New Corp for Army!

In a modern update to the old parade ground joke, "All those with mothers take one pace forward........ Stand Still Jones!" we learn with jaw dropping incedulity that 38 Warrant Officers on the long service list were recently given the good news by email that they were no longer required. Of course it's not very clever but it's not the most outrageous thing that any of these experianced men on extended service will have seen in their time.

This is the letter,

8 February 2011


1. In my capacity as the Career Manager for the Versatile Engagement Long Career (VEng LC) and Long Service List (LSL), I write to notify you that with regret, I must issue you with 12 months Notice of Termination.

2. This may be a temporary measure which will be confirmed once DM (A) has established the Army Manning Priority and future requirement for each post. As you are aware, the VEng LC cohort 3 conversions never materialised and a decision has still not been made as to grant further periods of service for personnel within that cohort. There is a possibility that you will be granted further service, albeit not a VEng LC contract. It will possibly take the form of a 2 year continuance package; however this is still to be confirmed.

3. This 12 month notification can now be treated as an executive order to start planning and make best use of the excellent resettlement package available to you. If you are overseas then this period will allow you sufficient time to apply for the last 6 months in the UK. During this termination period I will continue fight your case for further service and actively seek employment elsewhere on the VEng LC & LSL.

4. Your service on the VEng LC & LSL has been greatly appreciated and I acknowledge that some of you have been in this unique service community for only a short period of time. As I’m sure you are aware the Army has to make significant cut backs and we as the VEng LC & LSL are expected to play our part in reductions.

5. What happens next – You are to submit an AFB 6848 now extending your contract to the12 Jan 12. You are to remain in your current appointment and employment and will not be subject to any movement that may have been published earlier on the 2011 posting plot. Please inform your Chain of Command as soon as possible so that they can contact me regarding any issues.

6. Your last day of service in the Army will now be 12 Jan 12.

7. I would be grateful if you would acknowledge receipt of this letter and initiate an AFB 6848 as briefed in para 5. I fully understand your concerns and I encourage you to contact me if you have any questions.

(Original signed)

While it's obviously not an optimal way to give people the bad news, it is happening to people up and down the country every day, ( they can always join our brave lads in Plockton!). What is somewhat more a cause for concern, outrage and apoplexy is the number of press officers employed by the MOD. The tenacious ferrets at Think Defence have been looking at recent parliamentary questions and answers.

"In light of recent news about sacking trainee pilots and Warrant Officers on the Long Service List a recent parliamentary answer offers a good contrast.

Angus Robertson, the SNP Member of Parliament for Moray asked the following question,

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many (a) press officers, (b) internal communications officers, (c) external communications officers, (d) communications strategy officers and (e) other positions with a communications remit were employed by (i) his Department, (ii) its agencies and (iii) each other non-departmental public body sponsored by his Department on the most recent date for which figures are available.

The answer was pretty surprising, or not, depending on how cynical you are.

Communication of defence is important to support the reputation of the armed forces, understanding of military operations and other activities and to support recruitment. These figures include both military and civilian posts throughout Defence, including armed forces’ commands and operational theatres. Savings have been made across the communications area during the course of the current financial year and further substantial reductions are planned. The latest figures for the numbers involved in specialist communications roles are for financial year 2009-10 and were produced in support of a Cabinet Office led exercise to capture such information across Government. They are as follows:

  MOD/armed forces Trading funds Non-departmental public bodies
Press officers 112 8 1
Internal communications officers 52 8 0
External communications officers 365 26 0
Communications strategy officers 67 2.5 0
Other 101 7 3

The answer of course failed to provide a total, they never do when questions like this are asked, perhaps the MoD think no one will notice or be bothered to add up.

Leaving aside the trading funds like the Met Office or DSTL and the NDPB’s, the MoD has a grand total of 697 personnel (likely a mix of military and civil servants) engaged on communication activities.

Now we should step back from the initial shock and ask what do they do?

It is fair to say that some of them will be involved with recruiting and vital internal communications like equipment safety for example,  but can we really justify an infantry battalions worth of communications officers at a time when we are shedding capabilities and personnel left, right and centre?"

Think Defence have nailed it and in fact, this has been a running sore for many years. I have a fistful of unpublished letters to the Telegraph on this very subject; (I have bin loads on lots of other subjects!).

So enlightened, I'm particularly taken with the breakdown in press officer numbers, there’s enough of the blighters to form a small corp which I think should be done immediately. Obviously, their cap badge will be a blindfold surmounted on a wall of smoke, they will wear a flash on their right shoulder depicting a Blackberry and Alistair Campbell can be their Regimental Colonel. They'll be armed with Mk II Poison Pens, “Anything Goes,” will be their Regimental march and their first posting will be to Cultybraggan in Perthshire as the permanent garrison for the forseeable future.

Anyone know what comparable numbers were in 1982….. or did we just have Ian McDonald and a tea lady?

Here's the thing though.... the battalions worth of press officers at the MOD haven't helped with this, or many other recent bad news stories and if we had fewer press officers we might not feel the need to bin 38 warrant officers who, at a rough guess, will have somewhere in the order of 850 years + of combined service.