Can Fox break the power of Army, Navy, RAF chiefs?

Top brasshats set to be booted out of Whitehall

So, having thoroughly emasculated the three single-Service chiefs, there should be room for the new Joint Forces Command to muscle in, finally giving the idea of joint operations as much status as the single services have. Levene says as much in black and white:

The JFC should be led at 4 star level. He/she should report to CDS ... The Commander JFC should hold similar status as the single Service Chiefs to ensure appropriate traction across Defence. He/she should sit on the Chiefs of Staff Committee, representing joint requirements on Chiefs of Staff (Armed Forces) and as the proponent for joint effect on Chiefs of Staff (Operations).

Indeed, as the Joint Force Command boss will presumably still be in Whitehall HQ, he will in effect have more status than the single-service heads. This may be even more the case as he will be the boss not only of the Directorate of Special Forces – which will confer a lot of clout – but of the Permanent Joint Headquarters, PJHQ. Until now this wouldn't necessarily mean a great deal, but PJHQ is set perhaps to become what it was always meant to be – the main British combat ops headquarters. At the moment the three Service CinCs still get to play with their train sets a lot of the time, only handing them over to PJHQ as required, but that may be about to change.

In principle, and to simplify roles, the Department should look to make PJHQ responsible for all military operations. The Department should consider whether those operations not currently run by PJHQ should transfer to it ... force generation should be the responsibility of the single Services, force employment should be conducted on a joint basis through PJHQ unless there are exceptional reasons of operational effectiveness to do otherwise. Application of this principle would ensure full exploitation of the operational focus, connectivity, relationships and facilities of PJHQ. The Department should consider whether the operations that do not currently follow this principle, notably maritime operations, including the deterrent, security of UK airspace and UK Resilience, should continue to be led by the single Services.

Or in other words, the Service heads may retain their headquarters, maps etc but in fact they will almost never be in charge of what their people are doing: another blow to their prestige, and another boost for that of the Joint Force Command.

If all this happens, it will be a fairly seismic shift at the MoD: the Joint way of doing business might actually gain ascendance, as any smart officer would have his sights set on an interesting career at PJHQ and the Joint command in Whitehall, actually involved with operations and action, rather than boring routine work in his Service HQ out of town sorting out training and recruitment and leave rosters etc.

It's probably a good thing, as anyone who knows the MoD would admit that foolish interservice squabbling is one of the main factors paralysing it. That said, any such knowledgeable person would enter the caveat that Joint could be a disaster if it turned out merely to mean one Service achieving dominance over the other two (which would be the most disastrous varies with the commentator).

Then, Lord Levene and his co-authors come out with an idea which will be very popular with everyone except officers from the middle to senior ranks:

The Department should reduce the size of the senior cadre of Defence and the management levels below it. To enable this, the Department should review all non- front line military posts from OF5 (Captain / Colonel / Group Captain) and civilian posts from Band B (Grade 7), to determine the need for the post, whether it needs to be civilian or military, and optimum management structures ... the Department should manage senior individuals' performance robustly and must be willing to replace those whose performance falls short.

The only problem with this is that it doesn't go far enough: all three services are vastly overmanned from OF3 (Lieutenant-Commander/Major/Squadron-Leader) level on up, and the MoD civilians are probably even worse.

In fact it would probably be a good idea to get rid of some of the officer ranks altogether. There are no fewer than ten (or theoretically eleven) levels of rank and no more than five are really required by combat organisations: this means that at many ranks there is no possibility of holding a combat command, tending to mean even more swivel-chair hussars than there would otherwise be. But Levene felt unable to tackle this issue.

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