Brigadier Paul Harkness MBE

Brigadier Paul Harkness was Commissioned into the Queen’s Own Highlanders (Seaforth and Cameroons) in 1988 and served at Regimental duty in Germany and Northern Ireland during the latter stages of the Cold War.  Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Paul deployed to Bosnia as part of the United Nations force trying to mediate a cease-fire in the middle of a genocidal civil war.  Staff jobs at the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall, an Armoured Division Headquarters in Germany and as a Brigade Chief of Staff in Northern Ireland were interspersed with attendance at Staff College and Regimental duty as an Adjutant, two tours as a Company Commander with The Highlanders and as Chief of Staff (Chief Operating Officer) for the Foot & Mouth operation in Scotland.  He concluded his service at Regimental duty commanding 650 infantry soldiers of The Royal Highland Fusiliers, which became the 2nd Battalion of The Royal Regiment of Scotland during his command tenure.

A strategic analyst and planner, Paul was part of the US-UK planning team that developed the plans for the military invasion of Iraq in 2003.  He returned to Iraq several times as the Permanent Joint Headquarters Liaison Officer, as Commanding Officer of the TELIC Reinforcement Battalion, and as the Deputy Chief of the Iraqi Security Forces in 2008.

With his extensive experience of complex operations, Paul was asked by General Petraeus to be his Chief of Operations in Afghanistan in 2010-11.  He was responsible for running all operations across the country from a multi-national force of 130,000 troops, planned and delivered the US surge, and managed the annual budget of $110bn for the operation.  He briefed daily to all senior in-theatre commanders and the 51 national capitals of troop contributing nations, he briefed President Karzai weekly and President Obama monthly.  He established a joint policy committee to reduce civilian casualties resulting in a notable decrease that was commended by the Afghan Government, the UN and the ICRC.

Paul was involved in the Army’s 3 biggest change management programmes over the last 25 years.  His first tour in the Ministry of Defence saw him involved in Options for Change in 1990.  As a result of his work he was subsequently appointed to run the Future Army Structures (FAS) project in 2003-05 to re-design the British Army and find savings of £1bn in annual running costs.  Following the success of FAS he was selected for the Army 2020 review that re-structured the British Army to meet Treasury demands for a smaller but more capable Army.  Given his expertise in the field he was subsequently sent to the Ministry of Defence to be the Army’s representative on the Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015.

Paul took command of the 51st Infantry Brigade and Headquarters Scotland in 2012, which is the Army’s largest war-fighting brigade.  Based in Stirling, he was the Tri-Service lead for all 27,500 MOD sponsored personnel in Scotland.  He was the Joint Force Commander for the 2014 Commonwealth Games, responsible for the planning and delivery of security at 7 venues over 12 days for 5,000 athletes from 71 nations and 1.3 million spectators.  He was also the Army’s lead for ‘Defence Engagement’ in the Gulf region, engaging with both political and military leaders to enhance security cooperation, defence capability and further the UK’s prosperity agenda.

In 2017 Paul left the Army to set up his own company, Hawk Consultancy, providing strategic planning and change management advice.  He was contracted by PwC to deliver ‘Leadership Training’ to the Saudi Arabian MOD, advising the top 60 civilian and military personnel on Strategy, Operational Excellence in business and Change Management.  He also provides discreet advice to companies and foreign Governments in a private capacity.


St Andrew’s University (1983-87).  Master’s degree in Theology (MTheol (Hons)).

Cranfield University.  Master’s degree in Defence Studies (MA).  Published work: The Impact of Scottish Devolution on the Armed Forces.

Graduate of City & Guilds Institute (GCGI).  Published work: Use of Prophylactics in Biological Warfare.

Graduate of the Joint Services Command and Staff College (psc(j)).

National Awards:


Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service

US Meritorious Service Medal


Rugby, athletics (forced by my body to retire!), history, reading and field sports.

Non-Executive Director of Forth Valley Chamber of Commerce; awarded the UK Government’s Gold Award in August 2017 for employer support.

Previously a Non-Executive Director of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo (2012-15), Scottish War Blinded (2012-15), Sports Board (2016-17).

Advised and assisted in the writing and delivery of the Islamic Curriculum for Peace and Counter Terrorism to prevent radicalisation and indoctrination.  Now translated into 6 languages and adopted in 44 countries.