January 26, 2009
The Sunday Telegraph and The Times have both reported that during an interview for Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) magazine Desider, Chief of the Defence Staff Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup said that mistakes made by British troops cause more damage than attacks by the enemy.
CDS was disappointed to read the media interpretation of his comments from a piece he penned under an entirely different context in the Defence Equipment and Support's journal 'Desider'. The arguments set out by CDS in Desider were originally made in 'Aviate' in 2007 and were specific to Aviation; they were reproduced in Desider as Chief of Defence Materiel's staff believed they had a wider applicability within DE&S.
Some newspapers have misinterpreted certain comments to imply that CDS has suggested that our people are at fault and to blame for a number of incidents on current operations; a recent friendly-fire investigation is referred to and questions raised about whether certain deaths were avoidable. CDS was referring to accidents and incidents, not to operational losses. Within the former, it is clear that human factors are the predominant cause, and we therefore need to do all we can to address these. In order to do so, we need a culture that is fair and just and that readily learns from its mistakes.
This was the key argument in CDS's article. To represent this as a comment on operational losses is wholly incorrect and inappropriate. While there are accidents in operational theatres - and we must of course do what we can to minimise these - the bulk of the casualties come from enemy action. They come because of the courage and success with which our Service personnel engage and defeat the enemy.
UK Ministry of Defence