‘Do as we say, not as we do.’ Anyone who has served in the armed forces knows this is the ethos of many commissioned ranks, so it comes as no surprise that a group of retired military chiefs were filmed by The Sunday Times boasting about how they could peddle their influence to procure lucrative MoD contracts for private defence firms.
Exploiting professional connections for personal gain is nothing new for retired British officers. Look how many of them sit on the boards of private security and defence companies that pitch regularly for MoD contracts. In my view, this symbiotic arrangement between the top brass and private firms must be outlawed. Because not only does it corrupt our defence budget; it compromises our active duty soldiers by contaminating the motivation of serving high ranking officers as well.
I’ve said for years now that too many serving senior officers think and act more like politicians than military leaders. How else do you explain why they stick with discredited strategies that unnecessarily endanger the lives of the soldiers serving under them, such as mentoring Afghan Army and Police? Maybe these officers know that if they toe the government line whilst on active duty, they’ll be on good terms with the MPs and Ministers they plan to lobby for defence contracts later on.
It is an honour to serve in our armed forces, and a soldier’s duty to the nation does not end upon retirement. As any real soldier will tell you, protecting the national interest is a lifelong commitment. The military elite are not exempt from this simply because they have Knighthoods and strings of letters after their names. If anything, they should be setting a standard for all retired military personnel to follow.
The officers exposed by The Sunday Times claim they did nothing wrong and that they had the best interests of the services at heart. I say that by demonstrating a willingness to sell access to military contracts, they’ve shown just how ready they are to abuse the public trust. One of the firms that bought influence was Israeli. I wonder how many other foreign defence companies are buying this kind of access to Britain’s defence budget. One of the officers stung by The Sunday Times even went so far as to suggest he could exploit Remembrance Sunday to promote his clients’ interests to the Prime Minister. Remembrance Sunday is a time for honouring the men and women who died keeping this nation free, not for cutting business deals.
I’d like to see all the officers exposed by The Sunday Times stripped of their honours, medals and generous military pensions, and not just because they may have breached some rules. They have dishonoured the nation by their actions. Make an example of them.