July 4, 2013

ICDS seminar “Different Cultures – One Team: Building and Maintaining a Military-Civilian Partnership in Defence Organisations”

On July 1st, in close co-operation with the Estonian Ministry of Defence, the ICDS hosted a seminar on working cultures and relations of civilian and military personnel in defence organisations. Speakers from Canada, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United States – members of the NATO Science and Technology Organisation’s (STO) Human Factors and Medicine (HFM) Panel’s Research Task Group (RTG) 226 – presented the results of the latest research into the challenges of managing civilian and military workforce in their respective organisations as well as into the general issues of civil-military relations (CMR).

On July 1st, in close co-operation with the Estonian Ministry of Defence, the ICDS hosted a seminar on working cultures and relations of civilian and military personnel in defence organisations. Speakers from Canada, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United States – members of the NATO Science and Technology Organisation’s (STO) Human Factors and Medicine (HFM) Panel’s Research Task Group (RTG) 226 – presented the results of the latest research into the challenges of managing civilian and military workforce in their respective organisations as well as into the general issues of civil-military relations (CMR).

On July 1st, in close co-operation with the Estonian Ministry of Defence, the ICDS hosted a seminar on working cultures and relations of civilian and military personnel in defence organisations. Speakers from Canada, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United States – members of the NATO Science and Technology Organisation’s (STO) Human Factors and Medicine (HFM) Panel’s Research Task Group (RTG) 226 – presented the results of the latest research into the challenges of managing civilian and military workforce in their respective organisations as well as into the general issues of civil-military relations (CMR).
Defence organisations employ both military and civilian personnel who have to work in partnership with each other. Civilians who in some defence organisations constitute up to one-third of the total workforce are often required to work closely with their military counterparts (e.g. at headquarters, at bases, on missions and in academic settings). Many are overseen by military supervisors and managers, while others are themselves responsible for managing military personnel. Although the issue of military-civilian working relationships and a common work culture has so far remained largely unexplored, it is an important human resources topic in defence organisations. It often determines whether or not the defence organisations possess the unity of effort necessary for their effective and efficient performance in executing their tasks. In 2012, the NATO STO HFM Panel launched a Research Task Group (RTG-226) with the participation of 11 countries to address this issue by means of research and knowledge sharing.
There is a growing concern in many countries regarding how to integrate a very diverse workforce consisting of civilians (public servants, contract employees, private sector contractors), regular full-time military personnel from various services and branches as well as of reservists and, in some cases, conscripts into coherent and effective high-performance teams across the defence organisations. Some countries are coming up with the overarching concepts (e.g. Defence Team in Canada, the Whole Force Concept in the UK, One Defence Force in Sweden, Total Defence Workforce in New Zealand), encapsulating a vision of such culturally diverse yet organisationally well-integrated forces which also are attractive employers to different types of workforce. This vision is becoming a major driver of a sustained research effort to collect data, compare civilian and military personnel roles and cultures as well as diagnose challenges of bringing them together, thus providing up-to-date evidence to support introduction of new policies and sound practices in defence organisations. At the same time, the theoretical framework of CMR needs to be augmented (e.g. with corporate concordance model) in order to reconcile institutional (civilian and military) separation with a growing degree of collaboration and integration of civilian and military personnel which is happening in reality.
Canada (Dr Irina Goldenberg & Dr Angela Febbraro, Defence Research and Development Canada)
The relationship between the Department of National Defence (DND) and the Canadian Forces (CF) is defined by the National Defence Act (NDA). The Minister of National Defence is responsible for administering the NDA, both for the DND and CF. However, by law, the DND and CF are separate entities, headed respectively by the Deputy Minister (DM) and the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), who are both responsible to the Minister but have different (yet complementary) roles: the DM is responsible for policy, resources, interdepartmental coordination and international defence relations, while the CDS is responsible for command, control and administration of the CF, military strategy, plans and requirements.
In terms of demographics, Canada’s defence organisation has 67,000 regular military personnel (or 52% of the total personnel), 31,000 reservists and 29,000 civilian employees (or 23% of the total). Over the last 10 years, the latter number grew by 38%, while the number of military personnel increased by 11%. These increases in numbers were largely a result of the campaign in Afghanistan and its operational requirements. The mean years of service are comparable between the military (11.5 years: 13.2 years for officers and 10.9 for NCOs) and civilian (10.2) personnel, which refutes the perception that civilians are less committed to working in defence organisations. Cutbacks in the mid-1990s, both of civilians and the military, resulted in a dip of experience that is difficult to compensate. Currently, the number of civilians is being cut, while the number of military personnel remains stable (although the number is not growing either).
The civilian workforce is composed of public servants (who may move between government departments; have job security – 91% of defence organisation’s civilians), term employees (those who are filling in for absentees), casuals (who spend a third of a year in public service duties) and students (future potential recruits for DND). In terms of employment categories, there are operational (31% of DND civilians); administrative and foreign service (29%); administrative support; scientific and professional; management (1%, as many such positions are filled in by the military); and other.
Civilians are represented, in different proportions, in all capability components: 20% are in the maritime forces, 20% in personnel services, 19% are in land forces, 11% are in material services, 8% in air forces, 6% in information services and 6% in science and technology. The land component is the largest (37% of military personnel), as it is closest to the on-going operations; a further 20% are in the air forces, 19% in maritime forces and 15% in personnel services. The civilian workforce is older (the average age is 46.2), compared with military (34.9), and has a higher proportion of female employees (40.9%, compared to 13.8% in military), but its attrition rate is comparable with the military’s (indeterminate civilians – 5.5%; regular force military – 6.1%), thus again highlighting the earlier point that civilians are not less committed than military personnel. The number of individuals eligible to retire from the DND civilian and Regular Force populations is steadily increasing.
With regard to policies and practices, the current starting point is the Canada First Defence Strategy, which sends a message that personnel within the defence organisation constitute one team (the Defence Team). It is supported by 6 principles, identified by the CDS, which will guide the reshaping and renewal of the CF: CF identity; Command-centric imperative; Authorities, responsibilities and accountabilities; Operational focus; Mission command; and An integrated Regular, Reserve and Civilian CF. The latter is particularly important in terms of civil-military collaboration, since it envisages a more integrated effort where CF structures are closely interconnected and interdependent to ensure the best utilization of appropriate skills and experiences at every level.
The Public Service Employment Act and the Public Service Labour Relations Act regulate government behaviour and principles in recruitment. The Treasury Board of Canada is the employer of the public service, and is generally responsible for accountability and ethics, and financial, personnel and administrative management. Public service employees belong to various “occupational groups”, each of which is governed by a collective agreement between one of several unions and Treasury Board.
The Code of Service Discipline (part of the NDA) is the basis for the CF military justice system and is designed to assist military authority to maintain discipline, efficiency and morale in the CF. It thus prescribes more severe punishments than those applied to civilians for the same offenses under the civilian justice system. The Code sets out who is subject to the military justice system; establishes service offences for which a person can be charged; establishes service tribunals and their jurisdiction as well as the processes of review and appeal.
Several Defence Administrative Orders and Directives apply to those who manage DND employees, setting out requirements and principles for civilian HR governance and management (including governance structure, functional direction, coordination and communication mechanisms as well as a performance management framework). There is a variety of committees to deal with civilian human resources, the highest being the Defence Management Committee, which provides the DM/CDS with decision support and advice with respect to issues of strategic importance (including human resources). The Civilian Human Resource Committee focuses specifically on strategic civilian HR management issues, while the Strategic Human Resource Management Council, which includes civilian and military chiefs of human resources, works to coordinate DND and CF human resources policies and resolve various issues. The Defence Team concept, along with other tools, is employed to increase contact between civilians and military, minimize stereotypes and harmonize culture across the defence organisation.
High emphasis is placed on values and goals of DND and CF personnel. The military is guided by the publication “Duty with Honour,” a doctrinal document which defines values (duty, loyalty, integrity, courage) and attributes (responsibility, expertise, identity) of military personnel. The Public Service Code of Ethics applies to civilians, espousing democratic, professional, ethical and people values that should guide civil servants. There are similarities between these two codes, such as ethical behaviour, loyalty, and rule of law, but also differences (e.g., unlimited liability and courage apply to the military).
Sweden (Dr Johan Österberg & Dr Eva Johansson, Swedish National Defence College)
There have been more than two decades of downsizing of the Swedish Armed Forces (SAF), and conscription, which has traditionally been a link between the military and broader society, was suspended in 2010. There is currently an on-going transition to a new structure which will be completed in 2018, with the aim of achieving more functional, flexible and available capability. The budget, however, has remained stable over the last 10 years or so.
At the moment, the SAF consist of almost 14,000 military (nearly 7% female) and over 6,600 civilian (nearly 38% female) personnel as well as 8,000 reservists and 22,000-strong Home Guard (the MOD does not see itself as part of the military organisation, though there are military positions and some officers serve 2-3 years duty tours in it). There are imbalances in the distribution of personnel by rank, age, gender and competences: for instance, there are too many senior officers (12.5% of military personnel, compared with 4.9% in Norway or only 0.5% in Finland) and many of them occupy well-paid administrative positions, while what the force needs is more of younger personnel in operational positions. The average age of officers is 44 years for men and 37 for women; of NCOs, 26 years for both men and women; and of soldiers, 24 years. The average of civilians is 46 years.
A new personnel supply system has been in place since 2010 and aims to deliver more functional, available, flexible and operational defence. As part of the reforms, for instance, over the next 2 years many positions of officers will be turned into those of NCOs, and their current holders will be asked to make a switch from officer to NCO rank, which is already causing tensions in the military. Furthermore, as a result of a hasty transition to the all-volunteer force, currently many platoon leaders are inundated with administrative duties, which is emerging as a major source of dissatisfaction among them and needs to be addressed in the process of the reforms.
The SAF are guided by a set of core values such as openness (cooperation, honesty, trust), results (create, deliver, be clear), and responsibility (give, take, demand). These values, according to the Chief of Defence, apply to both civilian and military personnel, which supports the notion of “One Defence Force” based on common values. Civilians still retain a distinct culture, which leads to some clashes and to some military not seeing them as part of the Swedish Armed Forces. On the other hand, according to the latest surveys, the largest gap in terms of job satisfaction and motivation is not between the civilian and military personnel, but between the SAF Headquarters and the units.
Transition to all-volunteer force prompted questions not only about a weakening link with civilian society and a lower visibility of the military but also about its future demographic profile. In a bid to increase the diversity and visibility of minorities within the armed forces as well as to increase employment, a pilot project is being launched by the Swedish Employment Agency and Swedish Armed Forces to recruit 500 citizens of non-EU origin in various regions to do basic military training (3 months). The expectation is that some of them will eventually join the armed forces as full-time employees.
Netherlands (Dr Manon Andres & Prof Joseph Soeters, Netherlands Defence Academy)
The defence budget of the Netherlands is 7.8bn euros (4% of the total government budget or 1.4% of GDP; around 59% of this amount is spent on personnel); however the steady trend (in real terms, i.e., adjusted for inflation) has been that of constant decline since 1990. There is an on-going downsizing of the armed forces, from the current 65,000 (over 51,000 military and 14,000 civilian) to 53,000 personnel (over 40,000 military and 12,000 civilian) in 2016. The current proportion of civilians and military (20/80) will be, more or less, maintained. In terms of gender distribution, there are relatively more women in military police, support services and among the civilians. In terms of age distribution, 46% of civilians and 13% of military are over 50 years old, while just 14% of civilians and 59% of military are less than 35 years old.
Civilians are normally not deployed and are not deployable. However, they can go to operations on voluntary visits, but then as an administrative solution they can be “militarised” (i.e., put into uniform, but not carrying a gun) in order to get the same insurance and other conditions (disability benefits, compensation in case of death, application of SOFA) as military personnel. The role of “militarised” civilian personnel is not very well defined, creating various issues of trust and jurisdiction (disciplinary, legal). If civilians were reservists, they would benefit from the same training and familiarity with operational terminology as the military.
Functionally, the Netherlands apply the principle that all positions in the defence organisation are civilian unless they require military expertise. Normally, military occupy positions requiring military expertise, involving the handling of weapons or when a function is performed in special (war) circumstances, whereas civilians hold positions requiring continuity or specialist non-military expertise. There are, however, grey areas where military perform non-military functions (after all, not all military can hold operational roles at all times). In general, though, the closer the position to military operations, the greater chances it will be held by military personnel. Thus, the proportion of military personnel is higher in operational commands, whereas there are more civilians in support structures. But even within those categories, some departments or units can be rather mixed. (Herein, the question of critical mass is important: if the proportion of one group, civilian or military, is lower than 20%, it tends to be difficult to break stereotypes; those few individuals dominated by a large group, or so-called “tokens”, tend to simply adapt and assimilate to the larger group).
Involvement in Afghanistan has been changing dominant views about the nature of the defence organisation, with the narrative of “we are organised to fight” becoming a prevailing one. Military personnel and civilians bring different relevant competencies and skills in different contexts, so the organisation is now preoccupied with the question of whether they are adequately integrated and exploited. Key to collaboration between the two groups is mutual understanding and respect.
During the interviews with the senior leaders of the organisation, most interviewees (except those representing unions) asserted that there were no serious issues in working relations between civilian and military personnel, albeit the cultures were different. However, some issues may potentially become very problematic, even though they so far have not seemed to affect working relations:
• Fairness issues, related to differences in salaries, pensions, benefits and housing. The better conditions of the military are legitimized by arguing that, in the end, they have to fight and civilians do not;
• Career planning issues, as careers of military personnel are planned and career counselling is provided, which is not the case with civilians. However, the military career planning system is becoming less centralised, as the military are now required to search and apply for a next position through the internal military positions “marketplace” and, if not successful, may have to leave the force. This is creating a lot of uncertainty and anxiety among military personnel;
• Civilian personnel are less expensive, but also less mobile (which is seen as inflexibility by the military). There are tensions between continuity and mobility aspects;
• For the civilians, defence is often seen as just another job, whereas for the military it is seen as a calling. However, this generalisation glosses over many cases where civilians are emotionally attached to defence (otherwise they could choose better paid and more prestigious jobs in other sectors of government);
• Civilians feel that they constantly have to prove that they have skills relevant to the defence organisation, while the military feel that they have to constantly explain to the civilians how things work in operations. Civilians tend to have more respect from the military if they have been in operations or are reservists;
• Military personnel tend to have strong relations inside the defence organisation, whereas civilians have stronger relations with those outside the organisation, which may affect perceptions of fairness (e.g., military promoting their own lot) and loyalty.
Union representatives were more critical about the state of affairs in the defence organisation. The main cost driver of military personnel is their retirement scheme (they retire at 60, as opposed to 67 for civilians, and receive pensions the size of their last wage, as opposed to an average earned throughout the career received by the civilians). All financial increases over the last 10 years have gone to the military; defence civilians are paid less than civil servants in other institutions. Civilians also have less job security, as the military can still search for new jobs in the internal military jobs market if their current position becomes redundant, which is not possible for the civilians. The general tendency is that the military is better off, even in the times of reductions and downsizing.
A new theoretical framework (Dr Rebecca Schiff, US Naval War College)
A key issue is that civil-military relations theory does not deal with working relations between civilians and the military. On the other hand, the notion of service members exercising their individual rights while maintaining neutrality does extend into the Civil-Military Relations (CMR) field. Thus, civil-military working relations are not only a human resources management issue but also can be seen as a CMR issue to a certain degree.
CMR theory focuses on the institutional separation of civilians and the military and on the topic of domestic political intervention by the military. It neglects organisational culture and society, or treats them as intervening variables. It also assumes civilians are firmly in charge of democratic governance. Concordance theory offers institutional and cultural analysis of CMR, but still is about domestic political intervention as it produces indicators of concordance predicting chances of military intervention in domestic politics. The question is whether CMR theory, even accounting for the cultural side, applies to the topic of civil-military integration. Clearly, the idea of separation at the heart of CMR theory is not relevant. We need to reconfigure how we look at CMR, and the idea of partnerships with civilian agencies and local society, which is central to counterinsurgency (COIN), offers a solution.
CMR theory is not very useful for COIN. However, congruence theory, especially its distillate form – the concept of targeted partnerships – is relevant: nobody denies civilian control and supremacy, but on the ground –  in day-to-day work and strategy execution – it is necessary to let the boundaries between the civilian and military realms overlap and intermingle (which Huntingtonians would fiercely reject). Targeted partnership means that partnership between civilians and the military is limited for a certain period of time and towards a clear objective. This echoes corporate concordance theory, which is an internal framework for teams inside a company to come together and focus on specific objectives on a day-to-day basis within the broader organisational change effort but without wanting to change the organisation’s culture.
Full NATO STO HFM RTG-226 report, including the case studies of individual countries participating in the project, results of a multinational military-civilian survey and analysis of the military-civilian partnerships in different contexts, is expected to be published in 2015.

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