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Military Recruitment: Officers from armed services provide rich source of talent

Andrew Baxter
The Financial Times - Business of Consulting Report, page 4
16 November 2009

Consultants may not have to dodge bullets, but there are enough similarities between their work and that of the armed services to make the profession a popular choice for officers returning to civilian life, reports the Financial Times.

In this article in the Business of Consulting report PA’s global head of defence and security consulting, Nick Chaffey, and defence expert Edward Savage give their views.

Edward Savage says: “The sort of training you get as an armed forces officer is about integrity, leadership, understanding a complicated situation quickly, doing something about it and taking responsibility. These are all things that play well in consulting.”

The article comments on Edward’s experience as a senior defence expert at PA and talks of how PA recruits several dozen people from the armed services each year. In addition to operations in Europe and Asia, PA has a 30-strong US team, drawn either from the US defence sector or from MIT, that focuses on strategic modelling of defence programmes and security policy issues.

Nick Chaffey, PA’s global head of defence and security consulting goes on to point out that the majority of its ex-armed forces consultants work on non-defence issues. “We are very client-side oriented – we work with clients to get things done, rather than sell IT or equipment to them,” he says. “This is one of our key attractions for military personnel.”

Nick says the basis of authority and of personal value is very different at PA, where “anyone will challenge anybody ... the basis of value is what you bring to assignments, and the perceived coaching and advice you can give colleagues, which is not the same as having three stars on your shoulder.”

Some military types, it seems, may be too senior and dyed-in-the-wool to make the transition, although PA makes an exception for General Sir Michael Jackson, former head of the UK army, who joined the consultancy in 2007 as senior adviser on defence issues.

“He has helped us deliver on some more complex assignments and has provided a lot of practical and strategic guidance,” says Mr Chaffey. “He has a good range of opinions” – an understatement, perhaps, given Sir Mike’s reputation for outspokenness.

You can read the article in full here and also read PA’s comments in the report on the state of the profession, on the financial services sector, on consultancy as a buyers’ market, and on what responsible consulting means, on public sector consulting.  The report also features an article dedicated to PA’s work in Iraq, based on an interview with consultant Angus Jackson who spent four years working on a project in southern Iraq to help restore safe water supplies in the Basra region. 

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