The Adjutant General, Lieutenant General Sir Mark Mans, talks to Ian Carr about future challenges and the importance of supporting Service personnel and their families.
DF: What is the role of the Adjutant General (AG)?
MM: Traditionally the alternative name for the AG is Principal Personnel Officer. My role is similar to that of the Second Sea Lord in the Navy and the Air Member for Personnel in the RAF.
Our roles have expanded significantly over the last few years. In addition to personnel, I now have responsibility for infrastructure, children and young people, including cadet forces, Service schools and adventure training, to name but a few.
But central to everything we do is our people, and by that I mean servicemen and women and their families.
DF: So you have Single Service and Defence-wide responsibilities?
MM: In an era of empowerment, I do feel that the Single Services should be given additional Defence-wide responsibilities. The responsibility I have for all Service children and young people is an example.
DF: What is your involvement with the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO)?
MM: Put simply it is to make sure that the Army is both an intelligent customer and an intelligent user and that the DIO understands the Army’s requirements.
Accommodation is important of course, but it’s about a lot more than just buildings; housing, facilities management, services, training areas and the like are all key to delivering military capability. This is all the more important during a period of considerable change for the DIO.
DF: How will Army 2020 affect things?
MM: The big idea is to organise and use the Army to deliver three core purposes. With the end of combat operations in Afghanistan approaching, we will be moving to a more contingent posture, which means being ready for the unexpected. That is the primary purpose.
The second purpose will be overseas engagement, or what is known as upstream capacity-building, which means influencing events overseas in a positive way before a crisis emerges.
And lastly we must continue to serve the UK under the banner of national resilience. Our support to the Olympics is a good example of that.
DF: How are the changes stemming from Army 2020 being approached?
MM: Army 2020 is a huge change programme that has come up with innovative ways to deliver the three purposes I have just mentioned.
Effectively it is the redesign of the British Army, and arguably the biggest change since the end of National Service, not just because of the downsizing of the regular element, but also because of the integration of the Reserves, which means coming up with different ways of delivering the Army’s outputs.
So the future will be about redesigning what we do in an integrated way rather than just taking a slice off the Regular Army and building up the Reserves.
DF: Perhaps ten years in Afghanistan has helped to prepare the way that reservists will integrate?
MM: It was a conscious decision that we would have up to 10 per cent of reservists deployed on operations in Afghanistan. So the Regulars and Reserves have become very used to working alongside each other and understanding each other’s skills and we have to build on that.
Reservists have much to offer but we have to get the structures right.
DF: Might the end of combat ops in Afghanistan help or hinder the recruitment of reservists?
MM: It will be a challenge. If you are a reservist, being able to contribute to operations has been a significant attraction. Without that opportunity we will need to make sure that reservists still have a fulfilling and vibrant role to play in a more integrated Army. In this respect undertaking rewarding training will be key.
DF: Despite the cut in the numbers of Regulars, that doesn’t mean that recruitment has stopped?
MM: No, far from it. The Services are bottom-fed, which means we have to grow our own individuals for the future. We can’t just go into the open market and recruit the experienced soldiers we need.
Because the Army is getting smaller, we have reduced recruitment, but not significantly as we still need to have a steady stream of young recruits to populate the junior end of the Army.
DF: Reducing the regular head count cannot have been easy?
MM: To downsize the Regular Army by 20 per cent has meant making some very difficult calls in terms of how we achieve it. Redundancy is one necessary mechanism I’m afraid.
It is a significant challenge, but that is the position we are in and we are putting a lot of effort into helping soldiers transition into civilian life.
DF: What support are you giving to those who are having to leave the Army?
MM: We are focusing a lot of activity on potential future employers. We are making sure that they understand the skills sets that soldiers have which can be mapped straight across into their businesses.
But it’s not just about employment, it’s also about facilitating housing, welfare, healthcare and children’s education so we are engaging with local authorities too.
The Army’s new Support Command is well-placed to deliver a better support network, particularly as a lot of these issues come home to roost at a local level.
DF: How will the New Employment Model (NEM) help in the future?
MM: The NEM is fundamental because it is about supporting our servicemen and women and their families in a more sophisticated way, as well as providing them with a greater degree of choice.
Work on the NEM predates the SDSR [Strategic Defence and Security Review] as the Service Principal Personnel Officers realised some time ago that the way we employed our people was beginning to look a little bit dated.
We are seeking to put more emphasis on lifestyles, and although we can’t exactly replicate what goes on in civilian life, we need to make sure that terms of service and conditions are appropriate for the future.
DF: Is the role of AG changing?
MM: Not really, but it is important that we don’t lose sight of how we support our people during the blizzard of change that we are facing.
I am a great believer that organisations need tokeep evolving, and, as a sapper by background, this comes naturally to me as an engineer. As such we must adopt a proactive approach to ensure we look after our people’s needs.
DF: Will the end of combat operations in Afghanistan mean that the public will forget about their Armed Forces?
MM: We are acutely aware of that possibility. Sadly because of the casualties and fatalities suffered, the public are currently well aware of the sacrifices made by servicemen and women.
As we approach the end of combat operations we need to continue to build on our existing relationships with society in all their forms to make sure that the wider public’s understanding and perceptions of the Army do not recede over time.