Stealth cut my foot: RFA Diligence’s case

Reporting and criticising former and current government actions regarding military capability is 99.9% of the duty of “defence experts” and bloggers including yours truly. However, identifying what is a real defence cut and what is a secret, not publicly listed defence cut is more often than not, what some trigger happy “defence experts” state.

In this case, I’m talking about the advertisement (more than a sale) of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary’s only (and thus Her Majesty’s Naval Service only) mobile forward repair ship, RFA Diligence. On 4 August 2016, the advert was was placed up on the Ministry’s of Defence’s MOD surplus equipment for sale site. However, since the MOD has connected all its sites to the gov.uk web system, it thus appeared on the MOD’s own announcement page. In simple terms, the MOD is as transparent as can be regarding the sale. Yes, there was no news release and thus no immediate “mainstream media” articles about the sale although Forces TV and IHS Janes both wrote article’s about the sale around a week later.

So to the “defence experts” Gabriele and SavetheRoyalNavy, it is NOT a “Stealth cut” no matter how you try to represent it to your ultra-right wing readers or might band of followers. In fact, to you two and others, the bemoaning shouldn’t even start yet since officially, it is NOT SOLD YET and the above two advertisements are what they are, advertisements! Those who are interested in PURCHASING the vessel have a time limit, no LATER THAN “17.00hrs (GMT) Monday 26th September 2016.” So officially, the vessel is still in the MOD’s/Disposal Services Authority’s (DSA) possession. Yes, it will definitely not sail again but it is still there. The moaning, crying and (dirty) finger-pointing is however overrated. I repeat: The MOD has been as transparent as it can be regarding the sale, and technically it is not sold yet. So to you two and others, stop your dirty cursing. If you want to talk about non-transparency, try criticising the militaries of say Cambodia or Egypt, which https://government.defenceindex.org/#close are listed as least transparent regarding defence, especially arms sales.

British Army top leadership changes

A simple post here.

The British Army under the Chief of the General Staff (CGS) Sir Nicholas Carter KCB CBE DSO ADC Gen has made several changes to the titles of senior British Army Commanders and Commands. First of, Support Command/Commander Support Command, which was the two-star command formed after the disbandment of 2nd, 4th and 5th Divisions, has been renamed as Regional Command in around 2015. This command will cover the roughly the same functions of Support Command: It is the Army’s 2* HQ for the UK, Nepal and Brunei. It delivers Real Life Support to the Army and controls the UK Stations and Garrisons. It is also responsible for engagement with the civilian community and acts as the proponent for UK Operations.

Ok, just a name change, nothing special. We all like to be different.

Next up, the traditional post of Master-General of the Ordnance (MGO) has been removed/eliminated sometime after September 2012. MGO was a longstanding senior officer “responsible for all British artillery, engineers, fortifications, military supplies, transport, field hospitals and much else, and is not subordinate to the commander-in chief of the British military” ie, the CGS. In around March 2013, this post was renamed as ” Director Land Capability and Transformation” with still a seat on the Army Board but it was gone after September 2013. The reason? Not publicly stated, but I think CGS thought that post was redundant with the numerous two-star officers around. Artillery, Engineers and Field Hospitals for example were covered by the new General Officer Commanding, Force Troops Command. Fortifications don’t really exist any more and basing I think is covered by Director [of] Support, Director of Capability, Director, Service Operations, Director, Service Operations, Information Systems and Services, Director-General, Army Basing and Infrastructure (all two-star officers) and the higher Commander Home Command (more about this officer later). Or the rest covered by the higher Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) team. Military supplies and transport, well, probably covered by Chief Materiel (Army). So MGO or Director Land Capability and Transformation had really nothing to do.

Ok, another removal. Sad that a traditional post is gone? Yes, the tears and cries can still go on.

Next, another traditional post “Adjutant-general to the Forces” has also been removed. In around June 2015, the post was renamed “Commander Personnel and Support Command”/”Commander Personnel Support Command” (both are “Google-ble). This immediately made me question: What on earth is this command for and how did it differ from the role of Adjutant-general? Yours truly issued an FOIA question and got back this reply:

The 3-star level Commander Personnel Support Command will assume responsibility for the delivery elements of the Adjutant General’s portfolio: recruiting; individual training (officers and soldiers); career management and postings. The Command will therefore include the Military Secretary’s Organisation and the Army Personnel Centre, the Army Recruiting and Training Division and the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. For completeness, Personnel Support Command will also include the current Support Command (to be re-titled Regional Command) to provide the Army’s institutional support, including: civil engagement; cadets; Firm Base and Garrisons; Recovery Capability; welfare; and veterans, including the Regular Reserve.

(see fully FOIA answer here)

That’s a mouthful indeed and a rather weird name compared to Adjutant-general. Like it or not, the name change happened and several news articles featured CPC (my acronym). One was about the new commander revealing artwork showcasing the British Army’s links to Scotland. Another was about the still delivering firm base support to the British Army in Germany, despite their drawdown. Yet another was reflected in the Royal Signals publication, The Wire,which showed Lieutenant General James Bashall, CPC, visiting 11th Signal Brigade and Headquarters West Midlands. There are further links referring to CPC’s activities:here, here (government site describing his role), here and here. Somehow or the other, CGS and his top team didn’t think the name Personnel [and] Support Command didn’t fit. So in yet another (pointless???) name changing exercise, it became [Commander] Home Command. There was only one news article about this command or name change (not even on the outdated British Army website), and it signified the command reached its Full Operational Capability. Ok, there are more media and social media news stories about CHC (my acronym again) here, here and here. Most interestingly, a Ministry of Defence “policy paper” listed Command Home Command as “responsible for the planning and execution of civil contingency operations within the UK landmass and territorial waters.”

What do I think about this? Well, it is a bit more than a name change here (if you read carefully). The elimination of the AG post was because “I [CGS himself] no longer have an Adjutant-General. The reason that I [CGS himself] do not have an Adjutant-General is that effectively I[CGS himself] am the Adjutant-General. (Sir Nick to the Defence Select Committee on 14 June 2016). Ok, so he as the sole four-star general wants to act as a the chief officer to all Army personnel. Then now he has a CPC sorry CHC, who controls, people, their promotion, their welfare, their basing and on top of that, engagement with the British public and overall officer in-charge of aid to civil authorities. Step back a bit: A three-star general coordinating relief efforts at home? (Well ok, Chief Joint Operations is also a three star. Even so, lots of questions remain regarding his renaming and responsibility.

Another position removed in around 2015 was “Commander Force Development and Capability” who was responsible for “for training the Army, and developing its capability, sustainability and doctrine”. Why on earth was he removed? I think the MGO, Commander Home Command and Commander Field Army (see below) had something to do with it.

Yet another change is the senior officer who controls all of the Army’s deploy-able forces. Once, there was “Commander-in-Chief, HQ Land Command” from around 1972 to 1995, a four-star post. This then still was for a full General but renamed as “Land Command”. Ok, hardly a difference but Land Command lasted for around thirteen years before becoming Land Forces. Again, not much of a chang in name, responsibility and the officer was still four-star called “Commander-in-Chief”. Then came the cuts to the big cuts to defence and after the Lord Levene report, it was just “Commander Land Forces” with the holder a three-star ie. Lieutenant General. Name change across four decades. No, no, further name change to Commander Field Army in around mid 2015. This guy, still a Lieutenant General will consist of a Command Group plus four one-star branches: Commitments and Support, based in Ramillies, Warfare and Training, based in Warminster. Or basically, he just has a bigger group under his wing but still commands a small deploy-able force.

Finally, Sir Nick decided, oh, I’m CGS and like my other colleagues, the First Sea Lord and the Chief of Air Staff, I’m now really in charge of my own budget thanks to Lord Levene. But no, let’s have another guy deputising for me when I’m away or on leave. Give it to Commander Field Army? No. So Sir Nick created a Deputy Chief of the General Staff (Deputy CGS) post, a three-star command. This holder is “[r]esponsible for representing the Army [Top Level Budget] TLB within Head Office and outwards to relevant TLBs and dependencies, provides oversight of the Army Operating Model and provides overall personnel policy direction as the Principal Personnel Officer] PPO.”

Hey Presto! You have a deputy Sir Nick! But wait, wasn’t the Levene Report meant to reduce the top-heavy leadership not increase the number of senior officers? In the other two services, neither of the two main four-stars have another deputy in this sense. Ok, Fleet Commander (who used to be a four-star Commander-in-Chief Fleet) and Deputy Commander (Operations) (who used to be junior to four-star Commander-in-Chief Air Command) are effectively the deputies for the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force respectively. Neither of these two services have a “Deputy First Sea Lord” or “Deputy Chief of the Air Staff” at present (though these post use to exist. So why, Sir Nicholas Carter, did you get a deputy for yourself, even if he’s a PPO, oh wait, didn’t you yourself say you are the chief personnel officer?

Two points I wish to make here: 1) Why hasn’t the British Army explained all these recent name changes and their (new) responsibilities? 2) Nice to have new names, nice to have change, but always ask whatever for?