MoD to renew focus on internal comms amid call from the top

The Ministry of Defence is 'magnifying' its focus on internal comms after suggestions from the new head of the Armed Forces that its approach needs to change.

New army chief: General Sir Nicholas Houghton
New army chief: General Sir Nicholas Houghton

General Sir Nick Houghton, the chief of the defence staff, has spoken of the need to be ‘honest, straight talking and supportive’ of staff in an interview with the MoD’s magazine Defence Focus.

His words come as the Army gets set to lose 20,000 posts, taking it down to 82,000, and the Navy 5,000 posts, taking it down to 30,000, following the Government’s defence review.

In the light of the cuts, Houghton said there was a ‘significant amount of scope for better internal and external comms' to stop the risk of 'people becoming cynical and detached from what Defence is trying to do’.

The comments wered picked-up by the national media, with The Daily Telegraph leading with the headline: ‘New defence chief warns cuts leave Forces 'cynical and detached’.

A senior MoD source said that internal comms was increasingly important during ‘a time of transformation’.

The source acknowledged that work needed to be done to prevent departmental leaks so MoD staff found out ‘the news that’s going to affect them from the department first’.

The source added: ‘Internal comms is always important, but it is underlined and magnified when going through a period of change. This is about talking to our internal audience in a way that’s upfront, and there’s an irony in terms of the coverage it is now receiving.

‘When you get the Telegraph paraphrasing Houghton as saying forces feel left out and let down, when actually the very point being made is that this is what we need to avoid, then you are more likely to generate those feelings of detachment.’

‘When things go through the lens of the media and a false impression is created that can be frustrating, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t communicate. If anything, it underlines the importance of communicating even more.’

An annual MoD survey of attitudes in the armed forces recently revealed that 30 per cent of army personnel has described morale as low – up from 26 per cent last year.

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