Military numbers

Some of you have misread my point about top ranks in the navy and army. I do agree we have too few principal warships – that is a different argument. I was not criticisng the Navy for having too many senior officers. I was contrasting them with the army. The Navy has 422 officers of CAptain RN rank and above. The army has 2588 officers of Lieutenant Colonel rank and above. This I think is an interesting comparison.


  1. Electro-Kevin
    November 25, 2011

    Is it true that the military budget is but a small fraction of welfare ?

    If so then youth unemployment is not only a disaster for our society but also for our economy because it is adding to hugely to our debt.

    There are many problems to be tackled but getting our own people working again has to be the most urgent.

    1. uanime5
      November 26, 2011

      The problem is where are the jobs going to come from. The private sector is unwilling to create jobs and the public sector can’t because of budget cuts. Volunteering isn’t an option because those who volunteer still need benefits and may be used by unscrupulous employers as a substitute for a paid employee.

    2. Alistair M.
      December 1, 2011

      “Is it true that the military budget is but a small fraction of welfare ? ”


      Defence ~£40 B
      Social protection ~ £110 B

      …and pensions is about the same again.

  2. George Stewart
    November 25, 2011

    John; saw your reply in the other thread and please understand I am not quibbling with you.

    Far too many politicians would look at what you wrote on officer strength and use that as an excuse to cut deeper.

    Seriously, I think you could be of great benefit to both the Navy and the Army, including the reserves/TA, by literally looking at the slots that all these officers hold and simply ask; “Why?”

    There are staff officers that you can ask in your position, as to what force structure is required to defend the UK against hypothetical X.

    We need a champion to fight for a Navy consisting of X Warships and an Army that has a surge capacity of Y. In exact numbers, something you are brilliant at.

    We also need a champion that will say no to a PM when he/she wants to engage in a venture that we do not have the capacity for.

    My best, George Stewart

    PS. Some of those excess Lieutenant Colonels you wrote about, exist solely to answer questions from MP’s. 😉

  3. Disaffected
    November 25, 2011

    I think you might be mathematically correct for the ratios, that does not present the full picture or tasks that are required to be fulfilled by each. There will be other jobs where a specific rank is required to make a decision on behalf of the navy or army which is not directly linked to the chain of command but a function. The numbers do not also cater for unexpected world events which I think the country will find to its detriment and the inadequate planning and acceptance by Cameron’s government.

    I presume this will given as the reason why the UK had to join forces with the EU defence force. Then excuses, like being in coalition government, why the country was unable to carry out a particular operation etc because our “partners” did not agree. Cameron needs to go ASAP.

  4. Neil Craig
    November 25, 2011

    Particularly since the Navy (& air force) are more technically demanding than an army and would thus have far more excuse for making people not in direct command of troops into officers.

  5. Bryan
    November 25, 2011

    A Captain RN equates to a full Colonel in the Army – so the comparison should be between them. Still this does not alter your main point that all chiefs and no indians is a recipe for ‘disaster’ in any organisation.

  6. Rebecca Hanson
    November 25, 2011

    Do you understand that Captain in the navy is higher rank than Lieutenant Colonel in the army John?

    It is NOT the same as a Captain in the army. A Captain in the navy is equivalent to a full Colonel in the army.

    Hence you would expect the kind of ratio you see here.

    Reply: Of course not, which is why I put in Captain RN and compared Captains with much higher ranked army personnel than Captains.

  7. Martin
    November 25, 2011

    It isn’t really an interesting comparison. The army equivalent of Captain RN is Colonel; the navy equivalent of Lt Colonel is Commander.

  8. john wallace
    November 25, 2011

    I am surprised you have had people getting the wrong end of the stick.It is plain enough english to me .Labour must be reading your diary.

  9. Rebecca Hanson
    November 25, 2011


    The equivalent rank for a Captain RN in the navy is a full Colonel (not Lieutenant Colonel) in the army. They are both Nato OF-5. Lieutenant Colonel is Nato OF-4.

  10. Mike Stallard
    November 25, 2011

    Here are the facts about the ranks:

    Now, please allow me to repeat the obvious.

    There are far too many officers in the army. I believe that the number of civil servants easily exceeds the number of other ranks in all services, which is in itself the real scandal.

    We are broke. B_R_O_K_E. Got it? S_K_I_N_T.

    1. Rebecca Hanson
      November 26, 2011

      Sounds like you should be saying that to Michael Gove Mike:
      This sounds like the kind of personal pet project he should feel welcome to do provided he funds it out of his own pocket which, according to his wiki, he can afford.

      There may or may not be too many officers in the army. That depends on what the current defined duties of the army are and whether the army is appropriately configured and resourced to meet them. If there are too many officers in the army the evidence to justify that conclusion is not in this blog. It appears that whoever John is getting his information from is clearly either deeply ignorant or seriously politically motivated.

  11. pete
    November 25, 2011

    Military organisations are also more complex with brigades now integratng different types of battlegroup capabilities so they need more planning and co ordination, etc.

    They also get hit with a lot more ops of a varying nature compared to Navy/RAF.

    There may not be anything left to trim from the fighting part of the army – they get a bad deal – theres not enough of them, but there must be huge scope to cut back on red tape being passed down, a lot of which probably comes from stupid directives by the EUSSR being enshrined into UK law and then by proxy to the military – this helps contribute to the big back office resulting in the need for so many staff officers.

    You haven’t said much about the MOD Civil Service. There are more than 2 MOD civil servants for every regular soldier – which has never made sense, I suppose like the NHS with x amount of managers vs x amount of clinical staff, it seems like a public sector disease made worse by NU Liebour.

    And while were there lets also not forget politicians, the very people who have helped create the problems we now have – how many of them do we now have?

    We have Euro MPs (no idea what they do or how they represent us – the only one I’ve seen is Nigel Farage), Councillors, in (Wales/Scotland/NI) AMs, MSPs etc, then Westminster MPs and all their civil servants – how complex does democracy need to be?

    Could the Welsh & NI Assembly and Scottish parliament not be run with the same group of MPs as Westminster by putting a dividing line between UK business and devolved business?

    That way you avoid the issue of Scot/Welsh/NI MPs voting on English only matters.

    Parliamentary time could be organised to UK wide business and devolved business – probably not as simple as that but Im sure it could be worked out.

    Those that have the majority of votes hold the balance of power and budgetary power in the devolved institutions – now that would be true democracy and less elections.

    I bet we had nowhere near this amount of government when the UK ran 2/3 of the planet.

    Reply: Yes there are far too many politicians and officials. I have often commented on these and set out ways of reducing them

    1. uanime5
      November 26, 2011

      Alternatively we could have an English Parliament which only votes on English issues.

  12. backofanenvelope
    November 26, 2011

    There you are Field Marshall. You’ve just downsized as instructed and got rid of lots of people and along comes a politician and changes the plan. You now need some of the people you’ve got rid of; you get them back; and the politician changes the plan. My experience in the RAF suggests that getting promoted is quite hard and you only get promoted if there is a slot for you. In addition, the Treasury is everywhere and they wouldn’t recognise a main battle tank if it ran over their foot.

    As an avid reader of the novels of Bernard Cornwell, I don’t think much can be done. It has always been the way it is now.

  13. Demetrius
    November 26, 2011

    Gosh, you could have three battalions of infantry entirely made up of Lt. Cols. Call it a regiment. The regimental march could be “Colonel Bogie”. By the left……..

  14. Mike Chaffin
    November 26, 2011

    If we did need to rapidly expand the armed services then I can assure you that the Other Ranks are far more important than senior officers.

    Even if you accepted a need for surplus senior officers in a hypothetical surge you would be giving command to those with little command experience, but rather to those who have merely commanded a desk.

    Indeed during wartime promotion from the ranks can be rapid, Fitzroy MacLean and Enoch Powell both signed up as privates and ended the second world war as Brigadiers.

  15. Alistair M.
    December 1, 2011

    You need to control for the different sizes of the army and the navy. The larger organisation is bound to have more people at a given grade than the smaller.

    Though IMHO, (and most professional defence economists) all branches of UK armed forces have too much braid. 60 years of peacetime have turned our forces into a career path, and the slow growth of sinecure and the need to fight inter-service procurement battles has led to the massive inflation of staff posts (and hence ranks needed to fill them). MoD PE remain a bureacratic disgrace in terms of overhead to value added.

    Compared to nearly any other armed forces in the western world (and ourselves 40 years ago), we have a top-heavy military strucutre. Take a look at the kind of 1-star to squaddie ratio the Israeli’s (not exactly a 3rd rank nation in military affairs) acheive, and weep.

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