Leaked Documents – Reforms have left the Army in chaos ( U.K)

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Budget cuts have led to ‘hostile recruiting environment’, claims leaked   document

Former members of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers march from Downing Street

Former members of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers march in London after handing in a petition to save the battalion Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

By , and James Kirkup

10:00PM BST 16 Oct 2013

Controversial plans to restructure the Army are “failing” because cuts to the   defence budget are putting off potential new soldiers and making Britain a    “hostile recruiting environment”, according to a leaked document.

The memo, which is understood to have had wide distribution within the   Ministry of Defence, says that “disappointing” recruitment to the new Army   Reserve means that targets for a larger part-time force will not be reached.

The recruitment crisis means the Army faces “increased risk to its structure   and operational capability”, according to the document, which has been seen   by The Telegraph.

The Coalition is cutting the full-time Army from 102,000 to about 82,000   soldiers. Those cuts are supposed to be offset by a major expansion in the   part-term reserve force, which was expected to grow from about 19,000 to   30,000.

The 10-page report, dated Aug 6 and marked “restricted”, claims the Army is   currently recruiting barely half the number of new reservists needed to hit   that target.

“The Army is currently failing to attract and recruit sufficient Army Reserve   personnel. Reserve info numbers in Quarter 1 are disappointing. If this   continues the Army will miss its challenging inflow targets both this year   and next,” it says.

Only 376 recruits joined the Reserve between April and June, missing a target   of 1432. That puts the Army on course to recruit only 50 per cent of the   overall 2013-14 target of 6383, it says. The memo warns: “There is also a   lack of faith in the reserve proposition in some quarters.”

One of the problems identified is a concern among potential recruits that   their mental health could be compromised if they join.

The document has come to light as MPs debate on Thursday cuts in the regular   Army that have seen historic regiments facing disbandment.

Written by senior officers, the memo is a Fragmentary Order or “Frago”    relating to Operation Fortify, the Army’s attempt to boost recruiting.

Philip Hammond, the Defence Secretary, has repeatedly tried to highlight the   importance of the Army Reserve in the Coalition’s defence plan, urging   employers to be more supportive of reservists. The document concludes that   government efforts have had “limited impact on raising the national profile   of reservists.

It lists obstacles to recruiting including “redundancy downsizing, drawdown in   Afghanistan and a reported (if unproven) increase in Mental Health issues”.

It concludes: “All these make for a hostile recruiting environment.”

The warning appears to justify concerns that were acknowledged by Dr Liam Fox,   Mr Hammond’s predecessor as defence secretary, two years ago.

Dr Fox told MPs in the House of Commons that he would not sanction cuts to   regular army numbers until reserve numbers had increased.

Dr Fox suggested that, given the leaked report, the Ministry of Defence should   slow down the pace of the reforms “to avoid a shortfall” of troop numbers   that could reduce the effectiveness of the Army.

He said: “If the ability to recruit reserves does not match the target then   clearly the MoD may have to look at the pace of reducing regular numbers to   avoid a shortfall.

“A great deal of money was set aside in order to attract the reserve needs and   it would be interesting to know how this money has been spent by the Army.”

The Ministry of Defence has already said that it is axing five Army battalions   as part of the shake-up including the 2nd Bn, The Royal Regiment of   Fusiliers. Veterans wearing caps bearing regimental colours interrupted Mr   Hammond’s speech during the Conservative party conference to protest about   the cuts.

The motion for the debate urges “the Government to delay the disbandment of   regular units until it is established that the Army Reserve plan is viable   and cost-effective”.

John Baron, the Conservative MP and a former Fusilier, who is organising the   debate, said: “The time has come to reassess, so taxpayers’ money is not   wasted.”

He added: “There is no doubt that reservists are cheaper than regular troops,   but rising costs bring into question the extent of anticipated cost savings,   and raise the prospect of false economies.

“This is before we start talking about capability gaps. Yet, the Government   continues to ignore requests in Parliament for a fully costed plan. We   should stop the axing of the regular battalions, until we know the reservist   plan will work, and at what cost. We also need to question whether the   proposals will create unacceptable manpower and capability gaps.”

Separately, Gen Sir Nick Houghton, the Chief of the Defence Staff, rejected   the campaigners’ demands regarding regular units, insisting that the cuts   were necessary in evidence to MPs.

He told MPs on the defence committee: “Emotionally, I am 100 per cent   understanding. Intellectually, I am 180 degrees in the opposite direction.   The size of the British Army was unsustainable. This is driven by a   resourcing situation.” Sir Nick admitted that the Army’s new recruitment   operation, run by Capita, a private company, had “got off to a bit of a   wobbly start”.

However, he said he had been assured by Gen Sir Peter Wall, the head of the   Army, that it was due to “an IT blip”.

An MoD spokesperson said: “We have been clear that the Regular Army is   becoming smaller but we are committed to delivering a fully integrated   strength of 120,000 by 2018.

“Over a year ago we announced changes to the Army’s structure so it is more   reflective of the complex global situation. We have always acknowledged that   growing the Reserves would be a challenge which is why we are investing    £1.8bn in training, support and equipment for the Reserves over the next ten   years, as well as running a sustained recruitment campaign aimed at young   people to showcase the diverse range of career paths that are available in   both the Regular Army and the Army Reserve.”



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