LONDON – Britain’s new military chief has laid out five priorities for his time in post, arguing reforms are pivotal for the country’s defense bureaucracy to remain relevant amid a growing number of challenges.
Adm. Sir Tony Radakin has only been in the job as Britain’s chief of the Defence Staff for seven days but used his first speech, at the Royal United Services Institute in London, in the new post to outline what the agenda for his time in office might potentially look like.
Top of the pile, unsurprisingly, is delivery of the Conservative government’s Integrated Review, introduced earlier this year.
Implementation of the review will include a pivot in equipment requirements from older sunset platforms towards space, robotics and cyber; restructuring and cutting the size of the Army and a policy of increasing military deployments overseas, he said.
“We need to be absolutely focused on playing our part to turn the Integrated Review into a reality, and to deliver the changes outlined in the command paper to specification and on budget. That means more clarity and prioritization. The Department totted up its draft set of priorities recently, and they numbered 118! Not a great way to focus an organization,” Radakin said.
The other potential priorities covered in his speech included reforming, transforming and integrating elements of the Ministry of Defence; a greater presence of the military on overseas deployments; greater lethality for the front line commands; and improvements on the personnel front to better reflect changing societal and other requirements.
Radakin used the term “might” when outlining his emerging priorities, acknowledging that others had to buy into the agenda as well.
The admiral, who was the First Sea Lord before his promotion, used the speech to outline his own, unflattering take on some of the things the MoD needed to do to improve if it wanted to remain relevant in a fast changing world.
Reforming, transforming, and integrating were, he said, “Ugly words to get after an ugly truth: Defense’s structures, processes, and pace, are too large, too hierarchical, and too ponderous” for the threats Britain faces.
“The Department still operates in silos and is too flat-footed. We know everything is too slow and too resistant to change. For every person trying to get things done, it can feel like there are four or five other people looking over your shoulder or, worse, standing in the way. That could mean a much leaner Head Office and supporting organizations. More reliance and trust on the front line commands and StratCom,” he told the RUSI audience.
Radak also said integration was a key part of the process of change.
“Much more integration. We are often accused of being ‘buzzword central’. The real buzzwords for all of us as [defense] chiefs are ‘win’ or ‘lose’.
“We will win because of our ethos, spirit, the real mass that comes from alliances, and the fighting edge that digitization, AI, cyber, automation all provide,” he said.
Radakin ended his speech saying it was a “pivotal time for Defence. We are returning to a more classical model of persistent inter-state competition. We have the clarity, ambition and increased resources of government, despite a pandemic. And we have the obligation to fulfill that ambition in the pursuit of British national interests, with allies and partners who also share those values and aspirations. And we have the opportunity to unlock the potential of UK armed forces; to be more deployable and more effective; to modernize; to be more lethal; and to be more diverse.”