Cut to the bone?


          Amidst all the spending increases of the last two years, the MOD has been the subject of cuts. We have been told these are deep and damaging. We have learned that we will have fewer tanks, ships and other military equipment. We read of redundancies for troops.

       I decided to ask a few questions to see how they were getting on. Let’s begin today with the army. This is being reduced to fewer than 100,000 personnel in uniform. I asked how many Majors were needed to command the units of such an army, expecting to hear it was around 800, with each Major commanding about 120 people. I was told the army currently has  4700 Majors, or  six times what you might expect.

       A Lieutenant Colonel typically commands a battalion of 650 people.  You would expect 150 of them in our slimmed down forces. Instead I was told we currently employ  1780, or 12 times the number you might expect. Indeed, you could form three battalions just of Lieutenant Colonels.

         An army does need some senior staff officers. You might have thought we needed around 15, given the number of brigades. Instead, I discover we employ 580 Colonels, or 38  times what one might expect.

            We are a bit shorter of Generals. There are 6 full General officers, 9 Lieutenant Generals , 43 Major Generals and 170 Brigadiers. If a brigade is around 2000 people, you might expect 50 Brigadiers. There is one senior officer for each battle tank, and around 8  Lieutenant Colonels for each tank.

           So we have a pay bill of over £400 million for top management in the army, with a diminishing number of people to command. Is this cut to the bone?


  1. jon
    November 22, 2011

    para 3 – I think you mean Lieutenant Colonels?

    1. Rebecca Hanson
      November 22, 2011

      Gosh – anyone might think the British Army had quite a lot of regiments of specialist with substantial experience who are not in management roles.

      Perhaps you might think that John and ask someone to tell you about these regiments and what they do rather than assuming the army is totally incompetent.

      You really should take care with this kind of post. Our armed forces are going through enough without you spreading this kind of misguided thinking.

  2. lifelogic
    November 22, 2011

    Hugely wasteful and top heavy like nearly all the things government tries to do. Yes troops in the field lack even basic equipment and are sent out in flimsy snatch landrovers lacking IED protection.

    Reply: they were, but better vehicles have now been bought

    1. lifelogic
      November 22, 2011

      Cameron’s speech yesterday -“We’re unleashing government to help business – not hold it back.” – presumably by taxing people at over 50%, forcing them to employ 95+ year old’s, introducing the no gender insurance rules, more paternity and employee and disabled rights, more fines and licences and increasing the size of the state sector burden they all have to carry……… I assume that is what he means.

      “My message to companies afraid of taking on workers because they fear costly employment tribunals is…

      …don’t be – look at the action we are taking.”

      Yes mainly the wrong direction alas – the 95+ year old’s again and agency workers, a heads you loose tail you loose tribunal system and just a promise to extend from 1 year to 2 year the minimum period – not yet in place though – great well done Cameron.

      “I’m not interested in ideological arguments about intervention versus laissez faire.

      I want an industrial strategy that works.”

      Well start to get the state down to a sensible size, sort out planning & let them build some runways and sack Huhne and his idiotically expensive energy plans then – only 3 and a bit years left after all.

      I am amazed that the CBI listen to all this guff in polite silence without rotten tomatoes to hand and even pay to go I assume.

      1. zorro
        November 22, 2011

        ” Hello, I work for the government, I’m here to help…..”….aaaarrrggghhh!


      2. Derek Buxton
        November 22, 2011

        Well said but for the last little bit, the CBI are part of the problem and have been for years. They are interested only in the protection big government gives them by regulating their competitors out of business. It is proving succesful, to start a new small business now must be a nightmare.

        1. Tom William
          November 22, 2011

          Very true and why so many big companies support the EU. They can afford the legislation, small ones can not.

      3. nicol sinclair
        November 22, 2011

        Irrelevant to the subject

      4. Bazman
        November 22, 2011

        It’s not sacking people, its the problem of not enough customers and as many customers are also consumers, putting the frighteners on them is not a good idea. On top of this how do you think the average worker is going to react when he finds he can be sacked at any moment? They should take the attitude of the employer. “I don’t respond to threats” and “That is you decision”
        Failing that. What every tradesman worth his trade should say. “You might do, but not me” or “Sorry can’t help you” “Good luck with that” and not forgetting the polite courtesy of telling an employer to “Ram it!” Driving off without saying anything is just down right rude.

    2. APL
      November 22, 2011

      JR: ” they were, but better vehicles have now been bought ”

      Better vehicles were available [just not purchased because of political expediency] yet the top heavy top brass were sitting happily in Whitehall the last ten years while ordinary folks children were being blown to smithereens in unarmored vehicles.

      If we retired or dismissed the excess in the officer corp, how many extra fighting troops could the army employ?

    3. Disaffected
      November 22, 2011

      What about the number of back room staff at Whitehall to service our military personnel? Surely any structural plan includes minimising the number of back room staff to maximise the front line personnel. The MoD procurement department appears ripe for a large culling after all the mess it has caused. It was reported the head was on £250,000 a year. It appears to me he ought to be sacked after the air craft carrier contract mess ups, the poorly equipped soldiers fighting unnecessary wars in the Middle East and the rest. No, I think the cull needs to start with back room staff and try to calculate how many front line personnel this could save. The requisite number of managers calculated on the number of personnel under their command.

      Greece has a standing army of over 100,000 for a population of 11 million, they are also buying submarines from Germany and Rafael planes from France. Why has the UK given (thrown away never to be seen again) a bankrupt Greece £9 billion in July and Cameron is about to embark in throwing away billions more money to Greece via the IMF that the UK has to borrow. Yesterday he want to tell the country that reducing the deficit is going to take longer than thought. When is the idiot going to stop throwing away tax-payers’ money on bankrupt countries and lost EU causes. The EU got a 2.2% budget increase this week when all public spending is being reduced in the UK and Cameron tells us it is difficult to meet spending targets- you could not make the stupidity up.

      It is as bad as his claims in the summer to be vigilant for terrorism when he knew of the “pilot scheme” to let anyone in the country without checking and continuing the mass immigration policy- which in itself also exacerbates the failing of the government to achieve its financial targets.

      John, need to align with David Davis, Boris Johnson and the other 81 Tory MPs and do something about Cameron and the wretched coalition. It is not working. Timing is everything and the public is completely fed up with the EU nonsense and the lack of decisions because of the idiocy of the Lib Dems- minor party that resoundingly lost at the last election.

    4. Bob
      November 22, 2011

      I once cut and pasted a paragraph from Peter Hitchen’s blog because it sounded quite incredible.

      “When it comes to military procurement, Israel spends £9 billion a year and administers its purchases with 400 people. Britain spends £10 billion annually on procurement and has a staff of 23,700 to do it.”

      I have no idea if it is correct, but perhaps our host would be able to verify or refute it.

      1. alan jutson
        November 23, 2011


        Yes seen it myself, but like you cannot remember where.

  3. Robert K
    November 22, 2011

    Not trying to be clever, but you say we have 1780 lieutenant generals – do you mean lieutenant colonels? Just that lower down you refer to nine lieutenant generals.

    Reply: Yes, I posted first draft in too much of a rush. Have now corrected, thanks

  4. Hmmmm
    November 22, 2011

    Am I missing something or is your maths out by a factor of 10 in re battalions and Lt. Cols and senior staff officers?

    Surely 650 goes around 150 times into 100,000, not 15 times?

    Reply:Maths is now checked and correct

  5. Mike Stallard
    November 22, 2011

    Thank you for a most interesting post.
    I wonder if you would now look at the number of civil servants employed by the MOD? Rumour has it that they vastly outnumber the number of soldiers, sailors and airmen put together.

    Reply: Yes, I will. THere will be a pause whilst I wait for the official answers

    1. Javelin
      November 22, 2011

      Interesting point – could this logic be applied to senior management in the civil service?

      Surely the ratios for troops can be applied in some form to civil servants?

      How do those figures work out John?

      1. A different Simon
        November 22, 2011

        The higher echelons of the civil service and the army are a benefit for public school system .

        My Nephew wants to join the army when he grows up and I wish I had the money to contribute to an independent education for him because even though he’s smart , he would only end up as cannon fodder .

        I admire the independent school system because they are run for the long term and not run into the ground for one off short-term financial gain .

        Wellington College just outside Wokingham was opened up for Victoria for the children of officers . I suppose in those days the officers paid for their own childrens education but a lot of independent schools would close if we suddenly reduced the number of officers and diplomats .

        I have been very impressed by all the officers , men and ex-servicemen I have met socially and in business .

        What stage would Germany be in if they had let the politicians put together the recovery plan in 1945 rather than leave it to the milliary men who kept the politicians at bay until it was finished ?

        Perhaps we can persuade these ex-army officers to stand for parliament and kick out of few of the lawyers and we might get somewhere ?

        1. nicol sinclair
          November 22, 2011

          “My Nephew wants to join the army when he grows up and I wish I had the money to contribute to an independent education for him because even though he’s smart , he would only end up as cannon fodder .”

          Untrue. Candidates from whatever background are now able to become officers – if they have ‘the right stuff’.

          1. A different Simon
            November 22, 2011

            That is reassuring to hear .

            Thanks I will look into it and make sure his parents do too .

        2. uanime5
          November 22, 2011

          The army has a special program for officers. As long as you’re as physically fit as a normal soldiers and are smart you can apply. The ‘Sandhurst’ documentary by the BBC explains what this entails.

          1. NickW
            November 22, 2011

            If I wanted factually accurate information, the very last place I would look for it is the BBC.

            Panorama? Primark?

            BBC pension fund heavily invested in Green Companies?

        3. Westerlyman
          November 22, 2011

          Even in the 70’s Wellington College only about 6 pupils a year (out of 600) went to the services. I am not sure what your point was in mentioning the historical reason for the founding of Wellington College but it has not been a significant issue for over 40 years.

        4. Alan Radford
          November 23, 2011

          That’s a good idea

  6. ian wragg
    November 22, 2011

    And the yanks buy the Harriers at a snip courtesy of the British taxpayer. We have no ships guarding the home shores and rely on NATO allies for air bases as we have no carriers.
    Roon shows the same lack of knowledge on defence as he does on business and energy. Loading up all of them with useless costs and driving business abroad whilst protecting the aid budget and paying more to Europe.
    The mans a joke. Anyway what cuts? Government spending continues to rise rapidly albeit on the wrong things.
    Wait till the bond markets are bored with the Euro area.

    1. zorro
      November 22, 2011

      The news on the Harriers made me sick to the stomach. As an island nation we need ships and a highly mobile airforce. We now depend on the French….What can go wrong?


      1. alan jutson
        November 22, 2011


        Yes. The USA seem to have a big smile on their face, it was reported over the weekend that a senior US defence minister said it was like buying a second hand car with only 15,000 miles on the clock, they cannot believe their luck.

        I wonder how much we are selling them for ?

        Given we could not even deploy a naval ship of any kind to defend our shores (telegraph report today) in October, and that we sent a new frigate to the gulf/libya with only 4 missiles to protect itself, you would think we would look after an aircaft which does not need an expensive runway, or a carrier to operate, because it has the flexibility to operate from a field.

        1. alan jutson
          November 22, 2011

          Aware there is not an immediate threat but:

          It only wants the Argentines to Bomb the runway in the Falklands and our present planes would have to land at sea.
          We have no carriers as back up, so its air operations from about 9,000 miles away,
          Not really a good idea.

          No its not a secret tactic, as we attempted to bomb the runway ourselves to restrict their aircraft operations when they held the islands.

          Harriers could still be operational, without a runway.

          Food for thought. !

          Suppose we could always lease them back from the US at huge cost, but then that would mean retraining our pilots again.

          1. A different Simon
            November 22, 2011

            Just after an upgrade to the resource estimate of the Sealion discovery in the North Falklands !

            I think the Argentians are waiting for the results of the drilling campaign which is due to kick of in the South Falklands in first quarter 2012 .

            Potentially a new province which could contain billions of barrels of oil .

            Alan , the Yanks are more likely to do a deal with Argentina to get hold of any oil than help British companies and Falklands Islanders to it .

          2. Tom William
            November 22, 2011

            That is why there are Typhoons based in the Falklands. And why the Vulcan only got one bomb on the runway at Port Stanley and did not hinder the Argies at all.

          3. Bob
            November 22, 2011

            It looks like unilateral disarmament.
            It’s always been a Lib Dem dream.

          4. alan jutson
            November 23, 2011


            Aware that Typhoons are based on the Island, and that was my point, they can only land on a runway, or have they been modified in some way.

  7. lojolondon
    November 22, 2011

    On top of that, the MOD has more employees than the army!! – how is it possible that we have more than one person supporting every person in the field?? The MOD needs serious cutbacks.

    John, this brings us to a serious problem – just like the armed forces, many councils are ‘cutting back’ – not on their top salaries, not on their silly, wasteful ‘green’ ‘ealf n safety’ or EU programmes, but intentionally on libraries, policemen, hospitals, social care for the aged, cruelly devastating their local people, with the clear intention of showing how ‘brutal Tory cuts’ are affecting the people in their areas, thus hoping to ensure a Labour vote next time round.
    The BBC, as the propaganda wing of the Labour party, is colluding with this, it will never make a news bulletin, they will never blow the whistle on this activity.

    Surely this can and should be stopped?

    1. Derek Buxton
      November 22, 2011

      Just one point, the stupid cuts are not all Labour, the limp Dims and “not the conservatives” are doing the same.

      1. Alan Radford
        November 23, 2011

        “the stupid cuts are not all Labour” – spelling mistake?

    2. uanime5
      November 22, 2011

      If only there was another news channel or independent newspapers who could report this. Oh wait there are both but they haven’t reported this. Does this mean they’re also colluding with the Labour party?

      Also the Government can control cuts by ring fencing the budgets for libraries, policemen, hospitals, and social care for the aged.

      1. Winston Smith
        November 22, 2011

        There is no waste in library provision, police forces, hospitals, social care?

    3. Disaffected
      November 22, 2011

      I wrote to Mr Pickles about this and got a very disappointing reply- almost defeatist. You might recall he was naming and shaming councils, it has come to nothing. He needs to take an interventionist approach to force them to spend less. Some councils charge public to enter and leave rubbish at waste sites. They have reduced the opening times at waste sites so and so forth. Yet pet projects are still funded, high salaries for so called director of services who peg their large salaries to the CEO. They could not direct the proverbial knees up in a brewery.

      The amount of child specialists in the respective education departments to come up with all sorts of child syndromes is unbelievable. Is it a new invention, where were all these syndromes when were were kids? Even the lazy ones knew how to behave towards the teacher or receive the consequences. No consequences any more. Most of which come down to say little Johnny has lazy syndrome of one kind or another and another excuse to undermine teacher control in the classroom.

      John had it right the other day when he said most people would like the councils to spend less and charge less. Sadly Mr Pickles and co still do not appreciate how integrated the lefty social bunch are even in Tory led councils. One way to reduce costs would be to draw up new boundaries and make them all unitary authorities thereby reducing the vast amount of managers and hopefully putting more people on front line services.

  8. NickW
    November 22, 2011

    Does the Army have a system of Grade equivalents, whereby everybody knows that a certain rank in the Army is equivalent to a certain Grade in the civil service?

    Don’t expect civil service management to get rid of people in the same or a higher grade than themselves.

    Apart from anything else, those in the higher grades and ranks have the contacts and skills to block redundancies and game the system.

    Reply Yes there are equivalent ranks in the civil service

    1. Tedgo
      November 22, 2011

      A major is equivalent to a civilian grade C2. The major is paid twice that of the C2, a major would argue that he/her is on 24 hour call, whereas the civilian works 37 hours per week.

      1. Tedgo
        November 22, 2011

        That should have been 24/7.

    2. norman
      November 22, 2011

      That was my thoughts exactly on reading this.

      No real problem to get rid of a bunch of unwashed squaddies / binmen / whatever (and really, with our benefits system they won’t be much worse off for being thrown on to the scrapheap, eh?) but can’t get rid of old Gussie, known him since prep school, what, and what would the chaps at the club say? Or when we bump into mutual friends at soirees, simply unthinkable!

      Looks like a nice and cosy old boys network still operating, which may be unfair but it’s the impression I get.

      The modern equivalent is the new boys network of council and quango bureaucrats who, if the fortnightly stories in Private Eye are anything to go by, flit from six figure post to six figure post pocketing massive pay offs and pension pots in the process.

      1. nicol sinclair
        November 22, 2011

        Try being a soldier. If you were not, then you don’t know what you are talking about…

        I served you & yours & the government of the time for 25 years… Without rancour.

      2. Mike Stallard
        November 22, 2011

        Do you actually know any officers?
        The ones I meet are all just ordinary people, most of them certainly not from Public School (thank heavens). Actually they look just like the men and behave the same too.
        I hesitate to accuse you of living in the past, but you are doing just that! Times change you know……

        PS and the women too…… always the women……

  9. zorro
    November 22, 2011

    The grade inflation is symptomatic of all government departments…For instance; compare the number of Grade 7 and above grades now in UKBA with the number employed in its forerunner organisations 10 years ago…performance improvement is zilch.


    1. zorro
      November 22, 2011

      Too many ‘Sitting Bulls’ and not enough ‘braves’…..


  10. JimF
    November 22, 2011

    No, and this is the correct way to come at this problem.

    We all know of course that the way HM Government comes at it is to say, well we have x thousand Major Generals or whatever so maybe an 8% cut in numbers doesn’t sound too bad, particularly if we give those remaining some extra pay and privileges to boost morale. We desperately need a situation which brings about your way round of looking at this. In a democratic society, it should be electors who can see through the chicanery and push out governments who borrow and spend like this and the previous one. it’s clear though that this doesn’t happen. Look what it takes to start bringing about changes of habit in Greece/Italy! We really need the bond markets to give up on the UK to bring some long term and fundamental changes about. Perhaps a total change of strategy then-Vote Ed and Ed?

    1. Kevin Ronald Lohse
      November 22, 2011

      Why not? Both those gentlemen have a reputation for controlling profligate spending and borrowing which is second only to the former governments of Greece and Italy, together with a record of supporting the Democratic process which compares favourably with the EU. We would be controlled by Brussels in next to no time!

  11. Pete the Bike
    November 22, 2011

    Too many chiefs not enough Indians. Same old story.
    Sack them.
    Better still, stop fighting illegal, immoral and pointless wars thousands of miles from home. Refrain from starting any more. Only station British troops on British territory. Only build aircraft carriers when you have some planes to put on them. Get rid of all the consultants.

    1. Gary
      November 22, 2011

      Spot on. We need a DEFENCE force. Get out of playing Empire, that is over. Stop going around the world kicking other countries doors down. You cannot go to the end of your street, beat someone up and say, “Your honour, he was thinking of coming over to my house”. That is not defence. Using force to build an economy does not work. Use the hundreds of billions of military money and effort to instead focus on building a world class manufacturing economy at home.. That is the way to long term success.

      1. nicol sinclair
        November 22, 2011

        We are not playing Empire. We are fighting wars (or now one) waged by Mr Blair. The soldiers do what they are told in a democracy…

      2. Tom William
        November 22, 2011

        And leave it to the Americans to protect us from mad men and fanatics? (note – I do not believe the war in Afghanistan is “winnable” or ever was, even though, for the moment, life is better than it was under the Taliban).

  12. John Fitzgerald
    November 22, 2011

    John perhaps, if you have not already done it, you might try the same exercise with the National Health Service. I have a feeling the figures could be even worse! How many managers do you need to control a brigade of nurses and doctors?

    Reply: Indeed – I feel more questions coming on

    1. lojolondon
      November 22, 2011

      I think these managers are well hidden – you will need a spade to dig deep here – trusts, normal hospitals, emergency units and advisory groups, NICE, etc. all have a bunch of ‘managers’, managing everything from media relationships to ‘green objectives’.
      As I said earlier, when the pressure is on they fire 20 nurses, intentionally to make the public realise how cruel and uncaring the Tories are, when they have to wait 24 hours to be seen.

  13. A.Sedgwick
    November 22, 2011

    Great stuff – the cry from the ranks has always been “too many Ruperts”. This information further indicts the Coalition’s misguided reduction in our useable defence force.

    Day by day Cameron shows he does not know what he is doing e.g. taxpayer guaranteed mortgages – here we go again.

    1. Gary
      November 22, 2011

      Can you believe it ? After what the housing bubble has done to our economy, here is yet another “initiative” to use taxpayer money to subsidize the house price bubble ! They are clueless.

    2. Paul Greenwood
      November 22, 2011

      the housing scheme sounds like sub prime !

  14. Alan
    November 22, 2011

    I worked for about 30 years in MOD, all the time with military officers as colleagues. Only very rarely did I meet an officer who actually commanded soldiers, sailors, or airmen. Instead they dealt with the specification, design, development, or purchase of new equipment. They worked out tactics for how new equipment should be used in battle. They decided which equipments they could afford within the budget and which they had to do without. They designed new tactics to cope with the change from the cold war to the wars we have had to fight since the end of the Warsaw Pact.

    I don’t know how many officers are really necessary for these activities, but I do know these activities are important and have to be done, and many of them have to be done by people with a military background. We should not expect a direct relationship between the numbers of soldiers and the number of officers.

    1. The Realist
      November 22, 2011

      A pertinent point which I agree with, but that not withstanding that there is room for some cuts. You also missed out the other necessary roles carried out by both commissioned and non-commissioned officers that of Military Attaches, Exchanges, Overseas secondments/training , Security etc. Admittedly that will not account for all the supposed ‘excess senior officers’ , but it will account for a fair few. I can only guess that there is room for 20% cut via an early retirement scheme.

    2. Alan Wheatley
      November 22, 2011

      Thank you for making the point I had in mind.

      I would add the medical core, who are not expected to lead front line troops into battle. Before a wholesale culling of the officer ranks it would be as well to be clear exactly what it is they are doing and why they are needed, or not.

      It is certainly reasonable to ask the question. I hope decision making is not in the hands of the armchair generals.

    3. lojolondon
      November 22, 2011

      Well, speak to anyone who deals with the MOD – impossible to deal with, Billions spent on the wrong solution, bids that go on forever and ever. The MOD is a self-sustaining organism, a holiday camp for well-connected soldiers who want somewhere safe to stay until early retirement.
      Surely, with 500 years of experience and knowledge in the business of war we can manage to ‘test’ and ‘strategise’ with about one person per, say, 10 soldiers? All ex-soldiers, granted, but Brigadiers are the wrong people to ask about how comfortable a rifle is after carrying it for a month, squaddies are the right people.

      1. nicol sinclair
        November 22, 2011

        “but Brigadiers are the wrong people to ask about how comfortable a rifle is after carrying it for a month”

        How crass! Every single brigadier will have carried a rifle in his more tender years. And, what’s more, that rifle will have been a whole lot heavier than the present one. He will have carried an SLR whereas nowadays the soldiers carry the SA 80 nor whatever it is currently called. By the way, I took part in the original trials on the SA 80 – what a lightweight dream it was…

    4. nicol sinclair
      November 22, 2011

      Oh, how I agree with you. A breath of fresh air in the smog of comments above from positions of complete ignorance as usual…

  15. alan jutson
    November 22, 2011

    I think we all knew it was top heavy, you have just exposed by how much.

    What would be really interesting is if you published the salary cost for each of these positions, and then added up each catagory, you will then see the real cost of putting just one soldier in the field when all of the overheads are added together.

    Any one for a guess, £500,000 a year perhaps, when you include all those in the MOD as well.

    I doubt that the Navy and Airforce is much better.

    All talkers, too few doers.
    Same as local Authorities, Civil service, Customs & Excise etc..

    Reply: I have given a rough estimate of salary cost of this overhead. A Lt Colonel is paid around £75,000 and a Brigadier around £100,000

    1. A different Simon
      November 22, 2011

      How about the benefits :-
      – 2 kids in Wellington College circa £60k
      – pension contributions for high flyers on final salary basis equivalent to say 55% of salary accross career

      75,000 + 60,000 + 41,250 = circa £176k package

      100,000 + 60,000 + 55,000 = circa £215k package

      So comparable to the package for simmilar grades in the police force , NHS trusts etc .

      1. A different Simon
        November 22, 2011

        Oops , I forgot to add income tax to the £60k net education benefits :-

        For the Lt Colonel the education benefit :-
        – 75,000 @40% leaving £45,000 net
        – 30,000 @50% leaving £15,000 net

        For the Brigadier

        50,000 @40% leaving £30,000 net
        60,000@50% leaving £30,000 net

        So the revised figures are :-
        75,000 + 105,000 + 41,250 = circa £221k package

        100,000 + 110,000 + 55,000 = circa £265k package

        Quite far removed from those headline figures of £75,000 and £100,000 ?

  16. Iain Gill
    November 22, 2011

    the MOD civil service is worse

    and the large defence contractors are just as bad, often stuffed full with retired military officers with little idea about the domain they are involved in

    for instance I have seen (repeatedly) some of the biggest defence contractors hire recently retired military officers and use them to “lead” big software programmes, er it doesnt work! 20 or 30 years leading an artilary regiment does not qualify you for running a big IT and business change programme. consequently the programmes go belly up regularly. BUT from the defence contractors point of view they have nice (cosy-ed) relationships which keep the lid on the wildest extremes.

    go spend a few days at MOD Abbey Wood and you will see hundreds of senior officers engaged in paper shuffling and very bad procurement practises. the number of (special-ed) funds held within the procurement process is outrageous.

    Abbey Wood and similar sites could be cut to around a tenth of the staff and it would do nothing but improve our defence

    Never actually been all that impressed with the leadership qualities of the military officer class either, there is a lot of nonsense talked about how good they are

    1. nicol sinclair
      November 22, 2011

      “Never actually been all that impressed with the leadership qualities of the military officer class either, there is a lot of nonsense talked about how good they are”

      Try fighting without them. Have you been in a real firefight? Thought not…

    2. Tom William
      November 22, 2011

      Remember who rapidly sorted out the Foot and Mouth shambles after civilian box- tickers had failed? Just one example of being able to take decisions rapidly, and lead. It is easy to cite over promoted officers, but more accurate not to be prejudiced.

      1. Iain Gill
        November 23, 2011

        there are a LOT of dross senior officers, and in my experience the forces do a great job of making things work despite not because of them

    3. Iain Gill
      November 23, 2011

      thanks for the careful moderation here john, i am trying to post so that you dont need to do that, i guess i need to try harder 🙂

  17. Peter T
    November 22, 2011

    Could it be that we could learn a lot from a force such as the Israeli Defence Force? We do seem to be a little top heavy. Apart from considering Senior Officers does the MOD need a review also? We might be surprised at what we find.

    1. backofanenvelope
      November 22, 2011

      It might be better to use a another comparator, given that the IDF is a conscript force. In my experience the USAF had a very similar system to that of the RAF. Perhaps Mr Redwood could get someone to do a bit of research?

    2. forthurst
      November 22, 2011

      “Could it be that we could learn a lot from a force such as the Israeli Defence Force?”

      Yes. Get the US/UK/NATO/’Coalition of the Willing’ to fight your own wars against those with the capability of fighting back and use your own forces for attacking those that can’t.

  18. stred
    November 22, 2011

    Surely this degree of mis-management would justify instant dismissal and altering the redundancy allowances. An offset charge for the amount of taxpayers wasted money could be enacted by a new government. Of course, this would require a new party with this made clear in a manifesto. There would be more Indians than Chiefs at the ballot box.

    Why don’t you and MPs with sense- and there are some on the Labour benches- start a new Party. If you stay with the present useless bunch of wasters you will be out of a job anyway.

  19. JimS
    November 22, 2011

    When I worked in the MOD 20 years ago it easily employed 5 times as many civilians as were needed. Since then there have been big changes with the MOD getting rid of staff that actually know about equipment and increasing the numbers involved in ‘innovative’ contracting. The later usually involves getting a contractor to tell the MOD what it needs, another to pick the bidders, another to project manage etc. Alongside that a lot of in-house jobs have either been privatised or put out to contract, shifting expenditure apparently from administration to ‘equipment’.

    In principle it is surely better to have a high civilian/military ratio in the staffing. Sophisticated equipment needs heavy support ‘back at base’ and minimal operators ‘in the field’, where the military should be. Where they shouldn’t be is back in the MOD with second careers or ‘in reserve’ being paid 24/7 for 9 to 5 jobs that could be done better and cheaper by civilian staff.

  20. Richard
    November 22, 2011

    Thank you for a very interesting and revealing insight into a classic case of “cuts” as applied inside an organisation with a hierarchical management structure.

    It is textbook stuff how the necessity to economise is carefully passed down through the numerous levels of management until it reaches the front line where most, if not all the burden falls.

    This isn’t unpredictable, it is human nature, its the survival instinct in action , and it has been happening in the UK for decades.
    This is why we now have so much management in the Government of this country, whilst we the people, feel the services we are receiving are reducing and those working on the front lines of these organisations feel they are having to work harder with reduced resources.
    Other organisations with an hierarchical structure are the Police, Local Councils, Quangos in general and the daddy of them all the EU.

    To see where they eventually end up, read about the fall of the USSR, which collapsed under a huge debt burden with an enormous top layer of state employees being unable to be funded any more, by the hardpressed minority of working peasant taxpayers.

    1. uanime5
      November 22, 2011

      Regarding the USSR:

      1) Everything was state owned so everyone was a state employee.

      2) State owned companies in the USSR were uncompetitive because they has to provide employment for everyone, resulting in them becoming overstaffed. They were also uncompetitive because they has to provide healthcare and welfare to their employees (like in the USA).

      3) Innovations and services were poor because there was no competition (the same thing occurs in capitalist monopolies and cartels).

      So it’s unlikely that the reasons that caused the Communist USSR to collapse will affect a Capitalist country.

  21. Andrew S
    November 22, 2011

    I think there needs to be some balance to this argument though.
    How long does it take to develop experienced armed forces leaders, they don’t just come off a production line whenever you want some more. If you need a fleet of 4 trident submarines to ensure you always have 1 on station and ready to perform when needed, there has to be a similar metric in relation to senior staffing surely? Apply a “4 times” multiplier and then how far off are the numbers ? And in real terms what then is the difference, a few hundred? What if we suddenly needed them due to a conflict or threat. Do we even have any aircraft carriers at the moment? How sensible is that for a country whose borders are entirely demarcated by the sea?

  22. Thatcher's Iron Stil
    November 22, 2011

    To true John, but not unexpected.

    It has been the same in the private sector for years.

    It is seen as moral boosting to give people promotions and regularly. More so people expect them as a matter of course or length of service regardless of performance. Even lower ranks require their titles changed to massage their egos. Nobody is today content to work 15 years as a clerk or even an assistant manager. The driving cause for this, in my opinion, is that most companies have an inability to reward a pay rise without a promotion of some sort. This results in people who deserve a pay rise for good work, but will never make good managers, being thrust into positions of staff management that are inappropriate for them.

    In the banking services within which I work, some companies have utterly preposterous naming systems. So much so that I find it embarrassing when having to use tittles. Luckily I am a consultant these days. Although even that would have been termed a temp or a contractor in days gone past. Clerks are now Executives or Officers. Managers are Assistant Vice Presidents, Vice Presidents or Senior Vice Presidents. Directors are now Associate or Executive Directors, then Directors, then Managing Directors. All of whom are ten a penny.

    In the military of course this is not possible as the tradition of such ranks is pretty much set in stone. I would, however, not be surprised to learn that many of these people probably do not deserve their rank.

    In a world where it is believed to be healthy to tell people they can achieve anything, regardless of what their ability is, and where equality laws stand looking over the shoulder of employers, is it any wonder the people feel it is their right, rather than their aspiration, to move up the ladder continuously?

    1. Tedgo
      November 22, 2011

      Reminds me of the saying, ‘everyone is promoted to their level of incompetence’.

    2. uanime5
      November 22, 2011

      Regarding the naming system companies have found that employees are more willing to accept more work for no extra money if you give them a fancy title. Though managers tend to justify high salaries and their own self-worth by giving themselves fancy titles.

  23. Steve Cox
    November 22, 2011

    Be grateful that we don’t have any Field Marshals!

  24. Stephen O
    November 22, 2011

    Aside from commanding military units, higher ranks will be posted to NATO (or the Pentagon), acting as military attaches with British embassies, base commanders, (full time) commanders for TA & reserve units, on training/teaching courses and staff projects within the MOD. Also I read General Mike Jackson’s biography a couple of years back and noted that even for this high flyer (who you would expect to have a higher ratio of unit commands on his CV), he commanded actual military units only for one out of each two or three positions he held as his career progressed.

    That said, though I could understand why you might reasonably usefully employ three, maybe four times the 150 number, but twelve times does seem high. Will you be asking a follow up question as to the analysis of how senior officers are employed? If they are simply doing jobs which would otherwise be held by similarly paid civil servants within the MOD bureaucracy, I am not sure this is a problem. Displacing regular civil servants may well be a plus, both by ensuring there is better understanding of operational issues and also from the HR aspect for providing some career potential for junior officers to encourage them to join in the first place.

    As to whether the MoD is being cut to the bone, certainly there are cuts that should not be made that have been or are in coming, but there are also cuts which should be made that are not. I think you need to get more analysis to determine if senior officer headcount is one of the later (and to pin-point where so it is an actionable point). I hope you pursue this.

  25. Richard1
    November 22, 2011

    i think we’d do better to focus on getting rid of quangos than soldiers. there is still an ‘equality and human rights commission’. The name alone is enough to tell you its work would be better not done. There are enormously expensive global warming advisory bodies carrying out such nefarious activities as lobbying for the wind industry. There must be thousands of these kind of people whose costs can be saved and whose talents would be much better deployed in some useful work in the private sector.

    1. Derek Buxton
      November 22, 2011

      Best idea on this thread so far, well done!

    2. Winston Smith
      November 22, 2011

      The Audit Commission is still going strong, nearly 18mths after it was supposed to be abolished.

  26. sm
    November 22, 2011

    Quite, now the process and logic could be applied to numerous public bodies.
    Only when this data is provided and dsicussed publicly should frontline staff be made redundant.

    Where next as it would be unfair to single out the Army/MOD. However one must start somewhere and if they cut frontline staff or raise tax/revenues or seek big grant support thats a big RED FLAG to have a look.

  27. waramess
    November 22, 2011

    Excellent post. Why I wonder is not someone in the government doing this as a pre-requisit to all cuts?

  28. Tedgo
    November 22, 2011

    I fully agree with your view, though your suggestion of one per unit is not quite workable. Take majors, for instance, some will be approaching retirement or promotion so there has to be younger majors developing in the system to replace them. Perhaps a ratio of 1.5 would be more practical.

    Equally middle ranks like army captains and majors are used for other purposes such as training, project management and support for senior offices. The down side, particularly in project management, is that the officers are moved on to new posts all too soon. They never see a project completed, and the replacement officer often has different views and objectives. When dealing with outside suppliers and contractors this is a real recipe for cost and time overruns.

    There are certainly too many officers commanding desks. When the army headquarters moved to Andover from Wilton, the top military brass decided that the base should be staffed by military personnel rather than civilians. This is ongoing and other Andover based MOD agencies have been forced to move to other sites, adding unnecessary costs and disruption to peoples livelihoods. Sadly, for the tax payer, the relatively new office furniture in Andover was replaced with brand new stuff.

    On the wider front of purchasing military equipment the MOD’s policy seems to be to feed the defence industry gravy train.

    Take the type 45 destroyers from BAE, does anyone really think they are worth £800 million each, the largest cruise liners in the world cost less than this. Norway and Denmark have built perfectly adequate frigates for a low fraction of the cost of the type 45’s. Even the cheaper frigates are too sophisticated for modern navy requirements such as anti pirate operations.

    Yet recently the government has given BAE £127m to outline the design of a cheaper frigate. We don’t actually get a real frigate for this money, just some paper concepts. The money is simply to keep BAE’s large design team together.

    BAE needs to realise that the MOD is never going to be able to sustain them as military shipbuilders in the future. They need to move over to commercial shipbuilding, with the occasional military build now and then. People will say the work is different, the Danish frigates were built in a commercial yard. Other will say commercial yards cannot survive in Europe, I would say look at the Dutch, Germans, Poles and Finns. Interestingly BAE have started commercial shipbuilding in the USA.

    Although we have not yet decided to replace Trident submarines, £3 billion has already been committed to their design and the purchase of special steels and propulsion systems. If anyone believes that special steels need a lead time of 10+ years, they surely believe the moon is made of cheese. Again it is simply a sop to keep the various contractor alive.

    I have never understood why the typhoon was developed as an interceptor, that is for air to air defence, rather than a multi role aircraft. No doubt expensive follow on contracts to develop the ground attack version have been and will continue to be very lucrative to BAE.

    One could go on and on.

  29. Ferdinand
    November 22, 2011

    Many thanks for searching out and publishing that information. Now, who is going to act upon it and when ? I do hope you will let us know what answers you receive and not some laconic response along the lines “It is under review”

  30. Michael Read
    November 22, 2011

    Exactly what an MP should be doing. The figures reveal the real horror lying behind abstractions about defence cuts.

    “Exactly how many people does it take to change a lightbulb/hold a gun in the MoD?”

  31. NickW
    November 22, 2011

    Off topic for a moment;

    Spain’s Bond yields are rising, despite a decisive “Conservative” election victory.

    Given that the EU is institutionally socialist with President Barroso being an (ex?) Communist, (See his Wikipaedia entry), is the ECB playing favourites and only supporting Governments which suit its Socialist agenda?

    Does the EU want to try and get rid of a newly elected right wing Government and install its own people?

    Why isn’t the ECB supporting Spain through the vulnerable period of transition of Government?

    1. uanime5
      November 22, 2011

      Spain hasn’t asked for support.

      As far as the EU and ECB are concerned the Spanish Government is a success if Spain can fix its own problems without requiring any additional money. Destabilising it is not in the financial interest of the EU and ECB.

    2. oldtimer
      November 22, 2011

      Today both Angela Merkel and the President of the Bundesbank have said out loud to camera that there will be no `big bazooka` and that the ECB is not authorised to bale out EZ states. The fact that the ECB has authorised itself to buy EZ bonds up to c20 billion euros a week was not mentioned! It is austerity on German terms or, unsaid of course, get out.

  32. George Stewart
    November 22, 2011


    You are missing a vital element in regards to the top heavy nature of the military in peace time. Though sadly some of my former colleagues can not explain such to politicians. 🙂

    Lets start with a simple question. How do you manufacture a Lieutenant? Well that is easy and you can do that in short order taking a young man or woman off the proverbial street and in less than 12 months have a qualified and trained Lieutenant.

    But lets go to a more complicated problem. How do you manufacture not a Lieutenant but rather a Lieutenant Colonel?

    A Lieutenant Colonel is a product of an assortment of military training schools, on the job training and years of experience. Most Lieutenants will never ever make it to Lieutenant Colonel as they fail to make each subsequent selection board.

    There are many good Lieutenants who do not have what it takes to make Captain, there are many good Captains who do not have what it takes to make Major, there are many good Majors who do not have what it takes to make Lieutenant Colonel and there are many good Lieutenant Colonels who do not have what it takes to make Colonel. The problem is that you do not know which Lieutenants will eventually have what it takes to make Lieutenant Colonel.

    Your math is not quite correct in staffing the Army but it is essentially correct back of the napkin math for manning a force of 100,000. But that is your problem, you are manning a force of 100,000.

    You are a politician and I say that with respect yet those are the blinders on your eyes with this analysis.

    Do you wish to limit the maximum size of a UK land force to only 100,000 in the event of a war, a real war?

    The top heavy nature of the force is designed as such so that there can be a rapid increase in its size during wartime with conscription. It is easy to bring in a young new recruit in the lowest rank during wartime but there needs to be a skeleton leadership structure in place.

    At the end of WWII, the British Army was at around 3,500,000 in end strength. An army of that size needs a whole lot more senior officers than what you are arguing for.

    If you are not going to nurture the growth of senior officer ranks through training and experience, the only alternative is direct appointments out of civilian life to the most senior ranks.

    Now I have to ask you several questions as a politician.

    1.) Do you wish to limit the maximum size of the army to 100,000 which is what you will do with just enough majors, lieutenant colonels, colonels…..?

    2.) Are you willing to be responsible if we truly go to war whereby the senior ranks would be filled by direct appointment from civilian life?

    You should study the history of the US Army in relation to the establishment of the reserve officers training corps and how that grew out of shortages in the first war helping greatly in the next.

    I hope my explanation has helped.

    Cheers, George Stewart

    1. NickW
      November 22, 2011

      These are good points; but deficit reduction is an imperative.

      Why not have a scheme to transfer experienced high ranking officers to an active reserve?

      Army officers are highly valued in civilian life because of their man management skills and (self) discipline. Employers should be willing to fit in with reserve duties. The Services might consider seconding Senior officers to industry for term appointments with the temporary employer taking over responsibility for wage payments during the appointment. There are a lot of options which could be explored which would actually be beneficial to everybody. Highly motivated people do not like twiddling their thumbs with nothing to do.

      Army officers are used to making hard decisions which require sacrifices.

      Maybe there is a role for experienced, battle hardened officers working in the civil service on deficit reduction?

      Having a cadre of civil servants who were actually capable of making a decision AND who had the courage to take personal responsibility for it would make a refreshing change for the Civil Service.

      1. George Stewart
        November 22, 2011

        Your thought process is correct and the political masters need to make tough positions and be willing to be held accountable.

        It may make sense to greatly ramp up the TA with a very top heavy structure designed for a surge.

        But again with all due respect to John Redwood, I think he first needs to state what does he want the Army to be able to do under all scenarios that he views as reasonable and possible.

        To be bluntly honest, there is not a hell of a lot you can do with 100,000. over any period of time.

        Oh, forgot to mention you need to also state how long a possible conflict will last. If you state that 100,000 men will be deployed for up to five years…then I have few words to say to that man who comes up with that requirement.

        In the last decade, the Americans kept redeploying the same men again and again and again.

    2. Mike Chaffin
      November 22, 2011

      Raising the size of the Army through conscription might have been a relatively quick process in the second world war, not any more.

      The argument that you simply have to have thousands of senior officers as a surge capability breaks down when you realise that modern soldiering is not a case of sticking a rifle in someone’s hands and telling them to charge.

      It takes over 6 months just to train a non specialist private up to be a casualty replacement, as it to join an existing unit. I’d say (having been there and done it in the TA) closer to a year.

      To raise a new fully formed unit you’d be looking at a great deal longer.

      To equip such units even longer still, especially if they were something other than light infantry.

      Anecdotally I’ve heard of senior Army officers bragging that their HQ tent runs an organisation the size of the RAF ( with roughly 20 staff).

      It would be interesting to plot the size of the officer corps from the time when the Army was at it’s largest to today. I suspect there wouldn’t be as much of a difference as you’d assume.

      At present you could have a Colonel commanding each fireteam in the front line infantry.

      Simply ridiculous, as is your surge analogy.

    3. A different Simon
      November 22, 2011

      Great point George .

      These cultures have taken decades to establish .

      You only have to look at what happened when the banks ditched branch managers and responsible lending because it was “too expensive” .

      These things just can’t be reconstructed quickly when needed . Even if our banks were ready to lend they got wrid of the staff with the expertise to lend to small business .

    4. Tedgo
      November 22, 2011

      I have always assumed that the excessive numbers of officers was to cover a general mobilisation using conscription in the event of a serious war threat.

      However, its a costly way to provide that backup, surely spending much more on the territorial army would be a better way to go now.

      1. George Stewart
        November 22, 2011


        Well that is the political question, which I do not quibble with actually.

        John Redwood is proposing, it seems, that the Army be staffed to a maximum war time end strength of 100,000.

        If he is not satisfied that a 100,000 man capability is sufficient for the UK, then he needs to ask the uniformed services what type of cadre strength is required to do a wartime surge up to ____________ .

        What the political class can not ask the military class to do is to provide a wartime capability of 1,000,000 with a force designed for a maximum of 100,000. Because that is morally reckless and men will pay for that with their blood.

        I hope that lessons have been learned from the Americans in the last ten years where too few men were tasked to do far too much.

        Reply: I want to leave Afghanistan, and did not vote for the Libyan intervention. I want us to intervene less in the Middle East

        1. George Stewart
          November 23, 2011

          Dear John:

          I agree with your reply and respect it with both my heart and mind.

          What I hope and pray that you carry forward to the political masters is that military objectives/requirements are determined first, publicly stated, and end strength/cadre requirements are determined from those objectives and requirements as that is secondary. Note that a conscription surge is part of the equation.

          Pulling a number out of the air like 100,000 for the sake of a number is reckless and dangerous.

          What must we do? Answer that operationally and then I will tell you how many are required and in what grade over what time frame.

          The size of the Army can not and must not be driven by budget constraints. It must be driven solely by current and possible operational requirements.

          If the political masters ask for and fund an Army that can only defend the Falklands but demand it defeat Russia, it is the political masters that have failed not the Army.

    5. Tom William
      November 22, 2011

      Well said.

    6. Winston Smith
      November 22, 2011

      You make a valid point about increasing the size of the army in future, but that would be a relatively small increase and would account for a small number of extra senior officers, not the thousands JR mentioned. Also, you talk of warfare in a bygone era. To be frank your scenarios are verging on the ridiculous.

  33. forthurst
    November 22, 2011

    We need to know about how these officers are deployed, where and what do they do. Is there a tendency for the Armed Forces to offer full careers to the officer class? In days gone by, the pyramid was reinforced by retiring those who failed to make the next grade. Is there scope for putting staff into reserve categories on retainer? What about redeployment to an enhanced Territorial Army; we cannnot choose the size of the forces required to fight an effective war; that is determined by the enemy. We do need proper military men in the Defence dept who understand the that war is for real, not just computer games.
    What proportion of those with commissions have been fully trained through Sandhurst and how many wear nurses uniforms, dog collars etc?

    However, the main requirement for controlling costs of the military should be a Foreign Office with far more backbone and sense of patriotism when it comes to deciding what belligerence is actually in the national interest rather than caving in every time a certifiable neocon gets on the phone.

  34. EJT
    November 22, 2011

    Well done pointing this out. From my experience, it’s not just the direct cost. Organisations this top-heavy are always very inefficient. The excess at the top have to justify their existence and meddle. Cut them to the bone, and push decision responsibility downwards to those close to the coalface.

  35. oldtimer
    November 22, 2011

    Presumably you are about to conduct the same analysis for the Royal Navy and the RAF. I recall, many years ago (early 1980s), that there were over 100,000 RAF personnel supporting c1000 pilots (or it might have been 2000!). Whichever it was, the ratio surprised me. My source was an Air Commodore. He confessed that he was surprised too when he first became aware of it.

    Your rough cut analysis, however, may not give enough weight to the staff or logistical support that an army needs. The general staff, in particular, will be more heavily weighted with senior officers. Mungo Melvin`s biography of Manstein offers, to the layman, an interesting insight into the staff and commanding role of one of the most capable senior officers in WW2. That said, your main point about an excess of senior ranks sounds correct.

  36. Neil Craig
    November 22, 2011

    And I understand the number of civilians shuffling paper in the MoD is either close to or greater than the number in the army.

    On top of that we spend 10s of billions paying preferred bidders to develop new weapon systems more expensive than equivalents already available off the shelf There is also a suspicious correlation between where contracts go and the constituencies of the party in power. This looks like a jobs creation programme for friends.

    Above all these, however, there is little concern for what our actual military interests are and how best to serve them. We have no national need to permanently occupy Afghanistan or anywhere else. We do have a need to prevent missile attacks on Britain and maintain passge of the seas. For far less than we spend maintaining a large conventional army which merely allows us to get bogged down in countries we have no need to occupy, we could be utilising new technology to run air defence; long range projection of power; and space satellite facilities to match anybody in the world.

  37. Andrew Duffin
    November 22, 2011

    It’s good to see the figures, Mr. Redwood, and thanks to whoever researched them.

    But the principle was pointed out more than fifty years ago by Prof. C. Northcote Parkinson, and oddly enough he too used the military as his example, pointing out that the number of pen-pushers and senior officers continued to increase even as the size of the fleet diminished.

    He suggested – as a joke – that before long we would have more admirals than ships.

    It wasn’t a joke, it has now actually happened.

    It seems we never learn, or rather, our ruling political classes never learn.

  38. Bernard Otway
    November 22, 2011

    Dream on all of you,we are so like the old USSR ,NOTHING will happen until the whole edifice self destructs due to lack of funds,and I mean the WHOLE of public service [non].
    Someone else said wait until the Markets turn on us [God Forbid].I urge all posters to google
    Kyle Bass and watch the Hardtalk interview where he forensically analyses what has happened in the markets since 2008.When this Laser focus turns on Blighty the game is up
    The Public service should be Cut 25% IMMEDIATELY or the hedge funds will SNIFF Blood and PROFITS from OUR bond markets.Methinks Roman Empire and Vandals with the gates
    thrown open from the inside.

  39. javelin
    November 22, 2011

    For those of you are interested the Spanish bond market has pretty much stalled (and is about to crash). 3 month yields at 5.1% is unsustainable. The auction was sold out – but the only buyers were domestic banks who can use repo deposits to swap them with the ECB. A true Ponzi Scheme.

    To underline the desperation the Spanish Government has asked Reuters and Bloomberg to ignore last weeks 7+% bond price and use a deeper/older bond benchmark.

    There is a buyers strike in European bonds – NOBODY except the ECB is buying bonds. The EuroZone has now resorted to dumping risk into the ECB to stop the PIIGS collapsing. Presumably this can go on until the ECB collapses. Following this course of action the EU will destroy itself with a massive IMPLOSION of confidence and EZ wide defaults.

    PS The markets have resorted to catastophic economic scenarios to price the markets at the moment – the most popular is the collapse of the Gold Standard and the economic crisis that followed in the US in the early 30s and Germany in the late 30s.

    Reply: A normal Central Bank can print what it needs to meet its obligations. There is, of course, an argument underway over how mmuch risk the ECB should take on, and whether it will be able to print if needed. Presumably Germany and France will want the ECB to avoid the kind of disaster you suggest

  40. Gary
    November 22, 2011

    Speaking of cutting waste and running a prudent economy, two authors of a book have come to the not very surprising conclusion, at least to free-marketers, that it was/is the govt financial regulation that has caused the crisis.

    “Jeffrey Friedman and Wladimir Kraus (in their book Engineering the Financial Crisis), painstakingly dig through the data to provide a solid picture of why there was such an overconcentration of investment in the mortgage market. The evidence clearly shows that it was the web of regulation on the banking industry that shaped the structure of banking investment by favoring certain investments over others. The entire system collapsed when it turned out that these regulations had depended on agency assessments that had totally miscalculated the risk these favoured assets carried. Thus, banks had loaded themselves up with mortgage backed bonds, completely unaware of the fact that these bonds would soon be relatively valueless. It was not the market which caused the crisis, rather the distortions to the market that were created by government intervention.”

    Of course, a socialist would tell us that, what you need is a new set of regulations to replace the old set. There is nothing they say, that cannot be regulated to perfection. A free marketer would reply, “we have the ultimate regulation built into the market : IF YOU CAN’T RUN A SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS, YOU GO OUT OF BUSINESS !”

  41. James Power
    November 22, 2011

    John, you are seemingly the only sane voice in the country at the moment. Without reading your diary every day, I think I would lose all hope.

    However, what really does sadden me is that you are supposedly one of the 650 most influential people in the country (arguably more so seeing as the Conservatives are ‘in power’) and yet despite your position and your media voice, it seems even you have little influence (no offence intended). Sorry to be depressing, but what hope do the rest of us have?

    It’s all well and good voting Conservative at every opportunity, but what is the point if we end up with the likes of Cameron in charge? Where are the real Conservatives? Our representatives weren’t even allowed to vote freely on whether or not the will of the people should be considered. Where is democracy these days?!

    What can we do to bring about change?

    Reply: It is possible to influence events . The more people who write in or support a sensible change, the more likely it is to b e adopted.

  42. Nicholas Owen
    November 22, 2011

    Spot on, as usual, John!
    The armed forces will counter that they have lots of important things to do besides commanding men and their equipment – drawing up operational concepts and the equipment requirements to put them into effect, procurement (incompetently! -why not use civilian specialists?), contributing to MoD’s planning and budgeting, representational work at NATO HQ and in foreign embassies, and so on.
    One can deal with this type of counter-argument using comparisons with other armed forces. When I worked in the MoD in the early 1990s, I wrote an internal paper on the ratios of “Two Star” officers and above (e.g. Major Generals and above in the Army) to total service manpower, in the UK, USA, France and Germany. It concluded that the UK armed forces were noticably top-heavy compared to those in the three other countries. No thanks for discovering that!

    I also published a paper, ” How Many Men do Armed Forces Need? An International Comparison, Defence and Peace Economics, Vol. 5, 1994, which compared the total number of service personnel that 14 European and the Israeli armed forces employed in 1993, compared to the numbers that were required to man their front-line equipment. Compared to the respective 15-nation average in 1993, the Navy – commendably – employed 31 per cent less manpower per 1000 tonnes of combat shipping; the Army employed 23 per cent more manpower per unit of battlefield equipment; and the RAF employed 49 per cent more manpower per (equivalent) combat aircraft. In other words, on this criterion of manpower efficiency, the Navy was impressive, the Army was poor, but the RAF was even worse.
    Keep going!

    1. James Power
      November 22, 2011

      Nicholas – I work in procurement in the civilian sector and would love dearly to get my teeth into MOD procurement as I am passionate about our armed forces. From what I have seen (admittedly from the outside looking in) it is plagued by bad decision making and woeful contracts with suppliers.
      Until the government relaxes the (EU) public sector procurement rules, buyers in the private sector will not be tempted into the public sector as it is the most frustrating environment to work in…

  43. Duyfken
    November 22, 2011

    I wonder if our new Minster of Defence is doing anything about this (and why Liam Fox apparently did not). All chiefs and no indians. I wonder just how many ORs we might have on strength were a proper balance to be established – how many privates equal one Lieutenant Colonel? And how many aircraft carriers, for instance, could we have were the number of civilian employees to be properly reduced? Well done JR in highlighting this, and thanks. But why should it be so – there has been plenty of time for this government to get to grips, yet they seem to have done nothing.

  44. BobE
    November 22, 2011

    Telegraph: James Delingpole Climate Change. New leaked emails.
    Sorry this is off topic but its important.

  45. Blue Man
    November 22, 2011

    I think that Gilbert and Sullivan were pointing out much the same many years ago!

  46. Henry Ashton
    November 22, 2011

    “A Lieutenant Colonel typically commands a battalion of 650 people. You would expect 150 of them in our slimmed down forces.” This is a surprisingly silly comment from you. If you had only 150 Lt Colonels how would you train replacements, how would you command OTCs, how would supply Defence Attaches, how would you do weapons development, how would you man the Staff, how would you command reserves, how would you run basic training, how would you recruit, etc, etc?

    Of course officer numbers have to be looked at but it is simplistic in the extreme to suppose an Army can be run only by field commanders.

  47. Max Dunbar
    November 22, 2011

    I believe that the Spanish pre-civil war army was grossly overstaffed with officers. The Republican government pensioned off a large number of them on fairly good terms. The civil war then commenced shortly thereafter and the relatively few outstanding officers who took Franco’s side led the Nationalists to victory with help from highly competent Germans such as von Richthofen.
    As far as raising a conscript army rapidly, surely a strong NCO cadre is what is required? Not higher ranking officers.
    Just a nit-pick but can you use “troops” rather than “people”? It sounds a bit Sergeant Wilsonish thats all!

  48. Martin
    November 22, 2011

    Some on here have stated that the MOD top brass are for specifying new weapons etc.

    There is a long list of bungled projects (Nimrod AWACS to start with) that are known about and some that doubtless are not. I often wonder if the MOD gets away with things because of either secrecy or a deferential society who want to be seen supporting troops . How the MOD gets away with it …..

  49. Anne Palmer
    November 22, 2011

    Have these forces been deliberately cut down to “meld” in with a European Army? I ask because the people were promised, addmittedly by a great Prime Minister, that this Country would never allow itself to be “unprepared for war” ever again as it was in 1938/9. that was a solemn promise, yet here we hyave another “Conservative” letting that GREAT Conservative down.

    We work alongside other Country’s armies but all wear their own Uniforms. The idea is eventually to meld the armies together. This will cause problems, for our services bear allegiance to the British Crown and all that the Crown stands for. Yet Monnet had different ideas re armies recorded in hisa speech before the European Congress of the German Parliamentary Social-Democratic Party BAD GODESBERG 25th Feb 1964. I was sent the English version which had ” blank spaces” in certain parts, but was also sent the some version in French. Once translated, i understood why there were “Blanks”

    Here is a very short “blank”. Les divergences suscitées par les armes nucléaires intéressent notre vie, notre sécurité et notre liberté. Car ces divergences font obstacles à l’unification de l’Europe et à l’association de l’Europe et de l’Amérique dans le domaine politique et militaire.

  50. DiscoveredJoys
    November 22, 2011

    From observation any large long term organisation tends to increase the proportion of ‘chiefs’ to ‘indians’. I don’t expect that it is a conscious policy, it’s just that it is take on new managers to do new tasks, and difficult to get rid of managers who tend to be more expensive to release (longer terms of notice for instance) or retire.

    It would probably be more efficient to make 10% cost savings by removing 1 in 10 employees (up to and including board level) by random lot although many ‘chiefs’ would argue long and hard against such a plan. It would certainly concentrate the minds on succession planning and what work actually *needs* to be done.

  51. Ian
    November 23, 2011

    Reminds me of humourist C. Northcote Parkinson’s observation of the reduction in seamen and ships between 1914 and 1928, which was accompanied by an increase in the number of Admiralty officials.

    His conclusion was that the officials would have multiplied at the same rate had there been no actual seamen at all.

  52. Bruce Neeves
    November 23, 2011

    It does not look good, but then the bureaucracy increases in direct proportion to the number of politicians and all the laws they pass. Do we really need 87 MEPs, 650 MPs, 129 MSPs, 108 MLAs, 60 AMs, and 789 lords, bishops and ladies!!

    Reply: No, of course not. At least the government is trying to cut the number of MPs

  53. Alan Radford
    November 23, 2011

    Your analysis of the Army applies equally to local councils, the Civil Service, ministers, parliament, quangos ….

  54. Mark, Edinburgh
    November 24, 2011

    A close lose relative of mine is a Major. He’s put in plenty of active service in Iraq, Afghan etc until recently, but now he has one of the “desk jobs” (thank goodness from a family point of view).

    But actually it turns out to be TA, and I think most of the TA officers are regualrs so you have to correct for TA troop numbers (half as much again?).

    Your overall point still seems very valid but there may be other factors too – e.g. officers are embedded in the civilan equipment design teams etc. whereas troops are not. So there may be a “specialist” argument which also distorts the figures? For example Mr. Ashton makes the defence attache point in his post.

  55. Esra Seloh
    November 24, 2011

    Want to know what all of these senior officers are doing? Check out the Senior Appointments in the Armed Forces column which appears regularly on the Court Page of the Daily Telegraph. You never saw such a collection of largely non-jobs for deputy this, assitant that and deputy to the assistant other. Might be an idea John if you selected a few of the more egregious examples and asked questions about exactly what these people do to earn their corn.

Comments are closed.