Friday, 9 September 2016

Does the UK really have a strategy?

Today I want to talk about something that has bugged me for a long time; Strategy. Or more pertinently, the UK's seeming lack of one.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Army 2021?

Recently I assessed both some of the lessons that could be taken from the Chilcot enquiry into the UK's contribution to the Iraq campaign, and also some of the lessons that have come out of the fighting in Ukraine. During the process of this it occurred to me that British land forces as currently structured seem ill prepared to meet some of the challenges raised, such as some of the logistic issues raised by Chilcot and certainly some of the emerging challenges that have appeared in Ukraine. A leaked British army report would seem to agree with that position.

The trouble is what to do about it? Today I'm going to dip my toe into waters that I normally try and avoid, that of the so-called "fantasy fleets/fantasy orbats" etc, and look at a possible restructuring of the British Army to meet these new challenges. But in order to do this with any kind of sanity and an intention to produce something that is at least workable in reality - in broad terms if not in detail - then it needs to be somewhat grounded and adhere to a few basic rules. 

Monday, 15 August 2016

Latest chemical weapons use in Syria

Apologies for those who've been waiting for my latest post. One of the downsides of being a blogger is that it will naturally have to come below a number of other things on the pecking order, not unless someone wants to start financing me for this?

No takers? No?

Sod 'ya then. In that case I better start producing more content in the ever elusive pursuit of some meagre ad revenue. And today I just want to touch quickly on the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

1970 Case Study of the M-16

While I finish up work on my latest full post, just thought I'd share something with you which I found interesting (and which has contributed to the delay of my next post...)

The other day I came across a pdf version of an M-16 case study, written in 1970 by then retired Colonel Richard R. Hallock. The document is quite a detailed report of the history of the M-16 development with respects to the US army's perspective and represents a catalogue of failures and outright malicious attempts to kill the rifle off despite the strong evidence that developed to support it.

I find this document interesting because it shows the extent of just how resistant to change an organisation can be when it is stuck in its own way of doing things, and how easy it can be to subtley manipulate test data, impeding the progress of more advantageous solutions at the expense of the people at the business end who have to deal with such failures, in what amounts to nothing short of criminal negligence. 

It also highlights that while large defence contractors hardly have a saintly record of helping their end users acquire the correct systems at the correct price, sometimes the procurement wounds inflicted on military organisations are almost entirely self-inflicted, either for institutional reasons, or for the benefit of individuals personal careers. Even military officers with distinguished careers and a life time of service to a cause greater than themselves can be coaxed into making choices that are personal in nature, to the detriment of their service and their fellow professionals. 

There are two caveats that I will throw out though.

The first is that I can't find much about Col. Hallock's history, beyond a brief a biography. There doesn't seem to be any commercial connections to someone like Colt, or anyone else involved in the M-16 program, but you never know. I always find this an intersting starting point with a document like this, to figure out who the person writing it is and what connections they may or may not have to the subject matter. Secondly, for time reasons, I've not checked any of the reports and materials referenced in the document. It is taken as written that they say what Hallock says they do, which is always a somewhat risky thing to do. 

Just keep those two things in mind if you fancy a read. And if you do, the link is here.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Lessons from Ukraine

A while back I came across this pdf document about the war in Ukraine over at Think Defence (sorry TD, couldn't remember the exact page!). Written by Dr. Phillip A. Karber of The Potomac Foundation, the paper offers insights into the nature of the conflict, specifically from the military perspective and with a strong focus on the front line aspects of what is happening, with the intention of trying to draw out information that might be of use to future US and allied leaders in a conventional style conflict, possibly with Russia. Most of the information is drawn from the authors personal experience and observations, plus his interviews with Ukrainian officers and troops. One of the stated aims of the paper is to; "stimulate a dialogue on the military aspects of the Russo-­Ukrainian War with a focus on emerging trends".

So today we're going to review some of its contents and try to stimulate a dialogue about possible emerging trends.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Update 22/07/16

I'm going to be busy this weekend and into next week, so next post will probably appear, all things permitting, at some point towards the end of next week.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Notes from Chilcot

Having poured through many of the elements of the Chilcot report (but certainly not the entire thing) I thought I'd take a pause to comment on some of the issues thrown up by it. One thing I don't intend to do is to go into the legal minefield of whether or not the war was justified under international law, nor do I want to get bogged down in the moral (or otherwise) arguments about whether or not the war was a good idea, and whether or not it achieved its aims. Rather there are some very specific points that I want to pick out.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

The Post-Brexit plan

Today I'm going back to talking about Brexit for a bit. The plan for the week ahead, time permitting, is to look at some aspects of the Chilcot report, then a post about Ukraine. 

For now though I want to focus on the plan for the UK now that it has voted to leave the EU. Or rather, the lack of a plan. As the various political parties sling it out with one another internally, it has basically been left to the Chancellor George Osborne and the Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney to pick up the slack, steady the ship, and take the UK forward in the interim. And yet both appear to be doing everything in their power to kick the whole apple cart over, almost as if they're worried their credibility might be damaged should the financial apocalypse that they both predicted not materialise. So what should we be doing?

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

The Devil's Advocate: The future of UK defence

One of the most dreaded phrases in modern corporate speak has to be "Personal Development Plan". In theory PDPs are a good idea, designed to improve the workforce by giving them additional skills, something which benefits both the employer and the employee. It's the implementation that's the problem, normally because businesses struggle to identify what skills are actually useful to their employees and as such to them as a business. How to develop those skills is the second challenge. As much as it might pain some executives to accept, the reality is that a good piss up is still a better team building exercise than a weekend spent paint-balling and doing interpretive dance.

By comparison I have always found one method of personal development to be unusually helpful, that of formally arguing against your own position and beliefs. I find it quite instructive to play the 'Devil's Advocate' every now and again, as long as you do it honestly and earnestly (otherwise there's no point). In some cases it can lead you to change your point of view entirely. Sometimes it merely leads you to strengthen your resolve on your original position. It can help you to see the flaws in your current position, making you more aware of the challenges of a particular course. It can also help you to strengthen your debating position with others, by preparing you to convince the sceptical about concerns they have with certain elements of your argument.

And for those reasons today is going to be about me arguing against myself. Specifically, arguing against my recent post on the future of UK defence

I'm going to target a piece of the argument in particular, that being the idea of the UK as a potential "building block" nation onto which others could bolt their capabilities, as well as the idea of the UK building closer ties with smaller nations. And for a change, I'm actually going to tackle those arguments in the listed order!

Saturday, 2 July 2016

9 lessons from blogging

It seems that of late their is a bit of a fashion to post a list of 9 things that you've learned since becoming a blogger. So here are the nine things I've learned since I started blogging back in July of 2012:

1. Swearing generates pageviews. The more swearing, the more pageviews.

2. If the MoD's annual budget was £5 and its annual requirements were to buy just one cup of coffee, with milk and two sugars, it would somehow find a way to fuck that up.

3. If the Internet defence community spent as much time working out how the three services could help one another by working together as they do pushing interservice rivalries, then Britain would have an enviable wealth of information and ideas about co-operation to work with.

4. Its is still underestimated just how much the economy and public will affects defence and defence spending.

5. Much of the defence world, including politicians, service chiefs and some of the private providers, lives in its own little bubble seemingly ignorant of the fact the rest of the commerical world routinely deals with (and solves) the kind of commercial problems that people often complain are "not as easy as you think".

6. Britain has probably wasted more time and more money trying to reduce procurement costs through collaborative programs with large overseas partners than it has saved, largely due to the inability to pick appropriate partners in the first place.

7. The post that takes you five minutes to read probably took five HOURS to write. Blogging tends to be far more time consuming than you'd imagine, especially without a staff of researchers backing you up like a commercial media organisation can afford. As a broad rule each paragraph represents anything from 10 minutes to an hours worth of work, including research, typing, proof reading and editing.

8. The reality is that short articles frequently out perform large articles in terms of pageviews. Given the amount of time and research required for some of the bigger articles, efficiency often significantly favours the shorter work.

9. There is no money in blogging. Blogging has to be a passion, otherwise it will become a ball and chain.