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Sir George Zambellas

New First Sea Lord's statement of intent

Published: 14 Apr 2013

As I take over leadership of the Royal Navy, the UK’s Armed Forces have been busy cutting their cloth to match the finances and expectations of the society they serve. I expect that, wherever possible, our Armed Forces will be deployed in smaller numbers and on shorter duration operations than in the past. They will be used selectively in order to achieve strategic aims. They will work more closely with each other, with other agencies and departments of Government and with our allies.

It is easy to focus on day-to-day concerns surrounding where Defence money is spent. Important though this is, I see my responsibilities as First Sea Lord through a wider lens. The challenges of the here-and-now mustn’t obscure our ambitions for the future of the Service. We have a very long history, and I see our continued evolution in terms of a Naval Service which operates, routinely and comfortably, at range as well as closer inshore – offering genuine political and operational options by affecting what happens on the land, as much as at sea or in the air.
In meeting that ambition, the delivery of the Naval Equipment Programme, in partnership with the DE&S, is key. This programme is a series of complex acquisition projects – Type 45 destroyers, Astute Class submarines, both Carriers, Type 26 Global Combat Ships, new aircraft, protected vehicles and our future support shipping – all of which account for a sizeable chunk of the Defence Equipment budget.

This is a welcome and strategic commitment by Defence which governs the future size and shape of the Navy’s contribution to the UK’s security at home and overseas. But the Equipment Programme shouldn’t dictate our evolution as a fighting force. Numbers of ships, submarines and aircraft can't be the sole measure of our success, because these capabilities are worthless without the political intent to use them, and the experience, skill and authority of the maritime professionals – Regulars and Reserves - who operate them. So, equipment has its place, but our future will be governed as much by the attitude, optimism, creativity and confidence of the men and women who have chosen to pursue a career in the Naval Service. Equally, our future depends on the support of our families.

Turning this ambition into reality won’t happen overnight, but the process is already underway. The responsibilities that go with it are enormous, but we have the expertise and the courage to shape our future with confidence. These qualities lie at the heart of our success as a fighting force – they are why we win at sea. But we must also be prepared to consider shifting – radically if need be – to exploit the opportunities inherent in new technology, in interoperability with allies, and in closer working with the Joint Forces’ Command, the Army, the Royal Air Force and industry. Our pivotal role in the UK Joint Expeditionary Force will lie at the heart of this effort.

Our success in exploiting the opportunities ahead will reflect the discipline, innovation and authority with which we pursue them. I believe our collective success - today and in the future – rests on:

• Our continued pursuit of operational excellence.
• Quiet confidence in our absolute authority as the maritime experts. Explaining, clearly, simply and honestly, what we need to get the job done. Nothing less will do.

• Recognising that we are stronger in partnership than when acting in isolation. Seeking partnerships should be instinctive and part of our ethos: with other navies, other security departments and agencies, and with our sister Services. I have no patience for petty, inter-Service rivalries.

• Pushing the boundaries in finding ways genuinely to improve. Don’t get bogged down in management process. I want to see new ideas which focus on our readiness for the fight and which excite the people I lead. If those ideas have to be radical, then so be it.

Making this happen depends on leadership, above all else - in a visible and personal form. Clear messaging is crucial too, but they are entirely complementary. We design communication strategies, but we do not design leadership strategies. This needs to change. Leadership, in this instance, is not just about performance at the top of the shop, but is the reinforcement of the breadth and depth of leadership responsibility in the whole Naval Service, at all levels. I look forward to watching you rise to that challenge, just as I look forward to serving as your First Sea Lord.


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