Our new ' honest, straight-talking and supportive' Chief of the Defence Staff, General Houghton has stated in a recent interview that the Armed Forces should ‘never miss the opportunity to exploit a crisis’, how can the Armed Forces exploit the crisis of dropping morale?
Ben Farmer, Defence Correspondent in the Daily Telegraph reports a 'Surge of soldiers wanting to quit prompts morale concerns'. He highlights that there were 6,210 applicants for 4,450 redundancy slot, with an even greater proportion of officers applying. The policy to take applicants over non-applicants has seen an increase in the quality of those leaving, but this is fundamentally the right thing to do. The greatest concern for the Army will be in the next few months as applicants who have not been selected under the Redundancy Programme and have perhaps dipped their toes into the civilian job market or have made the mental leap into civilian life will take Premature Voluntary Release (PVR). Those who will readily excel in 'civie street' are the high flying officers and soldiers that the Army would wish to retain. The Army's response is likely to be mixed – on one hand the bean counters will welcome any increase in PVR as this will reduce the numbers required in the last round of Redundancy and avoid paying the £50,000 redundancy payment, while it will be the Military Secretary who will be concerned at the loss of quality. As an organisation that grows its own talent from within, it will take some time before the full effects of this haemorrhaging talent is felt.
The MoD must have their heads in the sand if he thinks that the numbers wishing to leave the Army are not a reflection on morale! While the Redundancy package is generous (although not a generous as previous packages, nor those of the BBC!), the impact of the first two tranches is being hardest felt by the officer corps and this is definitely effecting morale. What civilian company would cut the number of employees and expect those remaining behind to cover the jobs of those who have left as well as their own workload? Yet this is exactly what the Army has done! The Military Secretary has highlighted the problem in his last newsletter with only 25% of Major posts and only 38% of Captains posts being filled at a recent board! The next Armed Forces Continuous Attitude Survey will make interesting reading! The last report highlighted that dissatisfaction with perceived workloads amongst Army officers was 63% - the highest of any group across the 3 Services! Furthermore, only 31% of officers feel valued, dropping from 50% in 2010, with a similar proportion of soldiers (29%) considering themselves valued.
So the Services are already 'running hot', Typhoons have been deployed to Cyprus, the Fleet are poised near Gibraltar on 'planned exercises' in the Mediterranean, there is undoubtedly a planning team looking at intervention in Syria – oh, and we now may be called on to cover for impending strike by the Fire Brigade over their new pension scheme, just as our new pension scheme is about to be imposed on us! The Chief of the Defence Staff, General Houghton suggests that the Armed Forces should ‘never miss the opportunity to exploit a crisis’, we fervently hope that the current multiple crises can be favorably exploited, only time will tell…