The army is undergoing a radical overhaul, “Army 2020” is the transformational aim.  Forced, I suspect by budgetary constraints, they are reducing the size of the regular army by 20,000 and in its place doubling  – to 30,000 the size of the reserves.  The army has in recent years been somewhat neglectful of the Territorials and recruitment has suffered so this will be addressed  as they  build up their newly named ‘adaptable’  as opposed to ‘reaction’ or regular  force.  The impact of military service on family life has been a key issue for staff retention so the army is adapting to the demands of contemporary British society and increasing levels of flexible employment. This, I would suggest, needs to be managed very sensitively otherwise it could deal a life blow to operational effectiveness and undermine the British Army as a global force.

Underlying this decision  is an unwavering faith in the productivity of flexible employment which has in fact been very difficult to prove. While there may be evidence that it increases staff retention there is little  return on investment analysis because it has been so difficult to count the costs. To the extent that companies have  adopted  these policies – this is a result of strong government pressure, suggesting they  would have  been unlikely to do so if it were only market forces at work.

While these flexible strategies may have worked well for certain types of employer they could be  diametrically opposed to the ethos of the army. Flexible employment is about quality of life, pursuit of personal  goals, putting oneself or one’s family first. The ultimate goal of the army is to maximise ‘operational effectiveness’ and this explicitly requires limitations on individual freedom, subordinating one’s interests to those of the unit. Ultimately, it is not possible to reconcile individual or family interests with the possibility of having to lay down one’s life.

Underlying the move towards flexible employment is the belief that encouraging women to join the army is the best way to address the challenges of recruitment – however, this policy could seriously backfire. For men, doing a job is less about achieving status and self-fulfilment – although of course these are important. Rather, I suspect that doing a job for which you are needed and uniquely well suited plays more of a role.

As women enter the army in increasing numbers the ethos of self-sacrifice and selfless commitment is likely to be diluted on the altar of flexible employment and serving in the army will become a job like any other. If the army no longer makes special demands of men as men, it will lose its attraction for them and, as has happened in the Anglican priesthood with the introduction of women priests, the numbers of applications from men will inevitably go down.

One of the main aims of the flexible strategy is to increase family stability and here too the law of unintended consequences needs to be factored in. While in the past army wives at least had the security of knowing that when their soldier went on tour he was in an all-male environment, as units become increasingly mixed, even this small security will fade. This could threaten family stability and the enormous dependency which the army has on military wives’ support.

A key strategy of Army 2020 is integration between the reserves or ‘adaptable’ forces and the regulars or ‘reaction’ forces. This will happen through a system of  ‘pairing’ where the units will train together and that is how they will be deployed.  While these two forces will be regarded as professional equals, it seems likely that the reserves will have a greater predominance of women and flexible employment will have much more of a role. Differences in use of flexible employment can breed resentment  in regular businesses  – it is going to require very skilful management to ensure that its  application  in this context  neither erodes army values nor, more importantly,  the social cohesion that is so fundamental to the operational effectiveness of the unit as a whole.

There will be a reduction in the army’s capacity for deterrence and defence which is deeply regrettable. However, opportunities also abound. The army is keen to develop overseas engagement and through this head off conflicts before they arise.  It plans  to strengthen homeland resilience although this is particularly necessary partly, I would suggest, because of its weakness abroad.  The reserves will be deeply involved in all of these activities and this provides hugely interesting opportunities for civilians, especially those with ethnic minority backgrounds if they would like to get involved.

At the same time the army will have a higher profile in society as it comes to depend more on reserves and processes of recruitment and as we increasingly come to depend on it to protect us from crises at home.  This provides a unique opportunity for the values of the army to become valued by us all.  Discipline, selfless commitment, limitations on individual freedom, courage, integrity, loyalty. These are values from which we would all benefit were they gradually to filter into society at large. However, for this to happen the army should not capitulate to the shabby, lax demands of a mainstream society where the overriding ethos is that we should be able to ‘have it all’. It should lead rather than follow. It should uphold its right to have values and standards which are different from society in order to achieve operational effectiveness  –  the ‘need to be different’ not the right to be different as General Sir Richard Dannatt sets out.

To do this it should temper its willingness to capitulate to an ideology which equates sameness with equality.  With the money spent on discrimination and harassment cases, higher levels of hospitalisation required by female soldiers, subordinating unit cohesion and  physical fitness to requirements of  ideology, there is an awful lot to lose.  If retention is the issue,  money should be  invested in  supporting military families through improved accommodation, educational advantages for their children, improved health facilities. These would all achieve the same aim.  In terms of recruitment, if strategies focused on upholding military values and attracting men rather than women   I suspect in the long run recruitment would be more likely to go up.

The spin-offs of such a strategy could be very beneficial. It would provide a system of British values providing an alternative for those who seek a perverted heroism abroad.  It could provide a valuable role and source of identity for the constantly maligned British man. It would  strengthen the British Army and increase our capacity to deal with threats from abroad.

Previous articleChris McGovern: Ofsted chief Wilshaw trusts the State not poorer parents
Next articleA note to our readers
Belinda Brown
Belinda Brown is author of 'The Private Revolution' and a number of well-cited academic papers. More recently, she has started writing and blogging for The Daily Mail and The Conservative Woman. She has a particular interest in men's issues and the damage caused by feminism.


  1. Not quite as simple as that.

    The mistake is thinking only in terms of political contest. For instance Portugal, Italy and Spain have been well loaded with Greek debt by the manoeuvrings of the French. A Greek default wouldn’t only fall on German taxpayers, it will fall on all tax payers because the loans have been monetised. Countries that are already on the brink of similar defaults will likely be pushed over the edge.

    A Greek default is in and of its self a fairly innocuous problem, but that is exactly what the first sub prime defaulters were. It’s the domino effect and the speed of it that defeats the Central banks ability to cope and turns a minor rockfall into an avalanche. No one knows where the black swan lurks. The crash of 2007 has only been contained and the effect of the containment has increased the likelihood of a far larger collapse at some point. Central banks now find themselves powerless to unwind the financial distortions they have created and Governments are fighting to pretend they have control. When this all goes sideways the political cost will be entirely eclipsed by the financial implosion which will pass around the globe at breathtaking speed and intensity.

    Once those two syllables are uttered we will see the reaction by the markets. At this point they are volatile, highly leveraged and entirely dependent on central banks cheap money. Every backslide has been propped up by central bank plunge protection teams of one sort or another-Mario Draghi ‘we will do whatever it takes’. When the central banks omnipotence falters and the Gods of monetary control are revealed as only mortal men a shudder will run through the markets. The leveraged Ponzi scheme will be seen to have topped out, the debt will have solidified and someone will have to take the pain. At that point there will be a dash for the exits and things will break down fast. No liquidity, no capital, no production, no jobs, no customers.

    • It’s all foggy..Japan has the highest debt to GDP ratio in the world at 400%
      and Singapore and the Netherlands are both ahead of Greece but don’t make the news at all. Maybe Greeks are finding this ‘so bad’ because their welfare system revolves around pensions (with special interest groups having their own claims), but very little unemployment benefit, so the unemployed are destitute, and also suffering continual low skill immigration competition.
      As you say European loans are shared between other European countries, so maybe the end result of this is that there has to be a common debt restructure, part of which could be that a % of debt is monetised but directly to local business on fixed rates.

      • Well they usually come for the depositors money-a straight haircut-then they print to create enough inflation to erode the debt-essentially it’s a wage cut. It also means that wages rise, but not as fast as prices and that pushes the tax brackets. The government is effectively taxing more through tax bracket creep and the invisible monetary expansion.

        Japan obviously has its own currency so can print and both Japan and The Netherlands have far bigger economies than Greece. They also have much tougher tax collection.

        Greece is a hive of corruption, wasted public money and tax dodging. That’s fine if they have their own currency, but the Euro lock is antithetical to their lifestyle. This has given Greek people a reputation for indolence and tax avoidance, but they are one of the hardest working people’s in Europe. Unfortunately they have a bloated public sector that knows no bounds when it comes to grabbing cash and pensions, whilst the Government is more than keen to find pet projects to reward it’s supporters.

        However any country might be the black swan, or just a single event such as a high default level on student loans. The tinder is very dry, stacked high and the Sparks of misfortune drift over its form constantly. It only takes one to set fire to it.

        • Japan and Netherlands have bigger economies, but that’s covered in the debt to GDP ratio, the cost of their debt being ‘run up’ out of perceived private sector risk in the debt markets for certain countries ends up as a fait accompli

          I’m not going to attempt a chat about the vagueries of the monetary system, but found this insight interesting


          So their substantive conclusion:

          The ECB would be powerless if there were a broad sovereign debt crisis across the Eurozone, in the same way that the Fed or Bank of Japan would be powerless to credibly avoid a self-fulfilling debt crisis in their countries.

          Is plainly false.

          The ECB could buy all the government debt issued and could then announce that it would credit the various treasury accounts with funds to match the deficits at will.”

          • Right, but that’s just money printing. In the end it is not the ECB that sets market rates, they are only goosing the interest rate through monetary expansion. Once they start- which they already have-they are unable to wind it back. They are pouring petrol on a house to put out the fire. Eventually it is the markets that will call time, at present they are basking in the glow of virtually free casino money. The common term is BTFD ( look it up if you don’t know what it stands for), the market is being bribed into going along and it’s driving wealth to a tiny few and impoverishing the many, it’s also wrecking capital and higher paying jobs.

            Wealth is really production and not money. You cannot play with the numbers forever, there is an inevitable reckoning. Playing with confetti fiat is a time limited game. In the short term it buys some time, but it doesn’t increase productivity which is the real underlying driver. As the saying goes ‘you can’t survive by eating money’. Having a company worth a stock market cap of billions that produces nothing, or is making unsustainable losses won’t last forever.

  2. Perhaps I’m watching a different set of events, but from my vantage point all I see is the Greeks continually punching themselves in the face and achieving nothing, whilst the Germans, and other northern European countries, watch the Greek’s stupidity roll out before even greater audiences…

    • I must be sitting on a different rock then Jabba,
      from here, and with the Voting pattern being such that the younger the voter..the more likely to vote Oxi,
      bearing in mind when all this started anyone <25 was a teenager, and since the turn of the century at least, things have been getting squeezed, so that brings it upto 50% unemployed!) Youth Saying to the “I’m alright Jack, Generation” and the French/German banks that ACTUALLY RECEIVED the previous bail out €’s… “you spent it, YOU pay it back”

      Damned right too, if anyone cared what I thought 😉