other countries. In return we, or more exactly our Armed Forces, get so little back. Easy of course to blame the Senior Civil Servants there, they deserve much of the opprobrium agreed, but I thought that the passing reference to the "Service Chiefs" was rather too little in both the blame and opprobrium stakes.
What Service this "middle ranking" officer is in we don't know, and it may well be that he and his fellow officers have no issue with those who serve in Main Building, but I do not know how that can be if he is in the Royal Air Force. The "Service Chiefs" of that Service, or to be more exact those of 2* Rank and above who have had responsibility for the provision of airworthy military aircraft over more than twenty years have either themselves given illegal orders to suborn the Airworthiness Regulations or cravenly obeyed them (which is also illegal of course). This has not saved money but wasted it, to the extent of not only needless accidents but even the premature loss of an entire fleet (and capability). Even more serious still was the needless loss of life, some 62 to date at least. If the explanation is "I was only doing my job", my reply would be, "Well no, you weren't!" The words stones and greenhouses came to mind I'm afraid as I listened, and I did pay attention OP, honest!
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Old 11th Oct 2010, 00:37
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Hoorah! Radio 4 to airworthiness in 5 posts! Is this a PPRuNe record?!

As for the radio piece, a good little item that will sadly just get lost in the usual noise of the media.
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Old 11th Oct 2010, 08:38
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Well said mate. I am getting fed up with the airworthiness 'stuck record' from a couple of posters - please give us a rest guys!

I thought about an anonymous letter to the Times on similar lines to the Radio 4 essay. He summed up my current thoughts 100% in all of his statements; it felt great that another middle ranker felt the same, but at the same time frustrating that nothing has been done (or probably won't be). I guess we all have to keep chipping away at the current regime in the hope that the efforts of the masses will finally make a difference.

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Old 11th Oct 2010, 08:48
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Thought the Radio 4 piece was outstanding and certainly summed up what a lot of people think. Any chance someone could post the Times letter (can't be copyright issues surely on a letter?)
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Old 11th Oct 2010, 09:23
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Any chance of a transcript? iPlayer is blocked where I am and the 'welfare' internet makes my old 56k modem look super-fast. Actually, considering I'm not allowed my mobile phone here, it feels a bit like being banished to 1995.
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Old 11th Oct 2010, 10:25
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StopStart and Leon J, I'm sorry that the "A" word has caused such a violent reaction, but the point I was trying to make is that the betrayal of the Armed Forces by the MOD is not merely down to the Senior Civil Servants. The "Service Chiefs" also loosely woven into the piece and identified as the other half culpable for the waste, both of blood and treasure, extend all the way down to 2* level at least. If they had stuck to their duty instead of their career paths the kit available would have been of proper quality and perhaps even quantity. Of course this goes beyond airworthiness, that is merely the area that I am familiar with, but Army radios also come to mind given the deaths of the MP's at the hands of a mob in Iraq, also the death of a young Army officer by a sniper as he moved into open ground to vainly get a signal in Afghanistan. These men were betrayed not only by the MOD but specifically by their own CoC there. That is the scandal.
PS Don't mention Airworthiness, I did once but I think I've got away with it....!
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Old 11th Oct 2010, 10:39
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The Service Chiefs are not solely responsible for terrain blanking of comms kit.

Anyway, back to MOD/Main Building. For thsoe who haven't worked there, MB seems to be one vast Machiaevellian Plot to waste resources and to ensure the lot of all and sundry in uniform is an unpleasant one.

However, as one who has done several tours (joint and sS) in MOD in recent years, interspersed with operational tours, I found that almost everyone I worked with had one aim in mind, and that was to get the best out of a system that is wieghed down by its own bureaucratic checks and balances. Posts lack continuity, and coupled with change fatigue, many good intitiatives become watered down by inertia, rather than any deliberate policy. The civil servants (with exception of the 5th floor SpAds) are hardworking, loyal, knowledgeable and in the most part are paid peanuts.

For thsoe who criticise the monolithic MOD, how would you change it? And before answering about the dysfunctionality of the Department, have a chat with former colleagues who are in, say, the Home Office or NHS...

Last edited by Whenurhappy; 11th Oct 2010 at 10:42. Reason: Edited for mong spelling
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Old 11th Oct 2010, 10:45
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Prophetic, I fear. I hope the rest of the media pick up on it.

SS and Leon

While I agree the link to AW may be a little tenuous, the lack of regulatory compliance by Sen Staff Officers is a very visible example of a system in terminal decline. Sadly, however, it is but one one of many - which will only multiply after SDSR.
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Old 11th Oct 2010, 11:38
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I thought that the passing reference to the "Service Chiefs" was rather too little in both the blame and opprobrium stakes.
IMHO, the 'essay' was a reasonably balanced piece, and allocated a fair portion to the criticism of senior serving officers. I wouldn't have thought that the comments that
"Senior Serving Officers must take their share of the blame etc, etc"
"There exists an odour to their hypocrisy"
justify your own claim that
I thought that the passing reference to the "Service Chiefs" was rather too little in both the blame and opprobrium stakes.
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Old 11th Oct 2010, 12:27
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jindabyne, point taken that "Senior Serving Officers" were mentioned. I'd missed that rather than the more restrictive term "Service Chiefs". So it seems that I am in violent agreement with the author after all!
It is not only the "Chiefs", ie the Chiefs of Staff, or even their immediate subordinates that are at fault here but rather the CoC down to at least 2* level. When they initiate or pass on illegal orders that result in death as well as financial waste they have committed offences against Military Law IMHO and should be so charged, providing that sufficient evidence exists of course. The latter is I admit a stumbling block, but by no means the only one I fear.
The Service Chiefs are not solely responsible for terrain blanking of comms kit.
A very MOD response if you don't mind me saying so. The whole point about military tactical radio systems is that they should be able to circumvent "terrain blanking" in the 21st Century! There again I believe it is said that BOWMAN stands for "Better Off With Map And Nokia", and perhaps the Army should ensure that their operations are conducted in future only in areas that do not feature "terrain".
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Old 11th Oct 2010, 12:55
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I found that almost everyone I worked with had one aim in mind, and that was to get the best out of a system that is wieghed down by its own bureaucratic checks and balances.
Was the bureaucracy acknowledged as weighed down? Was there any move to change it? I'm assuming must be senior-ish if you did several tours in MB. Not many things can't be changed. Surely.


Who is not having a pop.
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Old 11th Oct 2010, 15:42
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It does take time to adjust from the tactical and operational levels to work at the strategic level in MOD (that is not meant to sound patronising). The big difference from working at, say Air or PJHQ, is that there is a ministerial team within hearing distance of all that takes place in the building - and, of course, we are spitting distance from the Treasury and the shadowy Palladian portals of the Cabinet Office, who have an enormous influence on what happens at SW1A 2HB.

There has been a lot of streamlining in MOD HQ (as it is called) over the last 2 -3 years - especially under Tom McKane. Nonetheless, as documents undergo AD/AH, then 1, 2 & 3* level circulation, it is typically the same staff who prepare the responses each time the document enters the circuit. What I found useful was walking around the building (or assembling for a coffee in the Pillared Hall) and coordinating our sS responses with Dark Blue and Green colleagues. It corporately saved a lot of nugatory staff time and a quicker turnaround on policy documents. However, we would come in for criticism from the FLCs that they were not always consulted on each iteration of a document/policy/whatever.

My response to the FLC (Air in my case) was 'Just fight the bl##dy war and leave policy to us!'

You can imagine the response...
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Old 11th Oct 2010, 17:28
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" We had come to be seen by both friends and enemies as a nation that lacked the will and capability to defend its' interests in peace, let alone in war. "

A 2002 M.Thatcher quote re. 1982...
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Old 12th Oct 2010, 12:12
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Transcript of the broadcast:

“I am a serving officer in Her Majesty’s Armed Forces. I’m not allowed to talk to the press without permission. I don’t have that permission because I haven’t asked. I haven’t asked because I know the answer already – and so I write this article anonymously. The fact that I, a mid-ranking officer, cannot make public utterance is more than just a curtailment of my right to free speech. It is actually an erosion of democracy, since it leaves the British public open only to the views of senior officers, civil servants and politicians. If all the rumours about the Strategic Defence and Security Review – the SDSR – are right, then the British public is not being well served, nor is being well informed. So I run the very real risk of disciplinary action to offer an alternative view.
First, the Armed Forces are not bloated. For most of my long service, we have had to make do. The well-publicised equipment deficiencies of Iraq may have been embarrassing to politicians and a surprise to the public, but they are simply a continuance of what we’ve had to deal with for years. Because of that, we have adopted a ‘can-do’ approach to our business where often from little or nothing, we have found a winning solution. When everyone else fails, Her Majesty’s Armed Forces do not. The fire-fighters’ strikes, emergency relief and Blair’s wars have all been undertaken successfully as a result of our people, if not our kit. Our officers are not public school toffs; our men and women are not oiks rescued from inner city depravation, although to be sure, many have had a tough start in life. We come from every strata of British society. But once trained and imbued with pride and loyalty, the UK’s Armed Forces are the best in the world.
But the Armed Forces are supported by an organisation that understands cost, not value. This organisation is riven with petty factions, parochialism and career rivalries. Add in political meddling and an entrenched diversion to risk and you have an organisation that exists in a place far removed from the jungles of Sierra Leone, the deserts of Iraq or the poppy fields of Helmand. That organisation is the Ministry of Defence. But here is another home truth. The average civil servant is a friend of the forces. They work hard for often mediocre salaries. But that is not to say savings can’t be made. There are more training courses on office safety and equality and diversity than on defence procurement. That tells you much. But it is not the average MoD employee I criticise. It is those receiving massive salaries and, when they depart, honours and awards. It is the senior Civil Service that has utterly failed to manage our budgets, that has got us into the mess in which the world’s greatest Armed Forces now finds itself.
Our infrastructure – particularly our IT – is dreadful. Laptops, which one might buy in the High Street for a few hundred pounds, routinely cost many times that. It’s often better to ignore the system and buy cables, software and circuit boards over the internet, paid for on your own credit card. As I write this, I sit at my desk and strain to read printed documents because I do not have the money in my budget to replace toner cartridges. Not for nothing did our US colleagues christen us ‘the borrowers’. Yet at every level, I am scrutinised by a system of overseers who hunt every single penny of waste. Their talent for generating paperwork of the most excruciating and time-consuming nature is surpassed only by their ability to miss the millions of pounds that are frittered away by the MoD itself. The British public is rightly outraged at the cost of the aircraft carriers currently being built. But that does not mean we do not need carriers – we do – just not stupidly huge ones for which the rest of the Royal Navy will have to be completely sacrificed. We also need an Air Force and an Army, but not ones equipped by Harrods - off the shelf is just fine.
But more than anything, we need armed services that are ready to meet the complexity of conflict in the 21st century. We don’t have that now and I fear the SDSR will not produce it. The SDSR looks to me and to every single officer I’ve spoken with like a salami slicing exercise - period. The service chiefs must take their share of the blame. Their careers have been built on an ability to never say no and now, at the pinnacle of those careers, few have had the courage to say enough is enough. Others have chosen to snipe only once retired, as if they had not played some substantial part in the whole mess themselves. There exists an odour to their hypocrisy - and then there are the politicians. It pains me to say, but I actually have a modicum of sympathy for them as they enter an utterly dysfunctional organisation in which common sense and clear thinking drowns in a tidal wave of process. To be sure, they are not blameless, but some have really tried.
Let’s be quite clear. We have to save money. As servicemen and women, we understand that. But if what I hear on the grapevine is true, the SDSR has the potential to be a monumental disaster. But sadly, it is a disaster that has been years in the making – and those that will suffer most will be the men and women at the bottom who give their all and sometimes their lives.
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Old 12th Oct 2010, 14:41
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well said. end of.
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