Calling In The Troops

(Photo: Ingy The Wingy)

A headline on the UK news talked about complaints that the government is using an additional 3500 soldiers to help with security at the Olympics.  Why complain?  The security seems crucial; and given that the soldiers are being paid anyway, and were not going to be deployed elsewhere, the opportunity cost of their time does not seem very high.  (I’m assuming that the British Army is not maintained permanently larger for use in security in such events.)  This seems much more efficient than hiring some temporaries for security, who might not be as well-trained and who would require pay.


Andrew

Are these soldiers trained in peace-keeping tactics?

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It seems to me that in any randomly selected group of military professionals, at least some of them will be. But the world needs (a lot) more military police anyway, so if this reminds people to increase the training, then that would be a positive side effect.

K. P. Hart

The gripe is more with G4S; the company that proved woefully inadequate in delivering the security.
Also, the person instrumental in getting G4S the contract now works for that company ...

Owinok

Calling the Troops matters in two ways. The first is that it projects the image that the state takes seriously safety at the Olympics and is bringing out its most accomplished professionals to ensure that. On the other hand, one may read this as showing that the threat of "terror" is so serious that it is not to be placed in the hands of regular police.

Sally

I believe the problem is that the government has ALREADY paid a private firm a huge sum of money to provide security. Granted, what's done is done, and the gov't HAS to provide adequate security one way or another. Complaining serves no purpose. Just do what you gotta do to make sure everyone is safe.

Griff

The problem is the extra troops are needed because the firm which contracted to supply the security people found it couldn't deliver - at the last minute.

It is also a firm which has a substantial number of government contracts.

dp

The media expect perfection from everyone but themselves. Newscasters are often paid thousands of pounds for extra jobs working for big business. They get these jobs because they are seen in places like the BBC and then they pay tax like a business (about half of income tax). Yet we never anything of this only that big firms aren't perfect. No human is, including the media!

greg

Perfect nobody expects, not a complete cock up with staffing numbers thousands below what was required and promised (and which they had lied and repeated said they had under control until about a month ago), that's fucking up in a manner that is not excusable when they've been paid so much money for it.

G4S are mainly a private security company but also now a general outsourcing company particularly to the public sector and they also have a lot of history of fucking up, currently coming to light are other smaller contracts they are not performing on (they made a shambles of running some doctor's practices in a trial area was one that came to light recently) and have won contract bids that are really important like running certain police and health services where if they fuck up it'll go badly and the tax payers will be left with a far bigger bill and they are bidding on other stuff still.

Their repeated failures have to be taken into account properly when bidding on contracts and the government seem to just ignore them too easily and start putting far harsher terms into contracts for failures like this.

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Allen

The problem of course is that combat troops are not policemen and are trained for an entirely different set of demands. Good combat troops make bad cops and good cops make bad combat solders.

KevinH

Like other here, I think people see the calling in 'Plan B' (the troops) as a symptom of a poorly managed Olympics. Though, you could ask yourself if the soldiers really are cheaper, why they weren't plan A and come to the same poor management conclusions.

Mark

Keeping the peace is a very different job from deliberate violent conflict.

Ongoing or expected combat gives a greater societal expectation for casualties. This allows us to give soldiers fairly simple Rules of Engagement. The simplicity of RoE results in either greater troop losses, greater enemy losses, and/or greater civilian losses.

As any former infantry soldier who later became a police officer can attest, there is an enormous gap between training to enforce laws and maintain peace and order, and training to kill an enemy.

Law enforcement spend a year or more (plus continued development throughout their careers) learning to walk a thin line, ever careful to respect the rights of citizens, while exercising as little force as possible to maintain order.

In the military, this training time is better spent learning to more effectively engage the enemy and stay alive in sustained extremely dangerous circumstances.

Nobody reasonably expects idle teachers on their summer break, or unemployed construction workers to go out and fill these security roles. It's nearly as absurd to suggest that military troops should act as security in a peaceful city far from any combat zone.

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greg

British troops have for a long time had a different focus compared to American troops because of their operational deployments and generally peacekeeping training is a much more high priority due to things like The Troubles as well as a generally different military culture. Until 2007 when active duty was removed from Northern Ireland (only garrisoned troops there now) a lot of British troops got stationed there which was pure peacekeeping roles. There is a lot of peacekeeping experience and so on in the British Army. Also the operational focus in Iraq etc tended more towards peacekeeping (at least initially I'm less sure about it at the heights of the insurgency) than their US counterparts.

Also private security organisation is a high skill but private security themselves for basic things like bag checking, basic crowd control etc is a relatively low skill level and the basics can be taught with relative ease.

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Jonathan

I belieeve some of the soldiers have had their leave postponed so that they can provide security for the Olympics...

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The rel objection is which troops are being used and how.
These troops have been pulled off, operational training, leave and logistics services.
The time tables for their deployment must therefore be altered ie if they are not training now they will have to train all the way up to deployment next year without leave. If they are in leave now they don't get leave.
Second they are housed in a tent camp in north London. Buses for the Olympic site leave at abou 0500 and then they are on for 12hrs without a break. Without overtime. Without the work days being added to leave in the future.

The opportunity cost to the government is low but for the troops it's as high as you can get.

Dave

You know, I am not really sold on the whole 'They don't have the right kind of experience argument.' While police training is very useful, I think many of the skills transfer (calm in stressful situations, ability to act as a group, etc.) and typically soldiers have some training with these sorts of things anyways. Besides, most of their job is to prevent things from happening by their presence.

We have a culture where even manicurists have to be licensed more often than not, and one of the effects of that seems to be a over-emphasis on training. In this case, intersperse some police and security personnel in with the military and everything should be just fine.

Andreas Moser

That the British government can immediately supply these troops actually shows that it has too big of a force ready at all times. They have nothing to do.
Using them for the Olympics will incur extra costs because they will work overtime, they will need to be housed, fed and transported.

London now has more military stationed there than during World War II: http://andreasmoser.wordpress.com/2012/05/07/london-olympic-world-war-iii/

Ken Arromdee

That doesn't follow. It's like saying that the fact that we have enough electricity at 1 AM means that our electrical capacity shouldn't be any bigger. You need to be prepared for peak demand, not current demand, unless it is possible to ramp up to being prepared for peak demand fast enough. Just like building power plants takes time, so does recruiting and training soldiers.

Dave

Waiting for someone to say it :)

There definitely isn't cloud computing for military. While I wish that most military programs were much smaller (we can start in America) any argument that suggests a ready response force indicates unnecessary waste is untenable. Whether you think are military needs to be 10x larger or a tenth the size we should be able to agree that it needs to be agile.

I do think there are good arguments for military being more involved in local humanitarian work or some such for a portion of their time.