This morning we have another weak criticism from the LibDem front bench, following my observations on Chris Huhne recently. Defence spends too much on promotion rather than just funnelling all the cash towards direct recruiting. It’s not as if the party are short of people with a background in corporate communications and marketing, yet nonsense like this comes out. Nick Harvey, himself formerly a communications and marketing consultant, has apparently said:
Recruitment costs are one thing but the idea that money is being wasted on pointless presentational spin is unacceptable in all government departments
So Armed Forces Day, demonstrations and exhibitions at county shows, presentations to councils, employers, local influencers and opinion formers are a waste of money?
It seems that Mr Harvey, and by implication the research team in Cowley Street who will have briefed him, think that it’s better for recruitment to the Armed Forces to be conducted under a cloak of secrecy. We can expect people to come into Armed Forces Careers Offices with little knowledge about any of the three other than what they’ve gained from the press. An industry that describes every helicopter as Royal Air Force, whether it’s from there, the Royal Navy or the Army Air Corps. An industry that describes every individual in camouflage clothing as a soldier, whether Army, Royal Navy, Royal Marine or RAF. An industry that condemns all civilians in defence as desk jockeys, regardless of how close to the action they may get.
Successfully attracting the right people, with the correct skills and aptitudes needs the Armed Forces to promote what we do. The employment market is competitive, getting the right people needs investment. We need to be able to communicate with people in different ways, recognising that it’s not just the young man or woman coming through the door that needs to be aware of us. Parents at the very least, teachers, work colleagues all need to be aware.
Once again a good opportunity to demonstrate credibility in defence has been wasted. It’s opportunistic, and doesn’t demonstrate a reasoned analysis of the information available.