Minutes of the All Party Group for Reserve Forces AGM 10th June 2009.
Lt Gen Andrew Graham CBE, Director General, Defence Academy of the United Kingdom
Julian Brazier MP (Chairing)
Rt Hon Sir Malcolm Rifkind QC MP
Lord De Mauley
Linda Gilroy MP
Mark Lancaster MP
Laura Moffat MP
Desmond Swayne MP
Sir Peter Viggers MP
Colonel Julian Radcliffe, Sponsor and Clerk
David Bishop, Clerk
Joel Charles, Researcher to Julian Brazier MP
Bob Russell MP
Andrew Murrison MP
Bernard Jenkin MP
Colonel Richard Dixon TD
Colonel Paul Beaver TD
1. Election of Officers
None of the officers’ positions were contested and the meeting voted and agreed that the Officers from last year would remain in post.
2. Presentation by Lt. Gen. Graham
Lieutenant General Graham began by outlining his role as DG UK Defence Academy (UKDA). He welcomed the previous reports of the APRFG, and highlighted the particular pressures facing reservists: the need to balance the requirements of the individual for training with the requirements of employers and family. This need presented particular challenges and constraints.
He believed that the contribution of the 18,000 reservists who had deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and supporting areas had been first-class. The reservist offers considerable untapped potential which we need to harness if we are to get the most out of the force structure.
In essence the task facing UKDA was to provide effective training and education, primarily in the joint environment, to service people and civilians throughout their careers in order to develop their competence, technical, tactical and business `know-how` and command, leadership and management expertise. Time was a constraint for regulars, but a particular constraint for reservists.
UKDA was formed following the Defence Training Review (2002) and combined four organisations:
• Royal College of Defence Studies
• The Joint Services Command and Staff College (formed in 1999)
• The College of Management and Technology
• The Armed Forces Chaplaincy Centre
UKDA courses were taken by some 20,000 military personnel, and a further 47,000 civilians. 100 nations had sent students to the Academy to benefit from its first class training.
The General felt that training and education had received only a light pass in previous reports by the Group (reflecting perhaps a correspondingly light touch in defence thinking). Given the pressure upon the reserve forces, and the demand they had for training, he welcomed the chance to address the issue.
General Graham went on to discuss courses at the JSCSC open to reservists, by Service:
The JSCSC runs an ACSC(MR) for 25 or so senior RNR Lt Cdrs or equivalent. The course covers political and strategic issues, Maritime and Jt ops, operational planning and aspects of command and management of the Maritime Reserves, which are essential for promotion to Commander.
ICSC(MR) for 30 senior Lieutenants RNR or equivalent including RFA, RMR, USNR. The course aims to equip officers with skills, attitudes and knowledge to fulfil a range of SO2 staff posts. This is essential for promotion to Lieutenant Commander.
The Army review of officer careers, known as ROCC, reviewed the course content of professional military training at successive levels to ensure it was fit for purpose.
Army officers now complete a rigorous MK1 and MK2 programme which prepares them for their appointments on and off operations and for the Intermediate Command and Staff Course (Land) which is mandatory for all officers on promotion to major. There a Territorial ICSC(L).
In regard to the training and education of reservists the aim is that the quality should match that provided to the regular counterpart. Moreover, all regular courses are open to reservists should they wish to attend and have the time available to attend.
The Royal Air Force recently undertook a Review of Officer and Airmen Development, known colloquially as the ROAD study. The ROAD study recommended an overhaul of the system to provide a graduated programme of Professional Military Development supported by a competency framework, training objectives for both residential training and distance learning, and a form of workplace training/development which could build on this education. ROAD identified the requirement for junior officers to attend for shorter, more frequent, residential education and training courses whereas senior officers would derive greater benefit from longer residential courses. A regular young RAF officer will now visit the Defence Academy for a one week residential course within 18 months of completing initial officer training, will return 18 months later for a 2 week course and then 18 months later again return for a 1 week course. This training is mandatory and a pre-requisite to promotion to squadron leader which in itself earns the individual the right to come back for a mandatory 8 week Intermediate Command and Staff Course. Thereafter, selection for the Advanced and Higher Courses is decided on merit.
There is an opportunity here; previously officers of the reserve attended a two week course early on in their career and a further two week course at the intermediate level. Reservists are now able to fit into the sequence of junior officer training and education up to Squadron Leader level as capacity allows.
He felt that the RAF’s approach to blending training and education on a through career basis represented a model of potential best practice. The RAF saw education and training as a vital tool in enabling their people to do their jobs effectively while supporting the Sufficent, Capable and Motivated agenda.
Training and Education
More broadly, Lt. Gen Graham felt that education and training had the potential to become a force-multiplier: enabling the forces to do more with their current resources. He saw education and training as key to success in meeting the Defence and Security demands of the 21st Century. The demands on commanders in terms of scenarios, strategy and tactics had increased to a point where those commanders needed to be capable of consistent, high-quality thinking under pressure. It was vital to ensure that people weren’t overwhelmed by information, but had the understanding and tools to ask the right questions and come to good decisions.
The Defence Training Review had, in the words of Lord Robertson when SofS, set in place a `Defence training and education system` that would see us through to 2010. The time was right, therefore, for a fresh review of training and education which put achieving educated, motivated and self-sufficient learners at the heart of training, coupled with a through life/career approach. The opportunities offered by technology and innovative methods of teaching made possible a greater convergence of reserve and regular training in a way which could be relatively low-cost and of high benefit to the learner. As an example of convergence: modular masters degrees were commonplace for regulars. The General believed there was no reason why it should not be an option for reservists.
Training requirements, he believed, should be based around achieving outcomes set by commanders and other demanders. The training deliverer should be responsible for designing appropriate training packages using a blend of means to achieve the output requirement being demanded. Establishing a relevant training and education programme that met the needs of reservists required mapping requirements onto operational needs (including those skills needed by reserve officers to command and administer a unit).
Again, adopting an incremental, through-life/career approach to training (and the use of distance learning) could make training packages more convenient and accessible for reservists. This would also benefit busy regular forces. In the long run, there could come a time when the time-limited reservist course might become the norm for reservist and regular alike, supplemented by distributed and in-barracks practice and teaching.
General Graham then listed a number of options offering opportunities to improve the training and education act:
1. Develop the demanders – the Services and the Civil Service – to be clear about what they want the trained and educated product to look like and be capable of doing ie focus on the `what` is to be achieved. Included in that development is the need to better understand how a requirement is broken down and who has the responsibility for delivering the necessary teaching etc. This need not be a bureaucratic nightmare; an 'OPS' states the result required and includes the 'TPS' (what the course must achieve), the 'RTS' (the gap in capability/knowledge that is acceptable after the course but which needs to be filled by practice and experience `on the job`), and the 'WTS' (the training that needs to be done `on the job`). A clear statement of the 'what is required' is the essential first step before shaking up the 'how'. The tendency tends to be demand 'a course' rather than focus on what standard/capability/learning is to be achieved.
2. Carry on as we are but recognise the difficulties that face reservists to find the time to manage both jobs and their training and adjust our approach where opportunities arise, as in the RAF ROAD programme, to make courses more modular and available.
3. Improve the relevance of training and education by mapping reservist courses to the operational, command and ‘business’ needs of the reservist - having used rigorous analysis of the Operational Performance Standard to identify what bits are really essential `for a reservist`, what should be done as continuation training, what can be left to pre-deployment training, and what experience is needed to consolidate and validate the knowledge and confirm understanding.
4. Provide bespoke, more modular courses that are comprised of shorter elements of residential training spread over a space of years with time in command or on the staff an integral element of that course.
5. Implicit in improving accessibility is an imaginative use of blended learning; that combination of distributed learning done at home or the barracks and residential learning which is designed to clarify, confirm, reinforce and evaluate. Modular MAs are now a fact of service life; the ROAD programme for junior RAF officers applies a combination of distributed and residential learning (one week every 18 months or so) to deliver progressive, empirical training and education to an entire cohort. We should be looking to develop a larger portfolio of blended training and education opportunities that can be spread over time, are accessible to all and which, perhaps, catch the reservist earlier in their career?
6. We might look at, if only to dismiss it, creating a parallel system for training and educating reservists. This is to step away from simply replicating what the Regulars do but in truncated or telescoped fashion.
7. We could take a long-term view and group the reservist`s training days in one year (out of every 3 or 4 perhaps) so that rather than 32 separate training days we can provide a month of consolidated T&E - although this may suit employers less.
The General offered a final lateral thought; that experienced reservists offer a pool of talent that could be drawn on to be involved in the delivery of our training effort. In the context of `comprehensive` or multi-agency operations we should look to use their skills and experience, be they journalists, engineers, bankers, plumbers or whatever, for training as well as in the field. While he suspected that many of those joining do so to escape their primary job and that too heavy a focus on training delivery could be to the detriment of recruitment, it does seem anomalous that there is no reserve education and training capability per se. Such a capability could supplement the regular training effort at training establishments or be centred around the universities where the OTCs, ATCs, RNTCs and DTUS squadrons are based in order to reinforce the network of distributed training and education opportunities.
There is a conundrum – reservists join to do something challenging and to make a contribution … in order to do, to be and to make a relevant, useful contribution they need the right balance of military training, command and practical experience, development and education to fit them for the challenges that the life of an active reservist will undoubtedly throw at them. The long-pole in the tent is time.
3. Questions to the Speaker
Lord de Mauley lauded the presentation and advocated a closer relationship between civilian and defence qualifications, particularly the benefits that the business world could provide, for instance through better marketing or a ‘defence MBA’.
Linda Gilroy welcomed the points made by General Graham. and encouraged the forces to recognise that as more young people went to university, more graduates could join the forces without a commission. This might require a similar modular approach for their training as that advocated for regular and reserve officers.
Lt. Gen. Graham agreed and noted Professor Hew Strachan’s observation, that course-focused training sometimes forgets the previous experience of the individual learner eg the graduate. It was essential, Graham argued, that individuals` experience including courses undertaken should be provided with some form of credit( academic, vocational or competence based) which recognised their training and the standard and capability achieved. He noted that a course run for five days was seen as a ‘long’ course by the civil service. In the military context a ‘long course’ could extend for a year. He was keen to encourage the civil service from all government departments to use the UKDA facility, not least because a multi-agency approach enriched the training for all. The UKDA was looking to make all long courses more modular to encourage people from the civil service, reservist and wider civilian world to dip in and out.
The General also noted that the Polish Army had 250 officers doing PhDs. There was debate to be had about the vale or otherwise of research degrees to honing Defence`s intellectual edge.
Malcolm Rifkind asked whether there was a contradiction in aiming to map training packages from the reserves to the regulars, whilst maintaining a requirement for long courses for regulars.
Lt. Gen. Graham responded that his aim was to deliver the best training he could for reservists, which implied a combination of a blended and incremental approach. He believed this might then `break the mould` as far as regular training was concerned (reducing the requirement for long courses). He noted, however, that within the regular forces it was easier to post an officer for 6 months than on a weekly basis.
Julian Radcliffe (Clerk) noted that the US is well ahead on distributed learning staff courses. Ten years ago he had been involved in a UK staff college distance learning initiative with the US, which had come to naught as little effort had been made here to make the system work for the reserves. He also stressed the importance of reservists’ civilian expertise in the unclearly defined battlefields of today’s world. He went on to talk about a further dimension, the civilian Reservist angle; more should be done to use Reserves with particular skills, arguing for a Reserve database so the MOD can use and fill expertise gaps, on a voluntary basis.
General Graham agreed with Julian Radcliffe on distributed learning noting the progress being made by the RAF.
Mark Lancaster MP talked about his time going through the staff training process two years ago. He felt the course had too many tests at the beginning, instead of learning then testing.
General Graham agreed that the focus should be on developing knowledge, understanding and skills with tests towards the end of training.
David Bishop (Deputy Clerk, Maritime) raised the RNR and a lack of resources and how friends who have joined the Reserves have found it difficult to find training courses open to develop Reserve Officer skills. David Bishop supported General Graham’s points on distributed training and education and e-learning.
General Graham agreed that some areas training and education for Reserves might need a look. More was needed to be done to harness capability to deliver on operations. There has been a problem in articulating Reserve courses which needed to be addressed.
Desmond Swayne MP said that an area of difficulty was career and time commitment issues, in a ‘something for something’ society was there a possibility for a qualification equivalent to an MBA?
General Graham - noted the trend for continuous education and incremental accreditation eg recruits arrive with e-portfolios for qualifications they have acquired, which in turn could contribute towards achievement of a certificate, diploma or other form of higher qualification.
Lord De Mauley – Questioned whether longer courses for young reservist officers could be constructed taking advantage of university holidays. Allowing them time to learn throughout the year would improve performance.
Julian Brazier TD MP – Noted that this was the US and Australian approach.
General Graham – Agreed that there were a number of options for providing training and education that gave servicemen and women recruits the tools to meet the requirements of service.
Julian Brazier thanked General Graham and closed the meeting at 18:00
David Bishop (Deputy Clerk Maritime)