It is the beginning of what will no doubt be another very busy and significant week. We are incredibly proud of your efforts to support the country through this period of national uncertainty, while simultaneously adjusting to new ways of working. Last week we marked the completion of the Nightingale Hospital in London’s Excel Centre, which has been transformed into a hospital for 4,000 patients, all down to the exceptional work of military and civilian volunteers supporting the NHS. This is just one example of the incredible contribution from people across Defence, and there will be many more to come before the COVID-19 crisis is over.
It’s a first for us all to be helping tackle a homeland emergency at this scale. And we’re all feeling the personal impact, whether we are serving at home or abroad – concerns for health and loved ones, juggling caring responsibilities, constraints on normal social behaviour, the effects of home working or workplaces with social distancing measures, financial concerns – all of us will be thinking about some or all of them.
We have seen a huge shift in the Department’s focus onto the COVID-19 response. We have all had to reprioritise workloads and many have had to switch roles. We thank all of you who have helped make this happen.
We also wanted to shine a light on those of you working to deliver operational tasks that continue to assure our national security. The focus in the media is rightly on health and social care workers at this time, but we know that the dedication and sacrifice of everyone in Defence and our industrial partners is ensuring that the country continues to be kept safe.
And thank you to those overseas in Defence Sections and Liaison posts. Your input to our international understanding is more important now than ever. To those of you not currently engaged in your normal duties and who are keen to support the wider response, we will be releasing direction on volunteering shortly.
Many of you will be watching events unfold in the media, and will no doubt be seeing the demand for military assistance. We will increasingly be drawing on the talent and expertise of our Regular and Reserve personnel. For those of you at readiness, please continue to listen for advice from your chain of command as to the part you will play.
Frustratingly, you will also have seen some harmful narratives online, from misinformation in a defence context to criminal fraudsters running online scams. Do not believe them or give them air time. Defence and the Government more generally will always announce any guidance and policy changes through our official channels such as gov.uk, defnet and Defence Connect.
In terms of the ‘normal’ business of Defence, the last two weeks have been a real challenge, and everyone is having to make significant adjustments. For some of us that’s about technology and adapting to Skype chats and conference calls, but for many, our work is not about talking but doing, and rules on social distancing can make that difficult. We need to do everything we can to make the workplace safe while making sure that we continue to deliver our critical tasks. We also have work now underway on what the global impacts of coronavirus will mean for Defence beyond the current crisis, which we will keep you updated on. Most importantly, wherever possible, we must comply with public health guidance and we absolutely trust you and your leaders’ judgements to manage the nuances and complexities within your teams.
There will no doubt be difficult days ahead, as we know that we are not at the peak of the pandemic. But as Her Majesty the Queen said last night, we will succeed and better days will come. Keep in touch with your teams and look after yourselves and your families. Thank you for your resilience and your flexibility.
PERMANENT SECRETARY CHIEF OF THE DEFENCE STAFF
Stephen Lovegrove General Sir Nick Carter