LONDON — Gen. Nick Carter has been appointed as Britain’s new chief of the Defence Staff, the government announced March 28.
Carter, who has been head of the British Army for the last four years, takes up the post as the military’s most senior officer in June when the current holder of the post, Air Marshal Stuart Peach, heads to NATO to become chairman of the alliance’s Military Committee.
Carter got the nod from Prime Minister Theresa May over two other options, identified by local media as NATO Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe Gen. James Everard and Royal Marine Gen. Gordon Messenger, who is currently vice chief of the Defence Staff.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said in a statement that “Gen. Carter has been an exceptional chief of the General Staff, leading the Army at a time of rapid change, with troops deployed to deter Russian aggression and protect our NATO allies in the east.”
“At this crucial time for defence, as we look to strengthen our armed forces in the face of intensifying global threats, I’m confident Gen. Carter will be an outstanding chief of the Defence Staff, “ Williamson said.
The British general is an experienced operational commander, most recently in Afghanistan. More recently he was one of the architects of a major reorganization of the Army, known as Army 2020, which stemmed from the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review.
Carter takes up his post at a time of major challenges to the British military, primarily from the strategic threat posed by Russia and an ongoing defense review, which the government refers to as a defense modernization program.
Ben Barry, senior fellow for land warfare at the International Institute for Strategic Studies think tank in London, said the government will be looking to use Carter’s extensive operational experience, while also leaning on him to identify and implement the changes expected from the defense review.
“Dealing with the strategic threat posed by Russia, that’s the long-term challenge. The defense review and getting implementation underway will be his major nonoperational challenge, although other challenges will emerge as the outcomes of the defense review become clear,” Barry said.
The analyst believes Carter is well-suited for both aspects of the job. On the operational front, Barry points to Carter’s experience ranging from Northern Ireland to Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan. On the modernization front, Carter’s experience managing the Army in recent years should give him a good base of experience from which to draw.
“The British Army has been going through the most ambitious change program in peacetime ever. Changing the Army has been his biggest achievement. Carter designed that change program and is implementing the changes and making them stick,” Barry said. “In terms of thinking about the future character of conflict and its implications for capability, the British Army has done a lot more of that under Carter’s tenure than the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force combined.”
The prime minister said that during Carter’s four-year stint as the Army’s top soldier, she had been “impressed not only by the reforms he has carried out with the British Army, but by the care he has demonstrated for the men and women under his command. It is also a testament to him that over his period of leadership, the Army has become more reflective of the society it serves.”
Barry said the Army had made great strides in its approach to getting the right people in the right place for today’s modern military.
“The Army has considerably modernized its approach to people during his tenure in a wide variety of ways. Five years ago in terms of modernizing their attitude to people, the Army was behind the RAF and particularly the Royal Navy. It’s now up with the best in what they are doing, and in some ways it’s ahead,” he said.
Andrew Chuter is the United Kingdom correspondent for Defense News.