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Sweeping Reforms Proposed at U.K. MoD

Jun. 27, 2011 - 03:45AM   |  
By ANDREW CHUTER   |   Comments
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LONDON - Service chiefs are going to be given control of their own budgets and a new Joint Forces Command is to be formed as part of a series of radical changes to the way the British Ministry of Defence is managed and run, if proposals in a report presented June 27 in Parliament are adopted.

The report, put together by a team of senior private-sector executives led by former defense procurement chief Lord Levene, has come up with 53 recommendations aimed at improving the way the MoD is run and managed.

The review was established by Defence Secretary Liam Fox in 2010.

During a speech at the Reform think tank in London just hours before the proposals were unveiled in Parliament, Fox described the recommendations as transformation on a scale not seen for a generation. Fox said he agrees with most of the recommendations, although he hasn't yet detailed the proposals he won't try to implement.

In his speech, Fox heavily criticized the current high-level structure of the MoD, accusing the Defence Board of being "bloated ... without ministerial membership, allowing strategic decisions to drift and unable to reconcile ambition with resources."

Earlier in the speech, Fox described the MoD as having "overly bureaucratic management structures, dominated by committees leading to indecisiveness and a lack of responsibility."

Levene's committee identified a handful of recommendations it said were not new and had troubled similar reviews going back 100 years.

Key recommendations include:

The three service chiefs should be given control of their own budgets, covering items like equipment, training and manpower, giving them the freedom to flex where they spend money. Their role in departmental strategy and resource allocation should be reduced. The post of four-star commander in chief should be removed.

Service chiefs should be removed from the Defence Board. Instead, the secretary of state will join a much smaller board on which the military is only represented by the chief of the Defence Staff. Its role should be providing strategic direction to the department and holding it to account.

A four-star-led Joint Forces Command should be created to strengthen the focus on joint enablers and on joint warfare development and other issues. The Permanent Joint Headquarters (PJHQ) should become part of the command and a number of other unidentified military organizations should come under its control. PJHQ should become responsible for all military operations. The proposals say the MoD should review whether joint or potentially joint capabilities and functions could be rationalized.

Senior military and civilian personnel should stay in posts for up to four to five years.

The MoD's head office in central London should be more strategic in its role and much reduced in size. This applies to the top level management positions as well as other positions, according to the report.

Defense ministers shouldn't be immune from the cuts either. The report states the number and responsibilities of ministers should be reviewed.

Financial and performance management throughout the MoD should be strengthened to ensure plans are affordable and personnel accountable.

Shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy said the opposition Labour Party broadly welcomes the proposed changes.

Analysts here said the issue now for the government is to get the recommendations implemented.

Britain's civil service has a track record of suffocating defense change initiatives attempted by governments. These defense reform proposals are the first of a series of wide-ranging changes planned by the Conservative-led coalition government aimed at improving the accountability and efficiency of Britain's cash-strapped defense department.

The driver for the Levene review lays in efforts to fix Britain's over-extended defense program.

The Conservatives, upon entering office in May 2010, said the MoD had 38 billion pounds ($60.6 billion) in unfunded liabilities over the next 10 years. The government since then also has ordered an 8 percent cut in defense budgets to help Britain repair its government finances.

The report states that its recommendations were designed to "help prevent the Department from getting into such a poor financial position in the future."

The next few months should see a raft of proposals and reviews by the MoD looking at the size and shape of key elements of the British armed forces.

A three-month review of capabilities and budgets following the strategic defense and security review is due to be complete in the next few days. That could lead to new program and capability cuts as the MoD struggles to make the huge savings required to balance its books.

Acquisition process change, a Royal Air Force basing review, the future structure of the reserves and a new defense industrial policy are all expected between now and the autumn.

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