Over the past ten years, we have achieved many important milestones that have brought us to where we are today. One particularly meaningful goal that has been at the top of our priority list is signing the Armed Forces Covenant. Last week, we proudly achieved this milestone in the presence of our team and a very special guest, General Sir James Hockenhull, KBE ADC Gen, Commander UK Strategic Command.
What is the Armed Forces Covenant?
The covenant was published in May 2011, and its core principles were enshrined in law for the first time in the Armed Forces Act 2011. Essentially, it is a promise by the nation to ensure that those serving and former members of the Armed Forces, as well as their families, are treated fairly.
Speaking after the event, CEO Marc Warner said;
“We are proud to sign this covenant, affirming our commitment and support for the Armed Forces Community. It’s a real instantiation of our respect and appreciation for the tremendous contributions that serving personnel, veterans, and military families make to our nation, communities, and businesses.”
It was especially significant for us to welcome General Sir Jim Hockenhull to our offices for the signing, given our role in deploying Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning solutions across UK Strategic Command, which Sir Jim described in his speech as “the crown jewels of Defence.”
“The covenant is a natural extension of our broader work in Defence and National Security, where we are using AI and machine learning techniques to help make the Defence AI Strategy a reality across multiple Commands and Top Level Budgets, including the Defence Artificial Intelligence Centre and Defence Science and Technology Laboratory.”
With the covenant now in place, our goal is to build our offer to reservists, which currently includes;
- Dedicated leave for faculty reservists to take part in training activities. And as part of our wider leave and working policies, we provide flexibility for families of service members.
- Resettlement opportunities for those leaving the Armed Forces and providing first-hand experience in the AI/ML and technology industries for those about to start the next stage of their careers.
General Sir Jim urged other organisations to follow suit in welcoming reservists, also emphasising that national security should be viewed as something everyone can contribute towards, “I am trying to create a mechanism whereby being in the reserves can be easier for people and less of a path to jump over…defending the UK and making it prosper is not just a job of people in uniform and reserves and civil servants but an endeavour we should all work towards. You are all part of that security endeavour and I’m really grateful for that as you can help to give us that edge.”
General Sir Jim also shared some thought-provoking insights on the future of the military and the role technology now plays in defining that future.
“The arms race that we are in is a technological one and at the core edge of that is the application of Machine Learning and intelligence. The future of the military is going to be defined more by its software than its hardware. In this software defined future we are really grateful for the help Faculty provides to defence and wider national security.”
Looking to the future
As an organisation, we are excited and humbled to be able to contribute to supporting the mission of the defence in the UK with the advanced technology they need to gain and sustain their edge. As General Sir Jim concluded in his speech,
“It is a big and important step for Faculty to sign this covenant, but signing is just one part of it. I’m really keen to take today as a starting point for us to build upon, whether that’s through expanding the reservist program, the chance for former members of Defence to come and work here, or just to establish a closer relationship about how you support UK Defence and help us achieve our goals going forward.”
We would like to thank General Sir Jim for taking the time to come to our office last week. It made it extra special to have him there to meet with our team and share his insights. As the General said, this is only the beginning. We are looking forward to much more to come in the future.
As a final note, we would like to give a special mention to Google’s VetNet community for providing us with invaluable support in our Armed Forces Covenant preparations.