Lord Levene's review causing 'consternation' amongst senior officers
The Guardian is reporting that Lord Levene's plans for root and branch reform of the military are likely to cause consternation among senior officers:
The top tier of Britain's armed forces will be slimmed down and their power to make in-house appointments curtailed under far-reaching proposals for the restructuring of the military, the Guardian has learned.
A blueprint for the services and how they should be run is being drawn up by Lord Levene, who was appointed last year by the defence secretary, Liam Fox, and tasked with coming up with root-and-branch reforms.
Levene is due to submit his final report by the end of July, but early drafts of his main proposals, and the principles behind them, have started to circulate around Whitehall.
Though the army, Royal Navy and RAF have been bracing themselves for change, there is bound to be consternation among senior officers if some of the ideas survive consultation and are supported by Fox.
Under his current plans, Levene and his team have suggested:
• Thinning the ranks at the very top of the military. At the moment each service has, effectively, two chiefs – one responsible for strategy and management, the other for operations. Levene believes that there should only be one chief for each arm. Under this model, operational control would be pushed down the chain of command from a four star rank to a three star.
• Establishing a new appointments committee that would be responsible for choosing the highest ranking officers in the army, RAF and the Royal Navy. The committee would be chaired by a non-executive director, chosen by the defence secretary. At the moment, the services make most mid-ranking and senior appointments in-house.
• Creating a new defence board that will have only one member of the military sitting on it. This would be the overall chief of the defence staff, currently General Sir David Richards. At the moment, chiefs from all three services sit on the board.
• Getting rid of many of the other minor boards that are responsible for managing different projects. In their place, individuals would be appointed to run them, and be held accountable for delays or overspending. This would cut down on bureaucracy and save money.
• Extending the time that some officials spend in posts at MoD headquarters from two to four years. This could provide greater continuity, particularly in important areas of procurement and strategic planning.
There has been a gradual erosion of the powers of the individual service chiefs over the years, but Levene's proposals would be another step change, and mean further upheaval for the armed forces as they continue operations in Libya and Afghanistan.
The effects of last year's strategic defence and security review are still reverberating, with thousands of redundancies required from the services and the civilian side. However, some defence analysts say change at the top is overdue, and should help to reduce some of the inter-service rivalry that has bedevilled the military over the decades.
Michael Codner, director of military sciences at the Royal United Services thinktank, said that reform should have been undertaken years ago: "We have done this in a very British way. We haven't rushed in, we have tried to learn lessons so babies haven't been thrown out with the bath water. We have gone at this slowly, and perhaps we should be a lot further ahead than we are."
The change over who has final responsibility for appointments was particularly important, he said, because at the moment many talented young officers who have experience of two services are being penalised for not being "loyal to one".
"Not enough of these capable officers who have joint experiences are coming up through the chain of command. It means that some people with experience of only one service are being promoted, even if they are not as good."
Codner said that Levene's remit had been to conduct a fundamental examination of how the MoD was structured, and it would be a test of Fox's mettle to drive through any reforms. "This will require strong leadership, of the kind provided by Michael Heseltine or George Robertson, when they were at defence."
Some senior officials at the MoD admit that the three services have been "their own worst enemies" over the years and that it is time they started to work in a more collaborative way.
However, there is also genuine concern that Levene's proposals could lead to a loss of expertise at a time when all three services are involved in difficult operations abroad. ...
- Full article, by Nick Hopkins: Armed forces face radical changes under Lord Levene plans
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