#morale

Tommy trouble

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It seems the UK Armed Forces are finding it difficult to recruit their own. So much so that they have lifted a 5-yr waiting period for Commonwealth citizens to join up. The National Audit Office states the armed forces are suffering the worst shortage of new recruits since 2010, being short 8,200 from desired levels. Therefore Aussies, Canadians, Indians and other Commonwealth citizens can sign up.

According to official Ministry of Defence (MOD) in the year leading to November 2017 1,759 of the 15,325 regular troops quit  because their time was up. Nearly half (7,439 ) quit early because of worsening conditions and falling morale. 3,325 were kicked out on disciplinary grounds and another 2,337 were medically discharged.

The MOD’s UK Regular Armed Forces Continuous Attitude Survey 2015 revealed,

-The number of personnel stating that they are dissatisfied with Service life has risen to 32%, up from 27% in 2014. Not a good start.

-There has been a fall in the number of personnel reporting that they are proud to be in their Service, from 81% in 2014 to 77% in 2015.

-25% “state that they plan to leave as soon as they can, or have put in notice to leave” (+9% on 2011).

-Satisfaction with pension benefits has dropped 18% since 2011

– Less than a third (27%) of Service personnel agree that the level of compensation is enough

-In 2015, job security was the top retention factor, followed by dental and healthcare provision, pension and opportunities for sport.

  • Individual morale 40% (-6% on 2011)
  • Unit morale 21% (-6% on 2011)
  • Service morale 14% (-4% on 2011)
  • Service life satisfaction 47% (-10% on 2011)
  • Job satisfaction 56% (-8% on 2011)

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Apart from the appalling trajectory of morale, it is clear that care once out of the military doesn’t fare much better.

While the MoD total budget will increase from GBP23bn to GBP50bn by 2020, data about how it is spent is highly opaque. More is learnt by some of the history surrounding the treatment of Tommies.

Support of  veterans has been so lacking that charities such as Help for Heroes has been active picking up the shortfall. It raises over GBP30 million per annum to support the 2,500 British veterans discharged for medical reasons every year to cope with civilian life.

Despite the American Psychiatric Association acknowledging PTSD in 1980, it took the UK another five years to officially recognize PTSD after the sharp increase in veterans suffering from mental health issues post the Falklands War of 1982. Of the 30,000 troops that were sent to fight, the UK armed forces allocated only one psychiatrist to the far away battlefield.

The problem was compounded in the 1990s with widespread closures of UK military hospitals as a cost cutting measure. Seven of the eight military hospitals had been shut or transferred to the NHS by 1999.

The UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) wrote in its recent report on those deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan about how low suicide rates were. It stated, “While rates of mental disorder are lower in the military (3.1%) than the general population (4.5%), the MOD routinely carries out research into those who have served on large scale combat operations, in order to more accurately assess the effects of deployment.” Note there is no data on veteran suicide in the UK.

The UK MOD’s ‘Defence People Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy’ is supposedly in place to challenge the stigma surrounding mental health issues, to ensure that all who serve, and have served, can enjoy a state of positive physical and mental health. The MOD has committed £22 million a year on mental health with the establishment of two 24/7 helplines for serving personnel and veterans. How is it a charity funds 1.5x what the government does?

To put that in context, Australia spends 20x this amount every year just on veterans counseling services. America, albeit a larger veteran base, spends $9bn on mental health for its soldiers.

One wonders why the MOD doesn’t listen to the surveys and act. Then it wouldn’t have to go down the mercenary route.

Diversity in the ADF – lower targets missed by even wider margin

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What sort of defence force can Australia rely on if our military brass blathers on about the importance of “diversity”? The irony is that the Australian Defence Force (ADF) reduced the actual female recruitment target and missed it by an even wider margin. Instead of respecting the pure vocational choices of men and women somehow the military seems to think ever higher levels of discrimination will overcome it. Military morale is not high.

Navy News reports that,

100 Days of Change, running from July 1-October 8, aims to strengthen the momentum for individuals to improve our operational effectiveness by committing to gender equality and equity at all levels.

There is only one thing a military needs to do – be capability effective. It should focus on candidates who fit that requirement. Nothing else matters. Yet RADM Mark Hammond said,  “We must do this as one Navy, regardless of age, rank, race, religion, sexual orientation, ability or gender,” Indeed he should but such outcomes do not come through blatant discriminatory practices.

Shouldn’t a military focus on capabilities of the individual – whether he/she meets the “same” minimum fitness requirements (women have easier standards to pass), can hit enemy targets or whatever objective is set out. If 100 women are better than 100 men for the specific role then the military should hire 100 women and vice versa. Imagine if 100 men proved to be more capable than 100 women for a particular skill? In order to to hit targets, 25 men would be shunned to make way for inferior skills. If 100 women were better in this hypothetical situation, imagine the outrage if only 25 were selected for the 100 positions to keep the diversity target? It wouldn’t and shouldn’t happen.

Is discrimination, where recruiters face demotion if they don’t hit gender based targets, the way we want to run a military? Let’s take a look.

In the 2015-16 Women in the ADF report we see the Navy wishes to have 25% women by 2023  it stands at 21.3% today, up from 19% in 2016.

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If we were to look at actual vs target, it seems that the path is diverging. Isn’t that indication that women are less interested in the military as a career choice? Yet the Navy is forced to discriminate against males in order to hit targets.

So has the Army  it wants 15% by 2023 and is tracking marginally ahead with the ultimate aim of 25%. Could it be that 15% is the “natural” rate of women wanting to join the armed forces?

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The Air Force is also aiming for 25% by 2023 but is tracking below target.

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We should reflect on a study conducted around the world covering over 100,000 subjects which revealed that the countries with the biggest push/policy provision for equality and diversity cause the opposite to occur when choices are exercised. Scandinavia is the perfect example. Men and women don’t sort themselves into the same categories if we leave them alone to do it of their own accord through policies that tend to maximize equality. In Scandinavia it is  20 to one female nurses to male and approximately the same male engineers to female engineers,

Yet look at the lengths the Royal Australian Air Force goes to in order to hit diversity through blatant discriminatory practices.

“In support of this growth path Air Force has implemented, or is in the process of implementing, a number of recruitment and retention initiatives such as:

  • specific female recruiting target
  • Women in the Air Force marketing campaign
  • continuation of embedded specialist women recruitment team in Defence Force Recruiting
  • the trial of a reduction of Initial Minimum Period of Service (IMPS)
  • introduction of the Graduate Pilot Scheme (GPS) for women
  • changes to direct entry female pilot return of service obligations
  • continuation of experiential camps for girls (technical and aircrew focussed programmes)
  • release of an Air Force produced recruitment guide, ‘PropElle’, to support female pilot candidates through the recruitment process.

No such programs are available for men.

Despite all these programmes, surely any squadron leader with any common sense wants the most effective fighting force. Once the canopy closes, they depend on each other.

What an insult to women to think they need all these artificial prop ups to get ahead. Every ambitious women CM has ever met has never relied on free kicks but sheer determination, grit and above all ability.

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It is clear in the table above that all three military branches missed female recruitment targets in 2015/16. The irony is even after lowering the numerical targets of female hires in each military branch over 2014/15, recruiters missed by an even bigger margin. Evidence that on balance women are less likely to join the military when driven by personal choice!

The ADF paper also notes that women quit at higher rates than men, especially at the trainee stage. Men are also much more likely to remain in the military than women after 18mths of parental or maternity leave.

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In terms of gender pay gap there are marginal differences. In the senior ranks – Commodore (Navy), Brigadier (Army) and Air Marshall (Air Force) – women are paid more than men on average. Although the ADF “determines work value and subsequent remuneration proposals based primarily on capability delivery. Where there is a direct or similar civilian (non-military) occupation, market relativities may contribute to remuneration determinations. One example of this is in Defence’s technical trades, where there are measurable market influences and relativity for trades such as vehicle mechanics.

In terms of effectiveness of these diversity programmes,  the data is also telling  a little more than half of women think it makes  difference. 45% of men also agree. Hardly overwhelming evidence.

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When addressing morale, only 40% of men and women feel positive. Confidence in senior leadership was around 63%. Not exactly the figures that make a war fighter. 22% of women are actively planning to leave the military and 25% of men. If the military keeps it up perhaps male  resignations will help boost the percentages of female recruits that don’t seem keen to join.

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The military is the last place that social experimentation should be conducted. Let’s be clear that China, Australia’s most realistic threat in the Asia-Pacific, doesn’t practice diversity in the PLA. It projects capability.

Should our frigates be sunk, our fighters shot down or our artillery troops shelled to smithereens, at least we can say they didn’t die in vain but won the war of diversity. Await the rainbow camouflage to broaden our “wokeness”