Morale is damaged, head of Army is told
Tuesday Nov 18
General Sir Richard Dannatt has been told that thousands of soldiers are falling into poverty while many more are struggling to provide a basic standing of living for their families.
The report also reveals that many soldiers were found not to be eating properly "because they had run out of money by the end of the month".
More than 1,000 single-income soldiers with families now receive tax credits, but the report tells Gen Dannatt that "many junior soldiers feel that they are being forced to leave because they cannot afford to raise a family on current pay".
Entitled the Chief of the General Staff's Briefing Team Report, the document adds that soldiers are suffering from "complaint fatigue", a "frenetic" pace of life and increasing amounts of "nugatory" bureaucracy when they should be training for war.
It is also disclosed for the first time in the report that at there were at least "10 entirely avoidable deaths" on operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2007 caused by training failures.
These include three killed when a US aircraft dropped a bomb in the wrong location during a battle in Afghanistan's Helmand province and two killed in southern Afghanistan because electronic counter measures had not been properly fitted onto their vehicle.
The report states that a decent level pay is vital to the maintenance of Army morale, but crucially it adds that low salaries are "the number one issue of dissatisfaction for both soldiers and officers".
The report also adds:
* Thousands of single-income soldiers in the UK are now close to the government's definition of poverty
* Poor pay is the number one area of dissatisfaction in the Army
* Many soldiers were not paid for six months
* Army is suffering from complaint fatigue
* Gen Dannatt is "hugely irritated" over standard of accommodation
* Loss of leave is widespread
* Quality of life is being eroded
The maintenance of service housing is singled out for particular criticism by the General, who states that he is "hugely irritated" by the failings of the contractor responsible for dealing with accommodation complaints.
Soldiers also complain that the "tempo in barracks" is greater than that on operations, and under manning often results in soldiers not being able to take leave.
In response, Gen Dannatt writes: "I recognise that the pace of life is frenetic and this brings considerable challenges. I will do all I can to control operational commitments and mitigate the inevitable impact that change programmes have on the Army".
In a new departure for the head of the Army, Gen Dannatt invites soldiers to come up with their own solutions to the pressures of service life.
He writes: "I also look to all of you to come up with innovative ideas to de-heat the programme between operational tours."
Under the heading "Pace of Life", the report states: "There is a perception that when one activity is reduced it is replaced with another. It is viewed that the "pace of life" has been compounded by undermanning, the amount of change being implemented and the lack of support and expertise to deliver that change.
The report continues: "The loss of leave is still widespread. Few soldiers blame their commanding officers as they believe they have little room to manoeuvre."
A new computer system called Joint Personnel Administration, which was designed to streamline soldiers' pay and allowances, has also been beset with chronic failings.
The report says that every unit consulted "has considerable evidence of individual errors" which included many soldiers not being paid for up to six months.
Gen Dannatt accepts that there have been some "teething problems" with the system and adds: "Indeed a member of my own staff was discharged from the Army by JPA when he had just signed on! I sorted it out for him. Rest assured – I am on the case."
This year troops were given a pay rise of 2.6 per cent and Gen Dannatt and other senior commanders will be hoping for a greater increase next year.
The report also reveals that there are not sufficient funds to modernise single soldiers' living accommodation, and instead of providing new accommodation much of the cash available is being spent on keeping barracks "habitable".
Complaints about the company responsible for maintaining service homes, Modern Housing Solutions (MHS), are at an all-time high. The reports states this is the "single biggest issue" for families.
The British Armed Forces Federation, which campaigns on behalf of servicemen, said: "The comments contained within this report demonstrate why this country's servicemen and women need to be represented by a non-political independent body."
An MoD spokesman said: "The CGS's Briefing Team canvasses views from all ranks of the Army on a variety of issues to help the Chiefs stay in touch with all aspects of Army life when making decisions. The report contains the unedited views of individual soldiers, some of which reflect widespread opinion, while others are isolated views. This allows us to identify the issues that need addressing."
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