Admiral Sir Tony Radakin has said that the Armed Forces risked ‘looking ridiculous’ unless they better reflect the nation they serve, saying it was not about ‘wokefulness’ but ‘woefulness’.
The new chief of defence staff made the comments yesterday in a speech to the Royal United Services Institute, saying that it is “not an Army thing or a Navy thing, it’s a challenge to the whole of defence”.
Radakin, who is state educated, described service personnel as “social mobility in action”.
The Armed Forces are the largest sponsor and provider of youth organisations in the UK, he said. “We are the largest employer of apprentices. We take young people, some of whom have few prospects, and we put them on a path of opportunity. Our veterans are some of the most qualified and capable individuals that any employer could ask for.”
He referred to the extraordinary array of skills in the Reserve Forces and that phrases such as “Be the Best” were not just slogans, but the “lived experience” for generations of servicemen and women.
Diversity in the military
“We are striving to do better in every aspect of our leadership. That includes reflecting the diverse nation we serve. Because if we don’t, then quite simply, we risk looking ridiculous.
“This is not about wokefulness. It is about woefulness. The woefulness of too few women. The woefulness of not reflecting the ethnic, religious and cognitive diversity of our nation. And the woefulness of not following our own values, whether respect for each other or the simple integrity of claiming expenses. This affects our culture, our fighting power, our prowess.”
Radakin’s speech comes after the Ministry of Defence last week outlined plans to overhaul its culture, stamp out bullying and harassment, and ensure that women who join the armed forces can ‘flourish’.
This is not about wokefulness. It is about woefulness. The woefulness of too few women. The woefulness of not reflecting the ethnic, religious and cognitive diversity of our nation” – Admiral Sir Tony Radakin
In the summer, a report from the women in the armed forces sub-committee found that 60% of women who had experienced abuse in the military had not complained because of fear of the negative impact it would have on their career.
And in March, Major General Nick Welch, the most senior officer to face court martial since 1815, was jailed for 21 months for fraudulently claiming £48,000 in allowances to pay for boarding school fees.
In Radakin’s first speech since last week taking on the role as the most senior military adviser to the government, he concluded: “We are making progress to better reflect society, particularly in terms of more ambitious targets, more diverse recruitment, more women in senior roles, talent programmes, uniform changes, complaints reform and so on. But we will do more, do it more quickly and more openly.
“And my most passionate point about our culture is about unlocking the potential of these talented and skilled people, who are so committed they’re prepared to risk injury or worse for their nation. All of them play at international level for their country. And our bureaucracies, processes, hierarchies, infrastructure, speed of response and leadership need to match their commitment across the board. We need to unlock the potential energy of the whole Department and fully exploit it in every aspect of what we do.”
Radakin, a qualified barrister, previously served as First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff.