Innovating Divisions Part IIIa: A fighting organisation

The Army must ensure it is a “Post-Industrial Era” fighting organisation that can continually transform itself.

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Part IIIa: A Fighting Organisation

Challenges Redux

In Parts I and II, we covered in a deliberately provocative manner a series of challenges that the Army faces. In quick summary:

  • The Identity Problem: The Army must be able to easily refer to itself in terms of fighting formations - the unit of measurement that it fights in - similar to the Air Force describing itself in Squadrons and the Royal Navy in Frigates or Carrier Groups. Doing so will allow the Army to more freely define what those units of measurement comprise of, rather than allowing debate on the details by those inexpert on the topic to derail necessarily large programs.

  • The Divisional Paradox: The Army must be able to switch from Brigade sized formations identified as being suitable for the UK’s own specific needs, to operating in Divisions identified as suitable for supporting NATO and Allies. If the Army can organise itself to deliver quickly between these two levels of conflict, it will be in a good position to support a range of operations and exercises simultaneously.

  • The Frontage Problem: The Army must be able to deploy and operate in a manner that allows a smaller number of personnel to affect, influence and apply effect to a greater area, with no clearly defined “front” or “rear” areas. This will allow the Army to avoid tying down and expanding large amounts of personnel and resource in relatively small geographical regions.

  • The High Intensity Problem: The Army must increase the protection, repairing and healing of its personnel and equipment as well as improving its pipeline of recruitment, training, production and maintenance. Doing so will allow it to preserve and recycle both personnel and equipment back into conflict areas faster, with more experience and resolve, for longer.

  • The Myth of Mobilisation: The Army must respond faster, deploy further, with more effect, in order to conventionally deter - or intervene in conflict earlier to prevent escalation - while supporting the Nuclear Deterrent as the sanction for preventing the return to Total War. If the Army can do this it can perform the same or more than it has in the past with the fewer resources it has at its disposal now.

  • The Spectrum Problem: The Army must focus on specific skill sets - a not insignificant multi-spectrum of capability instead of full-spectrum - and hone them to a sharp edge, being bold in identifying the capabilities it wants to “Seedcorn” or even Mothball. Doing so will prevent it from preparing inadequately across too many capabilities in pursuit of an unachievable full-spectrum.

  • The Deployment Problem: The Army must determine organisation, equipment and formations that can deploy themselves at shorter notice, reaching further quicker, entering more theatres and sustaining a deployment by themselves if necessary. If the Army can do this they will multiply their effect, while reducing their vulnerability to supply disruption and avoiding the use of the more unsafe basing options.

  • The Cyber Problem: The Army must reduce its headquarter footprint, further promote Mission Command and perform command and control while on the move in as indistinguishable platforms from its others as possible. If the Army can achieve this it will reduce the vulnerability of attacks on its ability to operate.

A Fighting Organisation

A Post-Industrial Era fighting formation must go beyond Combined Arms.

Rather than the current systems which broadly separate a range of effects between Companies, moving forward a Company must blend a greater range of means to impart effect: At base concept rather than a Rifle, Supporting Fires, Engineering, Pioneering or Signals Company a Company will need to incorporate a number of these abilities to impart effect. These then aggregate into Battalions and Brigades to provide the

How to determine which effects required and available? How to train personnel in the employment of these effects? How to determine the composition of the effects required?

Again at a base concept, how does Andover, DE&S and Regiments output a Company with a variety of skills and equipment currently traditionally spread across several Regiments and training organisations?

A framework is required, one that can continuously re-invent the Army without significantly altering the current structure or tradition.

Multi-Domain Organisation

Multi-Domain Organisation

Example of a Framework for developing the right capabilities to impart effects; imparting the skills and traditions for delivering them; and combining them into effective fighting formations for deployment to the field.

To understand the effectiveness of such a Framework we must zoom-out and look at the whole of the Armed Services holistically, as to look at the Army solely would result in silo thinking.

Note: The namings need work and the boxes are representational rather than exhaustive.

A Multi-Domain Organisation

The premise is that the Capability Bodies, Services and Agencies, and Responsibility Corps represent an ecosystem that delivers the right formations into the right areas at the right time with the right level of support.

The columns must interact and coordinate with each other, feeding back requirements, improvements and advising of barriers to implementation.

The whole organisation shares accountability and responsibility for the security, independence and interests of our country of countries at home and abroad.

Capability Bodies

Akin to the older Establishments (e.g. MVEE, RARDE, RAE), DE&S, QinetiQ, jHub et al, the Capability Bodies work with Industry, the Services and Agencies and various Responsibility Corps to ensure equipment and skills are developed or modified. There are four broad areas of Capability and these are deliberately Cross Cutting Concerns - i.e. they look across all Services - to determine where capabilities are best placed and to ensure where more than one Service requires a capability that wheels are not reinvented if they do not have to be.

In short, doing all the risky front-end experimental design, engineering, organising and determining how to make it all work in an efficient manner across all Services.

One example would be satellite communications - instead of the myriad of ground terminal stations deployed between the Army (several models), Navy (fewer models but still more than one) and RAF (still more systems) that fewer, common terminal stations are procured that can be deployed by AFV, Frigate, UAV or FOB Airfield. Improved standards, supply chain, support contracts, training, support, spares….

The four broad areas would include (indicative, not exhaustive):

  • C4ISR - Covering Command, Communication, Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance and Cyber domains
  • Strike - Covering offensive and defensive weapon systems together with their employment
  • Manoeuvre - Covering mobility and movement, from IFV’s to Destroyers
  • Logistics - Covering maintenance, supply, deployment and sustainment

Services and Agencies

The Armed Forces and Civilian Bodies who combine to supply the highly trained personnel and employ a variety of materiel for military and civilian purposes in the pursuit of our overall security and those of our friends, partners and Allies.

These organisations would remain relatively intact, working with the Capability Bodies to secure the equipment and working with the Responsibility Corps who are responsible for their actual employment and deployment in the field.

A huge advantage here is that the Civilian Agencies will have a direct feed into the Organsiation, able to assist with conflict-mitigation planning from the forefront, including but not limited to prevention, amelioration and post-conflict response such as humanitarian and psychological assistance for civilians caught in a conflict area.

  • Army
  • Royal Navy
  • Royal Air Force
  • Civilian Agencies - Such as DfID, GCHQ, Border and Customs, etc. and who may require a Coordinating Group to integrate into the overall Multi-Domain Organisation.

Responsibility Corps

Formal Joint Headquarters with various responsibilities, either geographical or global, mainly overseen by the military but occasionally by appropriate civilian. They are responsible for ensuring the correct personnel and materiel are present “in theatre” with appropriate support and specific operational/theatre training.

They work with the Services and Agencies to ensure they can supply the high quality personnel and materiel trained to the necessary standard and they also work with the Capability Bodies to ensure equipment, doctrine and training is developed and improved as necessary.

Overall Command would be in the hands of an appropriate Officer for the area:

Examples of Responsibility Corps and their responsibilities would be:

  • European Corps - e.g. NATO responsibilities, joint training Eastern European partners, extended QRA including Baltic Air Policing, etc.
  • Africa Corps - e.g. including involvement in SERVAL, joint training Commonwealth forces, providing security for DfID initiaves, etc.
  • North Atlantic Corps - e.g. including Defence of Scandinavia / GIUK, JEF, APT(N), TAPS, QRA, etc.
  • International Rescue - Tongue in Cheek but e.g. Supporting earthquake SRA, deep sea rescue, supporting WHO dealing with outbreaks, etc.

Fielded Forces

The personnel and materiel in the field, military or civilian, deployed to fulfil their responsibilities and impart a positive effect, under the overall command of their Responsibility Corp but empowered to carry out their missions locally.

From an Army perspective, the Fighting Formations on the ground.

They work with their Responsibility Corps to receive their overall objectives and intent, feeding back conditions on the ground, their status, lessons learned and expected requirements.

Fielded forces may include any person or piece of equipment available to the Services and Civilian Agencies.

Organisation impact on Lenses

Primarily, the move to a structure that is designed to self-reflect and introduce change to the Fielded Forces - the people at the sharp end - is the largest benefit of the Organisational framework.

More specific impacts include:

  • The Identity Problem: The Public and Politicians can more easily recognise and differentiate between Responsibility Corps. At a basic level they understand that needs for “Africa” will be different to “The North”. It is easier to promote the need to stand up a “Caribbean Corp” to take on responsibilities from the “North Atlantic Corp” due to changing circumstances for example.

  • The Divisional Paradox: The Responsibility Corps define the needs for their areas of Responsibility. The “Africa Corps” may only require a Brigade sized number of Batallions to rotate through assisting DfID and HADR, while the “European Corp” may define a “Warfighting Division” is required. The Armed Services retain the majority of their current structure and in conjunction with the Capability Bodies supply the Corps with those needs (volumes, training) over time.

  • The Spectrum Problem: Similarly, what “spectrum of capability” is actually required by the Nation is naturally defined by aggregating the needs of the various Responsibility Corps. If they collectively do not require a Capability, the Services and Capability Body can decide whether to “Seedcorn” the skills in case they are needed in the future, or scrap the capability entirely if deemed that obsolete. These Corps in conjunction with the Capability Bodies will also naturally standardise on the correct personnel and equipment to send - I could very much see a scenario where the Royal Medical Corps and Royal Navy Medical Service begin to blend, concentrating the resources available to their collective medical staff and reducing the overheads.

  • The Frontage Problem: Primarily, the Manoeuvre and Strike Capability Bodies address the ability to cover wider areas in both physical and system range terms.

  • The High Intensity Problem: A combination of the Capability Bodies as well as the Services and Agencies all working towards the goal of supplying the various Responsibility Corps with a steady rotation protected, resilient, trained, healthy personnel and equipment places a large amount of thinking and expertise resource to tackle this problem.

  • The Myth of Mobilisation: In the same vein, many talented minds directed purposefully at the problem of working with what we have globally, within a tight budget,

  • The Deployment Problem: The responsibility of the Logistics Capability Body, working with their sibling Bodies and the Services, to get our personnel and materiel to where they need to be and sustain them for the duration of their tasking.

  • The Cyber Problem: Remember that we define the Cyber issue as primarily a Command issue. A dedicated Capability Body for C4ISR applies a dedicated team to ensure resilience.

Introducing the Organisation

Introducing such a Multi-Role Organisation requires a bold Reform, while knowing that to core of our traditions, values and skills currency will not be discarded.

“If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old… people in any organisation are always attached to the obsolete.”

- Drucker, 1999

Here, the “something old” refers to letting go of some of the current responsibilities of a Service, Agency or group in the knowledge that that responsibility will be managed ably by a suitable person from your Service, Agency or group (or sympathetic to) allowing your part of the whole the freedom and creativity to impart a greater effect at the sharp end.

Start with the Services and Agencies in control

The Army, Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and Civilian Agencies know what they are doing. They initially keep their current portfolio of projects and programs as well as responsibility for current Operations and tasks.

Services and Agencies establish Responsibility Corps

The Services and Agencies initiate the first Responsibility Corps. It will be their people in at the sharp end, they select who is accountable for establishing needs in an area, take command and feed requirements back.

Eventually the Services and Agencies transfer personnel and equipment to the various Corps for fielding.

Form the Capability bodies

In parallel bring the government and quasi-civilian groups together along the broad categories listed. They continue to support the existing equipment program portfolio along current lines.

As Responsibility Corps begin to formalise their needs in terms of resources, training, personnel, doctrine and equipment, the Capability Bodies begin innovating, improving, procuring and developing the next wave of programs and projects that the Services and Agencies will implement fully and properly, feeding back their experience and expertise.

Pick a better name

A Multi-Domain Organisation doesn’t role off the tongue. It’s a dry descriptor to convey a Concept. You could also describe it as an Armed Services Reforms fusing Civilian Agencies.

I’ll reserve the actual naming to my betters.

Up next…

With a Fighting Organisation in place, we will look next in Part IIIb at the kind of Fighting Formation such an Organisation is very well equipped to deliver.

Following that we will consider what that looks like, as well as what the interim steps could like, for the Army in practice with the equipment, personnel and challenges they currently have.

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Drucker, P. (1999). Management Challenges for the 21st Century.

Spiel, B. (2018) Less is more: The enabled Combat Brigade headquarters. Retrieved from

US Army Asymmetric Warfare Group. (2016). Asymmetric Warfare Group Russian New Generation Warfare Handbook. Retrieved from

The Other Chris Written by:

Defence, Science, Technology and History. Opinions my own. I reserve the right to change my opinion based on new information. Posts are for debate purposes and are not endorsements.