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Why Armed Forces attitude surveys matter

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Each year, for the last five years, Service personnel are encouraged to say how they are feeling about things like commitment to the job, living…

Each year, for the last five years, Service personnel are encouraged to say how they are feeling about things like commitment to the job, living accommodation, morale and pay.

This is done via the Armed Forces Continuous Attitude Survey (AFCAS).

And since 2010 the tri-Service Families Continuous Attitude Survey (FAMCAS) has collected information on the attitudes and circumstances of the spouses of Service personnel on welfare issues such as housing, health and childcare.

Gathering this information is important for the policy makers when making the decisions that will affect the Armed Forces and their families in the future.

Just one of the bodies who rely on, and greatly value, the AFCAS information is the Armed Forces’ Pay Review Body (AFPRB). Tony Symmonds, secretary to this independent body, said:

We hold the AFCAS survey in high regard and use it to inform our deliberations when making our recommendations.

MOD’s AFPRB liaison officer, Wing Commander Mark Puzey, co-ordinates the evidence that the Body needs:

This year there were 30 papers of evidence from various areas submitted to AFPRB and several referred extensively to data from the AFCAS,” he said.

In recommending levels of pay and charges the AFPRB seeks to enhance the recruitment, retention and motivation of Service personnel, but to do that members need a broad view of Service life in general:

The AFPRB provides evidence-based recommendations to the Prime Minister across a broad spectrum of pay and charges, and AFCAS is a primary reference point to substantiate any observations or assertions made within the evidence that MOD provides,” said Wing Commander Puzey.

Having specific data about a number of areas helps the AFPRB to concentrate on the right issues at the right time:

For example, people’s views on basic pay may vary considerably from their views on other aspects of remuneration, such as allowances or pensions. It is also important to understand what our personnel consider to be the most significant push and pull factors associated with serving in the Armed Forces,” said Wing Commander Puzey.

Building up a reliable source of data year-on-year means that trends can be spotted and the effects of policy changes understood.

Wing Commander Puzey added:

AFCAS is a continuous look at the views of our personnel, so it is not necessarily a case of taking action on a single year’s results. For example, a 45 per cent satisfaction result could be viewed as negative in isolation, but the broader view may show an increasing trend of satisfaction over a period of years.

So, while still not where we would want to be, we at least know we are moving in the right direction. So the AFCAS information is very important to us, and the more people fill in the surveys the better.

Louise Rolland of the Armed Forces Covenant Team is another person who relies on the information gleaned from AFCAS and FAMCAS.

The Armed Forces Covenant, which was published in May, set out the key relationships between the Armed Forces, the Government and the nation. It provides a framework for policy-making and delivery across government to improve the support available for the Armed Forces Community.

Louise said:

It is important that we have a way of measuring progress and AFCAS and FAMCAS have a key role to play as they provide us with attitudinal data about a range of issues relevant to Service personnel and their families. In fact, the surveys touch on most of the 15 themes of the Armed Forces Covenant.

The Armed Forces Act means that every year there must be an Armed Forces Covenant report to Parliament detailing how the Government is supporting military personnel, their families and veterans:

We have quoted AFCAS and FAMCAS data throughout the interim report, and the surveys will continue to be a valuable source of information for future statutory reports,” said Louise.

AFCAS will soon be underway again. Those selected to take part will receive a form between January and April. FAMCAS will be issued between March and May. If you are chosen, remember, your views do count.

This article is taken from the December 2011/January 2012 edition of Defence Focus - the magazine for everyone in Defence.