Fear of reputational damage and political controversy gags senior officers.
Richard Norton-Taylor reports in today's Guardian that Sir Hew Strachan, Chichele professor of the history of war at Oxford University believes that the current cohort of senior officers are gagged by the Ministry of Defence "for fear of reputational damage and political controversy", which Stachan states is akin to 'official paranoia'. He continues, 'like many armies in the past, the British Army struggles to foster effective debate within a hierarchical command chain."
Whilst Stachan's book on the Generals during the Blair tenure, appears to be focused on operational issues in both the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns, BAFF has also suffered from the gagging of effective debate. Are our voices heard by the chain of command and if they are, how effective has their behind the scenes lobbying been?
Fundamentally, the key rationale for a professional association is that whilst the chain of command may canvass views through CGS's Briefing Team, occasionally speaking to hand-picked soldiers on unit visits and the excellent work that the Service Families' Federations conduct (yet who speaks out for the singlies?), they are responsible for not only representing our concerns, but implementing policy.
In recent history, only General Dannatt has openly spoken out against government policy – and only when furthering his career to the appointment of CDS was blocked. What takes precedence, accepting the decisions of the Minister and Civil Servants and furthering their career, or accurately representing the soldiers, sailors and airmen that they should be representing?
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes…