‘White middle-aged men’ leading armed forces blamed for bullying culture in new report

Investigation finds military lagging behind in dealing with issues raised by social movements such as #MeToo

Tom Barnes@thomas_barnes
Tuesday 16 July 2019 00:44
The MoD report said armed forces leadership is slow to adapt to growing racial and gender diversity in the military
The MoD report said armed forces leadership is slow to adapt to growing racial and gender diversity in the military

Servicemen and women are facing “unacceptable” levels of inappropriate behaviour in part due to the “pack mentality of white middle-aged men” commanding the armed forces, a report says.

A “significant number” of military personnel have experienced “bullying, discrimination and harassment, including sexual”, according to the research commissioned by the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

It also found there is a “deficit of trust” in complaints systems, with women and ethnic minorities more likely to be involved in disputes.

There have been “repeated suggestions” that those in the military are not reporting inappropriate behaviour because they fear the consequences, the report says.

Personnel who are considering making complaints are worried about the “impact on their career prospects” and “being perceived as a trouble-maker”, according to the report, which adds: “Many simply consider that reporting inappropriate behaviour would get them nowhere.”

The armed forces were also found to be lagging behind society in dealing with issues associated with the #MeToo movement. And the use of language in the military “can be inappropriate and offensive, simply through a lack of understanding of how it may be perceived by a minority group”, the report found.

The research, which was published on Monday, says: “Our new generation, which includes a greater proportion of Bame, women and other underrepresented groups, has grown up in a more open and permissive society prior to joining.”

The document said that despite changing demographics in the wider armed forces, service personnel were still being “led by a cohort described by one external organisation as a ‘pack mentality of white middle-aged men, especially in positions of influence’ whose behaviours are shaped by the armed forces of 20 years ago”.

The MoD has announced that the newly created Defence Authority will have a role in investigating allegations such as sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination and give personnel greater opportunities to make complaints anonymously.

Other measures include new compulsory diversity and inclusion training, and a harassment survey will also be introduced in 2021 as part of a “shift in culture”, according to the department.

An MoD statement said: “While the great majority of service men and women go above and beyond what their duty demands of them, there is an unacceptable level of inappropriate behaviour in some areas.”

Inappropriate behaviour “has no place in society, let alone in our armed forces”, said the defence secretary, Penny Mordaunt.

She added: “This report sends a clear message and I am committed to ensuring its recommendations are delivered in full.

“In addition to the report, I want to ensure non-commissioned officers are able to address poor behaviour when they see it. They are the moral compass of the armed forces.”

The report, which was conducted by Air Marshal Michael Wigston, was commissioned in April “following a number allegations of inappropriate behaviour”, according to the Ministry of Defence.

Additional reporting by PA

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