Operational Effectiveness of the Armed Forces

May/June 2022 IDA Update

New CGS setting the tone and role modelling

The condemnation by the newly appointed CGS of the conduct of3 PARAis encouraging, with Gen Sir Patrick Sanders writing that, “My message to the Army is clear: Our licence to operate is founded on trust and confidence and we must hold ourselves to the highest standards.”  In addition, “Such behaviour is unacceptable, corrosive and detrimental to the Army’s reputation, especially in the light of the recently published House of Commons Defence Committee report into the experience of women in the Armed Forces and the Army’s# Teamwork.“  Whilst CGS additionally said this behaviour, “could be construed to denigrate women”, IDA believes that this particular behaviour is unequivocally derogatory towards women. Under this new and strong leadership, it is hoped that this intolerance towards inappropriate conduct will also lead to root and branch behavioural changes at every rank in the Armed Forces. All leadership in the Armed Forces should publicly endorse the CGS approach. We suspect and believe there will still be a need for an IDA, to back up any actions. In addition, we hope that Gen Sanders will move quickly to ensure justice for the family of Agnes Wanjiru, and not hide behind protocols.               https://independentdefenceauthority.org/cgs-letter-to-the-army-regarding-behaviour-in-3-para/

Sub-standard performance of Minister for Veterans and Office for Veterans (OVA) at Defence Select Committee reinforces a failing system and disrespect for veterans

On 15 June 2022, Leo Docherty, Minister for Veterans, and Jessie Owen, Head of OVA, appeared before the Defence Select Committee, House of Commons.  Incisive questioning from the Chair and Committee members revealed an alarming catalogue of failures of the system overseen by Leo Docherty and Jessie Owen. Mitigating strategies and mechanisms being proposed by them were vague, were not properly monitored and cumbersome and weighted in favour of the system, and not the individual. Much remains non-complaint with the provisions of the Armed Forces Covenant. Key failure points noted, all of them long standing, are -:

  • lack of statistical knowledge of the number and whereabouts of veterans; nor is there any mechanism for following up on the welfare of veterans; there was utter confusion about the number of veterans who are homeless or at risk of homelessness;  
  • lack of any statistical evidence nor any mechanisms to deal with veterans slipping through the cracks;
  • lack of any statistical appreciation of the difficulty of veterans being accepted by a NHS GP, and that their military medical records are not automatically transferred to the NHS; moreover, a lack of any statistical evidence that veterans with the most complex needs actually get the appropriate assistance in the NHS or via charities in a timely fashion; 
  • circa 60,000 veterans are still not getting their full pensions. The Minister refused to provide any retrospective review for those receiving pensions pre-1975;  
  • although known for many years, inconsistencies relating to re-marriage regarding widows’ pension remain unresolved; the Minister refused to give any timeline for resolution, except for a vague asap.  
  • lack of a truly transparent and professional medical assessment system in place – with the Committee advocating an independent body being set up in place of the Armed Forces Scheme;  
  • circa 50% of the Veterans UK Tribunal system are challenged by veterans indicating its judgments are flawed, and only 10% of applicants to Veterans UK are satisfied with the ‘service’ – which begs the question why is the service not in special measures?
  • lack of any real evaluation and governance of taxpayers’ money being given to veterans’ charities.

Once again, serving military personnel and veterans can have little confidence in the equitable, efficient, and timely management of veterans’ welfare. https://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/e5522044-2b70-4cd8-8b95-8d1cdd05b1c3;

Her Royal Majesty Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) publishes damning reports on Armed Forces lack of prevention and poor investigation of domestic abuse and rape and serious sexual offences (RASSO)

In mid-June 2022, HMICFRS published three reports covering the conduct of the Royal Military Police (RMP), Royal Navy Police (RNP) and the Royal Air Force Police (RAFP) into how well these organisations prevent domestic abuse and rape and RASSO, and how well these incidents are investigated. Well-researched, the HMICFRS reports are hard hitting revealing a litany of failures, all   pointing to a lack of safeguarding and equity of treatment for victims. Many of these need to be fixed by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Provost Marshals in each service. The most egregious are:

  • lack of overall safeguarding for victims where the current system of overseeing it of Commanding Officers, discipline units and welfare units is not fit for purpose. 
  • victims across all three forces told inspectors they did not feel properly supported, with many feeling ostracised from their units or suffering abuse on social media.
  • victims overseas are likely to be treated even worse than their UK counterparts, for example, accredited forensic medical examiners are often absent.   
  • similarly, there is insufficient RASSO and domestic abuse support on board submarines and other vessels; police often have to wait until the mission has been completed before beginning investigations.
  • many reports of domestic abuse and RASSO do not result in prosecution with opportunities missed to make early arrests.   
  • an overall lack of skilled, trained and retained staff at all junctures; for example, at the front line, first responder professionals, generally fail to make risk assessments, putting some victims at enhanced greater risk.  
  • insufficient information sharing and co-ordination between civilian police forces and the RMP, RNP and RAFP;  
  • moreover, there is no centralised call-centre so calls are missed, insufficient data is recorded and police response delayed, all affecting the level of service provided; 
  • a lack of MoD definition of the role of these three police forces, with no clear objectives and actions set nor performance monitoring – basically not called to account. 
  • current IT systems across all three forces are not fit for purpose when it comes to recording and analysing data on domestic abuse, making it virtually impossible for the MoD to see the scale of the problem. A replacement system will not be available until Autumn 2023, but it is not clear if it will be fit for purpose; and   
  • no mandatory awareness training on domestic abuse and RASSO across the Armed Forces, which should be introduced by January 2023.

The HMICFRS has compiled a list of 92 recommendations, with many deadlines. Given the poor record of the MoD and senior Armed Forces personnel in actioning authoritative condemnatory reports and their recommendations (recent examples are the Wigston Report, the Lyons Report and the Sarah Atherton Women in Defence report), the IDA hopes this set of HMICFRS reports will be taken to task, with a clear action plan and accountability for delivery.     Royal Navy Police – Rape, serious sexual assault and domestic abuse investigations; Royal Military Police – Rape, serious sexual assault and domestic abuse investigations; Royal Air Force Police – Rape, serious sexual assault and domestic abuse investigations;

Discriminatory Provisions of Armed Forces Bill kick in

As from 15 June 2022, the Ministry of Defence has reduced the time limit for serving or former members of the Armed Forces to make an appeal to the Service Complaints Service from six to two weeks, as well as adding specific grounds of appeal, whereas the system has no equivalent time penalty. These appeals could include complaints of bullying, harassment, discrimination and biased, improper or dishonest behaviour. The likelihood of being able to assemble new evidence, get legal advice etc in a period of 14 days is slim, thereby fixing the entire process against the victim/complainant. When the Armed Forces Bill was being reviewed in Parliament in 2021, there were many objections to these changes including from the former Head of the Service Complaints Ombudsman for the Armed Forces and the Parliamentary Women in Defence Committee. This repudiates high level assurances within the Ministry of Defence to stamp out inappropriate behaviour, especially appertaining to those of a sexual and violent nature. Although the service complaints will no longer be submitted through the Chain of Command, but instead through single Service Central Admissibility teams, this still does not build in sufficient independence. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/armed-forces-service-complaints-process

Armed Forces Attitude Survey – more of the same

The latest survey provides depressing reading. Over one in ten (12%) personnel report that they have been subject to bullying, discrimination, or harassment (BDH) in the last 12 months, unchanged since this question was first asked in 2015. Separately, 14% of all female personnel report being subject to sexual harassment in a Service environment in the last 12 months, compared to less than 1% of male personnel. The majority of personnel who have been subject to BDH do not make a complaint (93%). The main reasons why personnel do not make a formal written complaint continue to be – not believing anything would be done if a complaint was made (56%) and also that it might adversely affect their career (51%). Of those who made a formal complaint (less than 1% of all personnel), seven in ten are dissatisfied with the outcome of their complaint.  https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/armed-forces-continuous-attitude-survey-2022