Officers oppose ombudsman plan for armed forces


Attempts to appoint an ombudsman to hear grievances from members of the armed forces face strong opposition from the military chain of command who hold that the move would be ineffective, costly and blur lines on accountability.

The Service Complaints Commissioner is expected to say in her annual report, out tomorrow, that her post should be changed to that of an ombudsman.

Dr Susan Atkins has received  the backing of the House of  Commons Defence Committee and the Labour Party.

However, among senior officers there is deep concern that the proposal fails to understand the special culture of the military and will weaken the authority of the service boards – the main decision-making bodies – and fray ties of loyalty and camaraderie in the ranks.

An ombudsman would have far more wide-ranging powers than currently is the case with the Service Complaints Commissioner.

But the military chain of command remain highly sceptical of the scheme.

One senior officer said “If the office of Service Complaints Commissioner isn’t working then we should be looking at why it isn’t working and addressing the problem rather than bringing in an entirely new post.

“Does one seriously think this will not cost much more money? We are talking about bringing in an outside body and all the attendant red tape and bureaucracy that will involve.”

Another said: “We have the highest ranks spending a huge amount of time with the Adjutant-General looking at problems brought to their attention from relatively junior personnel.

“They understand what’s involved because they know where these guys are coming from. They also know that the people at loggerheads may have to be in the front line together.”