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back to article MoD to become even more top-heavy as a result of personnel cuts

The UK's Ministry of Defence is a famously top-heavy organisation: the navy has at least one admiral for every warship it possesses, the RAF has an air-marshal or two for every fighting squadron and the army has approximately 10 times as many generals as it could possibly need to command itself in combat. And that's not even to …

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This is now beyond a joke

We spend incredible sums on our armed forces, and get shite in return. As a taxpayer, I expect more.

We are in the process of building two aircraft carriers, one of which will be effectively a rubber duck for the whole of it's existence and one of which will be a rubber duck for about ten years after being built. Best hope we don't need an aircraft carrier until then!

What are we doing to ensure that failures like Basra and Helmand do not happen again? Both can fairly be described as fiascos. Lessons aren't being learnt.

I recommend the short book Punching Below Our Weight by Frank Ledwidge which has eye opening stuff about the recent Libya campaign.

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Re: This is now beyond a joke

I remember this debate coming up in a documentary on Channel 4 debating about how they could cut the deficit.

The presenter was an ex commander in the army or air force or whatever and he mentioned that the MOD's top brass structure remains largely unchanged since the empire days when we had much bigger forces.

Troop numbers have been cut back and battallions disbanded but the same number of commanders still exist complete with their pensions, he estimated we could save billions by reducing the brass alone without cutting back capability or troops.

Its insane.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: This is now beyond a joke

"We spend incredible sums on our armed forces, and get shite in return."

Agree with most of your post but the quote above is a bit too generic. Some of the money spent obviously goes to pay the salaries of the soldiers, sailors and airmen who do a terrific job in spite of all the political crap that goes on around them.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: This is now beyond a joke

Lions led by (lots of) donkeys (again)!

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Re: Lions led by (lots of) donkeys (again)!

and as the author has previously written about, procurement by dinosaurs

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Re: This is now beyond a joke

"We spend incredible sums on our armed forces, and get shite in return. As a taxpayer, I expect more"

Practical example French/Italian Horizon frigates are half the price of the identical looking Type 45's, but have at least twice the combat capabilities, as they have surface combat capability (sorry BAE deck guns don't count these days), and a co-operative engagement capability, meaning that the frogs and italians can engage air threats beyond the horizon 20 miles away, that are spotted by their carrier AEW (french) or air force AEW (italian)

So the tax payer has spent £1Bn+ per ship to build a floating coffin for the crew in the event of a conventional war

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Re: Re: This is now beyond a joke

".....Practical example French/Italian Horizon frigates are half the price of the identical looking Type 45's, but have at least twice the combat capabilities...." Oranges and lemons comparison, the Type 45 is roughly 30% heavier displacing ship and fulfills a different role. The Horizon class are shorter-range frigates for largely Med patrols whereas the Type 45s are ocean-going ships which operate as part of a fleet (the Italians don't have much of a fleet and the Fwench one is the CDG and little else).

"....have at least twice the combat capabilities, as they have surface combat capability...." Ignoring the Sea Viper's ability to hit surface targets, the Type45s have also got the ability to fit Tomahawks if required, which is far beyond the capability of the Horizon class and their anti-shipping only Exocets.

"....sorry BAE deck guns don't count these days...." The 4.5in deck gun is not only a proven weapon for surface engagements and anti-air, it also supplies a better land bombardment option to a longer range than the 76mm Otobreda on the Horizons. One interesting project is up-gunning the 4.5in to fire NATO 155mm shells, giving it the ability to fire all types of NATO smart munitions, which again the Horizon cannot match with the Otobreda mount.

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Re: This is now beyond a joke

Either way neither of them is much use against a landlocked country or somebody planting bombs in the tube.

Unless Trident was a major reason for the end of the IRA ?

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Re: Re: This is now beyond a joke

"Either way neither of them is much use against a landlocked country or somebody planting bombs in the tube...." Why you would expect a ship to be good for either is beyond me, unless you believe that is the only threat we face and therefore the only one to invest resources in? Which kind of ignores the work done by RN frigates and destroyers on such peacetime tasks as anti-pirate patrols off Somalia, or anti-drug-smuggler patrols in the Caribbean, or the UN/NATO tasks such as escorting tankers in the Persian Gulf, or in support off Libya or Iraq, let alone if we need to fight another Falklands War.....

"....Unless Trident was a major reason for the end of the IRA ?" I think you'll find the SAS and MI5/6 were the main cause of the IRA throwing in the towel.

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Big Brother

Re: This is now beyond a joke

"....have at least twice the combat capabilities, as they have surface combat capability...." Ignoring the Sea Viper's ability to hit surface targets, the Type45s have also got the ability to fit Tomahawks if required, which is far beyond the capability of the Horizon class and their anti-shipping only Exocets.

Any ship can be refitted to carry just about anything, given enough time and money. But sailing back to a friendly dock yard when the war has just kicked off is not really a viable option. The Harpoon launchers should have been fitted, but were cut to "save money". Which means that, for example, Irianian navy China Cats (a realitive peanuts cost ship) are more of a surface threat than a "as patroling now" 45, and given the Irianian military penchant for doing stuff without authorisation, something that the RN and MoD should have thought about, like wise other potential military hot spots the RN could find it's self patroling in (Korea, Spratly Islands, etc.), the options to withdraw and refit are likely to be limited and too late.

""....sorry BAE deck guns don't count these days...." The 4.5in deck gun is not only a proven weapon for surface engagements and anti-air, it also supplies a better land bombardment option to a longer range than the 76mm Otobreda on the Horizons."

The cannons on Victory are a "proven combat system", doesn't mean they are relevant for modern engagements. In a war zone (i.e. dealing with a real military force, not the RUF), a ship sailing into range to use it's deck gun, was in missile range a long time ago for the well camoflagued launcher, a lesson the RN and MoD apprently have yet to demonstrate they have learnt from the Falklands war. (militaries have traditionally equiped and trained to fight the last war, not the next, but we appear to be still preparing to refight Korea/WW2)

Personally I would believe the best argument for continuing to have a deck gun is policing/enforcement peace time ops, such as convincing pirates, drug runners and embargo busting ships, etc. to stop, even if a lot of these ops are actually carried out by the Helo. Thus a lighter calibre gun enables more space for other systems, for example more missile defences.

IMHO the US LCS-2 concept is probably the right way to go, where you can fit out the ship prior to deployment with mission specific modules, based on the planned mission, the risk assesments and the contingency plans.

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Re: Re: This is now beyond a joke

"....Any ship can be refitted to carry just about anything...." Nope, the capability is in the design, the launchers and missiles could be airlifted out to the Type 45s and fitted in situ.

"....Irianian navy China Cats (a realitive peanuts cost ship) are more of a surface threat than a "as patroling now" 45...." Except the Type 45 doesn't patrol alone, it is usually part of a taskforce in such high-risk areas, meaning the Type 45 gets to see your Chinese-designed floating target a lot earlier (the Type 45 has far superior sensors) and the junk gets junked by something like a Sea Skua missile launched from a Lynx or Merlin. That's if the USN hasn't already sunk it the moment it left harbour. And then the China Cat has to survive long enough to launch one of its tiny missiles against a ship which not only has self-defence cannon capable of knocking the TL-10 out of the air (if they can be bothered not firing a Sea Viper at the missile), but a ship which is also too big for a TL-10 to sink.

"....The cannons on Victory are a "proven combat system", doesn't mean they are relevant for modern engagements. In a war zone..." Wrong again! The biggest threat in the Persian Gulf is swarm attacks by small craft like the China Cats you mentioned. Against them, the radar-guided 4.5in will be very effective, day or night, whilst the TL-10 missiles the China Cats carry (a Chinese version of the ancient French AS-15) would need to get a very lucky hit to sink as big a ship as a Type 45 (the TL-10 is designed for attacking small ships of the 500ton class, not 8,000ton warships). In fact, the Type 45s could probably take quite a few TL-10 hits without too much worry, whereas one 4.5in shell (firing at 25 rounds per minute to 27.5km, beyond the range of the TL-10) would vapourise as small a craft as the China Cats.

"....Personally I would believe...." You're entitled to your opinion, I just suggest you try putting a little more thought into the matter first. Well, actually, a lot more thought really!

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Joke

I kinda like the idea...

Gradually we lose all the cannon fodder and all we get left with are the senior Ruperts. If only we can persuade everyone else's armed forces to do the same, it might just cut down on the number of wars we try and fight... they'd all have to put down the port and go and fight themselves.

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uninformed

For some reason, I keep reading "uninformed" instead of "uniformed" personel. Are those words interchangeable?

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Happy

Re: uninformed

No.

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Admirals, Generals

How many editors does El Reg have ?

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Re: Admirals, Generals

To maintain the theme of the article...one editor per section naturally, and one senior editor per subdomain.theregister.co.uk.

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Anonymous Coward

So, just like private enterprise then.....

I work as pasrt of a team of 4 for a global mega corp, our team used to be 16 strong, we had a senior engineer, a manager, a director, a VP

We now have 4 engineers, a manager, a director, a VP............

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It's disgusting that we have all this top brass at the MOD. Rank and file people are given the boot while these people sit on a gravy train.

It's way past time the gravy train was stopped and most of the people on it were told to get off.

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Happy

Shocking

The article is shocking not only for exposing the devious use of "up to" - meaning "loads less than" , but also for it's complete absence of the correct Reg-authorised term: "slug-balancers" .

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Mushroom

Not surprising

The rule basically goes, if you had a choice of losing your job or choosing somone else losing their job, the majority would choose someone else. I am sure everyone can think of someone they know who just isn't quite up to scratch and as valuable/worthy as they are.

So if you leave it up to the leadership of a group of people to reduce the size of said group. Then those who can't choose are more likely to go than those that do.

This is all irritatingly contrary to the fact that the leaders need the workers to get anything done, and increasing the number of people calling the shots over those doing the work reduces productivity.

This happens in every industry known to man, I think they need a different approach to the choice, and as its the military can I suggest they all get given a pistol where 1 in 5 has a real bullet and send them all out on maneuvers.

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Mushroom

Optional

Grunts have always been optional in all organisation. Gods and demigods are of course indespensable.

Obvious icon

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Happy

Yes, Minister!

<Sir Humphrey Appleby>

MoD answer

</Sir Humphrey Appleby>

You'd think they copied that right from the show's script... but then you suddenly remember, that in fact, it's the other way round...

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Inflation required

It might be time to introduce the triangle as an equivalent for three stars. Then cut the salary and pension for existing stars, but offer exciting promotion opportunities into the ranks of 1,2,3,... triangles.

Repeat at will.

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Anonymous Coward

The solution is to form some new fighting units

For example, you could have the 'Galloping Generals' who go into war astride office chairs, armed only with dry marker pens and post-it notes. With that many admirals, we could afford to fire them at enemy ships from torpedo tubes. And we could press the Air Marshalls into a ground attack role by having them run at the enemy while making machine gun noises.

Expendables 3 - you read the synopsis here first

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Proper efficent management techniques

The army is just like any other large corporate. You increase the number of senior management and their salaries and reduce costs by replacing the workers with cheaper ones offshore. Shouldn't the army do the same?

We have always done it on a small scale in Nepal but this could open up whole new opportunities for call center workers in Mumbai to pretend to be squaddies instead.

And for a fraction of the price of the new aircraft-less carriers we could employ a large number of Somali marine interdictions specialists.

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Boffin

Re: Proper efficent management techniques

"....and reduce costs by replacing the workers with cheaper ones offshore...." As I understand it, we're already employing plenty of foreigners at the grunt levels, not just from the traditional Commonwealth sources like Fiji and Jamaica, but that's not just for "outsourcing" reasons, it's also because today's flabby Brit kids aren't up to the job. I know a Para who complains that he gets recruits that can't even manage fifty sit-ups, let alone the fifty-in-a-minute that used to be minimum acceptance level.

As regards top-level officers, if they are actually fulfilling some administrative role rather than just playing toy soldiers with phantom regiments then removing them will just see them replaced with more senior civil servants. What we actually need is a proper review of the MoD structure as well as the armed forces as the two are interlinked. And the structure is NOT the same as in the old Empire days, for example the Royal Navy no longer maintains a China Station, Pacific Station or South Americas Station, roles which would have entailed a Rear or Vice Admiral; the RAF no longer has an Air Command Far East or one for East Africa, both of which required an Air Chief Marshal, Marshal or Vice Marshal; and the Army no longer maintains a Far East Command or Middle East Land Forces Command, both of which required Generals.

David Cameron has already been accused of starting a "war" with the senior civil servants he needs to push his reviews and cuts through with, so he'll probably not be too happy to start a battle with his military at the same time.

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Re: Proper efficent management techniques

Pure genius, a report needs to be drawn up and sent through to the Sec of Def immediately!

Just think of how much money they will save..

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Proper efficent management techniques

We could really maximise cost efficiencies by paying our enemies to bomb themselves - if we sold them the bombs, it might even be profitable.

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Ya'll forgot one thing.

You forgot that "it's the job of management to protect management jobs". Cost savings and bonuses for the top level always come at the expense of those to do the grunt work.

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Black Helicopters

Army cuts, what cuts?

All the talk about how many soldiers are going to be made redundant - yet just today I saw a TV advert RECRUITING for the army!

I initially though why on earth are they spending a fortune on TV ads, when they could just save the redundancy payments by keeping on the existing personnel - then I realised that it's move that typically you get from outsourcing companies. Staff with 10 years service expect more money then newcomers and tend to have reasonably employment T&Cs. New staff can be paid significantly less, and can be signed up under comparatively unfavorable T&Cs.

This probably should have been posted anonymously - I hear the helicopters now.......

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Starship Troopers had a good discussion on top-heaviness, and explained how the Mobile Infantry were the least top-heavy because their Generals went on the bounce along with everybody else. In fact, the more senior the officer, the earlier they arrived on the battlefield.

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This is not just a problem in the forces, its a generic problem with any large organisation. The people with the authority to make the decisions on who to get rid off oddly consider their own position as being vital to the company. How convenient. Hence the grunts get the chop and the officers/managers become a greater and greater proportion of the whole.

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Anonymous Coward

I concurr

At the company I work for we now have half the staff we had ten years ago, but two more board members than we did then (was 16, now 18.) Turnover in sales is about 3/4 of what it was then too.

As long as there is still pork in the barrel for those who have the right old school tie.....

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Reminds me of the old saying...

Why do we separate the wheat from the chaff and keep the chaff? Because it's the chaff that makes the decision.

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Boffin

Civil Servant's

"Uniformed commissioned officers of the armed services generally consider the civil servants' idea of their equivalent military rank to be comically inflated - even quite minor bureaucrats, if their military rank equivalent were true, would be at a level where they might command major combat units. That said, the value of the military officers' own titles has been continually cheapened for a long time by reorganisations like this one."

Lewis - A two edged sword this one. As someone who was a Scientific Civil Servant in MOD many years ago, the administrative civil service and the pongos were both highly rank conscious - Rodneys a little less so. Fly-boys (except penguins), scientists, and engineers really did not care.

In those days the equivalents were: Scientific Officer (SO) == Lieutenant; Higher SO == Captain (army); Senior SO == Major; Principal SO == Lieutenant Colonel; Senior Principal SO == Colonel; Deputy Chief SO A/B = Brigadier/Major General; Chief SO == General.

The grade structures were quite rigid, except that the military type had seniority when at a military establishment; and the civil servant had seniority at a civilian establishment. Rumour had it that the relative seniority of two equal officers switched in the car between the two different types of establishment.

I myself, reached the dizzying heights of being equivalent to a colonel; but I only had 10 staff. It was said that civil service engineers and scientists had to be given relatively high grades compared to clerical types to keep them happy and reasonably well paid, so that they did not leave for the private sector...

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Pilot training

The training of a pilot officer in the Italian Air Force costs about 2 million SaversOfTheGermanEconomy (Euros) from my (taxpayer) pocket.

When said pilot reaches the rank of Lt.Colonel he is more or less prevented from flying, even if he is physically and mentally still able, unless he is on the track for a squadron command.

So a lot of pilots leave the AMI just after the promotion to Lt.Col just to keep flying, even if they are piloting a tour bus for an airline.

And I have paid two million SaversOfTheGermanEconomy...

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