14 Aug 2012

Military warning over Olympic impact

A senior military officer claims it could take the armed forces two years to recover from the extra deployment of troops for the Olympics.

Soldiers at the Olympic Park (Reuters)

Thousands of soldiers were brought in to provide security during the Olympic Games after private firm G4S failed to deliver the agreed number of trained staff.

In a warning to politicians about cutting the size of the military, Wing Commander Peter Daulby also said the Games showed the need for armed forces large enough to respond to emergency requirements.

Wing Cdr Daulby, who was in charge of the military’s Olympics planning, said: “It just shows you the dangers of pulling the military down.”

In an interview with The Guardian he said it would take some time for the military to return to its normal routine.

“We were originally planning to provide niche capabilities,” he said.

“When the requirement for venue security was doubled, that was a bit of a game changer.

The country needs a military for more than war fighting. Wing Cdr Daulby

“We had to generate 18,000 people. That does not mean that there are 18,000 spare people. It means that the government has prioritised (the Olympics).

“It will take two years to recover from this, to get back to normal, to get everything back into kilter. You can’t expect them to go back to normal routine very easily.”

Wing Cdr Daulby said the Olympics showed “the country needs a military for more than war fighting”.

G4S compared to military

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said the failure by G4S to meet the security requirements illustrated the different approaches taken in the private and public sector.

In an interview with The Independent he said: “I still think that, in general, there’s a lot that the public sector still has to learn from the way private sector does things.

“But, the story of G4S and the military rescue is quite informative because as two models of how to approach a problem you could not get two greater extremes than the G4S model and the military model.

“The G4S model says here is a cost envelope within which I have to deliver an outcome and therefore I have to do it incredibly leanly.

“I have to do it with very little resilience. So G4S were literally hiring people and expecting to deploy them three days later, into a live situation; trying to build up a management structure overnight, at the beginning of the operation.

“A very lean structure, with lots of dependence on self-motivation by the people in the workforce; scheduling their own shifts, for example, by accessing an internet site.

“The military comes at it from the exact opposite extreme. What’s the job that needs to be done? Ok, we’ll do it. Whatever it takes we’ll pour in massive over-resourcing, massively heavy structures of management.”

He added: “What the military primarily deliver is contingent capability and I haven’t been able to think of a single large-scale example where a private organisation delivers a contingent capability.

“You pay for it, year in, year out, but you probably never use it for what it’s designed for.”

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “The defence contribution to the Olympics was always planned to avoid an impact on current operations.

“So, while some individual training and leave may need to be rescheduled, this will be managed and will not impact on operations including the ongoing mission in Afghanistan.

“Given the scale and importance of this once in a generation event, including the forthcoming Paralympics, it is right that all across government play a part in ensuring the success of the Games.

“This includes the armed forces who have done a fantastic job while continuing to deliver on other standing tasks and duties.”