The British military is led by a “pack of middle-aged white men” and is rife with sexism, racism and bullying, a shocking new report says.
The study said “an unacceptable level of inappropriate behaviour persists” across the army, the navy and the RAF, leading the Ministry of Defence to launch new measures to tackle the problem.
A "significant number" of military personnel have experienced "bullying, discrimination and harassment, including sexual", says the report.
It was conducted by Air Chief Marshal Michael Wigston, the incoming Chief of the Air Staff, who was commissioned to carry out the study "following a number allegations of inappropriate behaviour", the MoD said.
The leadership of the RAF, army and navy was described as a “generation not used to having people from other diversity groups serving along side them”, saying their behaviour is “shaped by an armed forces of 20 years ago”.
It said a “new generation” of military personnel, including those from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, women and other “underrepresented groups”, had “grown up in a more open and permissive society” than their predecessors.
The report said that many personnel consider that reporting inappropriate behaviour is futile.
There have been "repeated suggestions" that those in the military are not reporting inappropriate behaviour because they fear the consequences of doing so, it says.
Some personnel thinking about making complaints are worried about the "impact on their career prospects" and "being perceived as a trouble-maker", according to the report, which adds: "Many simply consider that reporting inappropriate behaviour would get them nowhere."
The armed forces are also lagging behind wider society in dealing with issues associated with the #MeToo movement, and the use of language in the military "can be inappropriate and offensive, simply through a lack of understanding of how it may be perceived by a minority group".
The report, published on Monday, concludes: "Ultimately, the challenge of inappropriate behaviour will only be addressed through a determined effort across the whole force to change the culture, driven persistently from the top and at every level of leadership and line management below that."
The Ministry of Defence has announced that the newly created Defence Authority will have a role in investigating allegations such as sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination and give personnel greater opportunities to make complaints anonymously.
Other measures include new compulsory diversity and inclusion training, and a harassment survey will also be introduced in 2021 as part of a "shift in culture", according to the department.
A Ministry of Defence statement said: "While the great majority of service men and women go above and beyond what their duty demands of them, there is an unacceptable level of inappropriate behaviour in some areas."
Inappropriate behaviour "has no place in society, let alone in our armed forces", said defence secretary Penny Mordaunt.
She added: "This report sends a clear message and I am committed to ensuring its recommendations are delivered in full.
"In addition to the report, I want to ensure non-commissioned officers are able to address poor behaviour when they see it. They are the moral compass of the armed forces."