Your country needs more sailors – not gold braid

COMMENT: Small victory in a business full of pitfalls for customers

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Too many chiefs, not enough Indians. Or as Mike Critchley so succinctly puts it today: ‘We have got people hanging around in “non-jobs”. They have high ranks and fancy titles, but what do they actually do?’

A question many in most companies as well as the public sector probably ask themselves several times a week when they look up at the serried ranks of managers above them.

But when it comes to the Royal Navy, it is even more worrying.

Because despite what the anti-navy brigade would have you believe – that the Senior Service is an irrelevance in the 21st century – the navy still proudly plays a vital role in the security of this country and others around the globe. All at a time when national security is balanced on a bayonet-edge in this scarily unstable world.

And if there are so few ‘Indians’ that we cannot send a frigate or destroyer to sea without their full ship’s company, what hope is there of doing the same when the two new carriers join the fleet in Portsmouth? They might sail off into the sunset with their correct number of sailors, but what will it do to staffing levels in the smaller warships?

Those of us who live in this area and occasionally mix in naval circles will have frequently come across a gold-braided vice-admiral or the like whose job title puts him in charge of Post-Its, paper clips and parcel tape. Those days must end.

Mr Critchley is absolutely right to raise concerns about a ‘top-heavy’ Royal Navy where there are more people in charge and fewer ratings.

And Andy Smith, the chief executive of the Portsmouth-based armed forces campaign group UK National Defence Association, is correct to highlight the ‘serious trouble’ we shall face if there is not a dramatic increase in manpower.