Air Vice-Marshal Ray Lock CBE is Chief Executive of Forces in Mind Trust, whose aim is to ensure that policy makers who affect the Armed Forces Community are influenced to make decisions based on independent and credible evidence.
Earlier this year, I wrote in The House about the need for all those who support the Armed Forces Community, be they politician, official or charity, to look beyond the current trials and tribulations brought on by Covid-19. At this time of Remembrance, some of us are charged with looking forward not back and generating foresight through research and analysis. Hence the project that we at Forces in Mind Trust are now part way through: ‘Lifting Our Sights’.
Together with our partners Future Agenda, we have produced an initial perspective based on dozens of interviews and workshops as we identify the future trends that will affect us over the next decade. Many are global trends, but we’re interested in their relevance to the UK’s Armed Forces Community, currently numbering around 6 million. I will highlight just two (out of 21) emerging themes.
Understanding of the Armed Forces will decline. The reducing size of the serving and ex-serving Armed Forces, together with the move from conventional capabilities (eg tanks) to cyber, will make the Armed Forces less visible, as will centralized basing strategies that encourage families to live in the community. Fracturing of the UK and a reduction in its role as a global power will lead to less prominent military activity, and more effort being expended ‘at home’ supporting the civilian authorities.
How we work will change. Increasing use of advanced technology in the civilian workplace and automation will favour some Service leavers (eg skilled technicians), but act as a barrier to others (such as infantry). More frequent job changes and an environment of ambiguity and contested truth will play to former military strengths, although more fluid in-service career management and a continuous transition from military to civilian life will be needed to take full advantage.
Our task now is to hunt down data to support and challenge this initial perspective, and to draw conclusions which we will then test with a wide range of thinkers. Early next year we will produce a full report on our work. But I expect very few readers of The House will have the time or inclination to go through it cover to cover. So we have set up a website (see below) to allow people to dip in and out of the report via summaries, infographics and short videos, and to share their own views. I would encourage anyone who cares about our Armed Forces to ‘join the conversation’.
My Trustees asked how we measure the success of ‘Lifting Our Sights’. My reply is we won’t know until 2030; in truth we might never really know. But if over the next decade, our politicians, officials and charities have routinely taken account of our work in their policies and strategies, then I for one will consider it a job well done.
If you want to ‘join the conversation’, or download the full Initial Perspective document, go to liftingoursights.org.uk, from where you can also order a hard copy directly via Amazon.