Select Committee on Defence Second Special Report


SPECIAL REPORT


The Defence Committee has agreed to the following Special Report:—

GOVERNMENT OBSERVATIONS ON THE SIXTH REPORT FROM THE COMMITTEE, SESSION 1998-99

The Committee published its Sixth Report of Session 1998-99, on The Reserves Call Out Order 1999 and Progress on Territorial Army Restructuring (HC 860), on 8 November 1999. The government's response to this report was received on 13 January 2000 and is published as Annex A to this Special Report. We also publish as Annex B to this report the Ministry of Defence's latest Quarterly Report to the Committee on the progress of Territorial Army restructuring following the Strategic Defence Review.[6]

ANNEX A

1. The Government has noted the Sixth Report of the 1998-99 Session by the Defence Committee, published on 8 November 1999, and has the following observations.

THE RESERVES CALL OUT ORDER 1999

2. The Government observes that three call-out orders have in fact have been made since the Reserve Forces Act 1996 took effect in April 1997, one in each year.

3. The Government notes the Committee's view that the on-going process of improvements in the administration of the mobilisation is continuing, but that there is still room for improvements in the areas of pay administration and training. The establishment of the Reserves Training and Mobilisation Centre has resulted in a marked improvement in the provision of all pay and administration services to mobilised Army reservists and the difficulties experienced previously have largely been resolved. Formal targets for pay administration are currently being met and are due to be benchmarked in mid 2000 prior to the transfer of responsibility of Personnel Pay and Pensions Administration to the Armed Forces Personnel Administration Agency in October 2000. The Reserves Training and Mobilisation Centre carries out its own evaluation of the mobilisation and demobilisation processes using data provided by individuals in a questionnaire.

4. The Reserves Training and Mobilisation Centre also provides pre-deployment training using its own dedicated staff, this training is considered to meet current requirements although training needs are kept under review. Such a review is ongoing at present following a visit to the Balkans theatre to verify the needs of units when deployed.

5. The Reserves Training and Mobilisation Centre is adopting the European Business Excellence Model which will further assist in the formal evaluation of all its outputs. The Reserves Training and Mobilisation Centre thus far has conducted a self-assessment feedback report against the criteria of the model. Verifiable targets will be set against which subsequent performance can be measured.

6. The Government notes the Committee's expectation that the Ministry of Defence will set itself qualitative targets for meeting its concerns, and will report its progress in achieving them. The Government is satisfied that current procedures for administration and training at the Reserves Training and Mobilisation Centre are meeting the requirement although we are not complacent and procedures are monitored to facilitate refinement. Since call out is a process to bring reservists into full time service to meet emergency operational situations, requirements are continually changing. This makes comparative reporting difficult and in some cases meaningless. The Government therefore does not believe that submitting regular reports would be helpful.

THE RESERVES MOBILISATION CENTRE

7. The Government welcomes the Committee's praise for the Reserves Training and Mobilisation Centre, its Commanding Officer and staff. The Centre has proved its worth since it became operational in April 1999. Since then over 900 reservists have been mobilised in support of the Army's operations in Bosnia and Kosovo, with 650 demobilised. The creation of the Reserves Training and Mobilisation Centre was a significant step towards meeting the Government's continuing commitment to the Territorial Army and Reserves, reinforcing the importance of their role.

8. The Government notes the Committee's concerns regarding the capacity of the Reserves Training and Mobilisation Centre. It has sufficient capacity at present to meet current steady state demands, however the Army is examining the expansion requirements necessary to cater for surge mobilisation for the Large Scale of Effort. Specifically it is examining the costs involved in the refurbishment of the basic infrastructure services for Building 178 and will be testing them for affordability.

9. The Government disagrees with the Committee's view that the rate at which Territorials and other volunteer reservists are volunteering for full-time service appears to have drastically fallen. The number of reservists mobilised this year is greater than for each of the two previous years, as shown in the table below.


Number of reservists called out and accepted into permanent service
19961997 19981999 (to 31 Oct)
RNR 5 3 7 12
RMR 0 0 0 12
TA1488 630595 678
RAuxAF/RAFR 36 11 74 235
Army Reserve 369 332148 367

Although the Army Reserve and the RAFR are not volunteer reserve forces as defined in the Reserve Forces Act 1996, both forces contribute reservists to support operations and they are therefore included in the table.

10. The Government notes the Committee's concerns that there were no plans to use serving part-time territorials for marketing activities aimed at employers, but points out that it already does so. Nearly all of the Service officers who are currently employed on the employers' support marketing and public relations campaigns are members of the volunteer reserve forces, and that more are likely to become involved.

11. The Government shares the Committee's view that the balancing of military requirements, individual wishes and employers' needs is vital to the success of call outs. The Government aims to be as flexible as possible in the length of call out

PROGRESS OF TA RESTRUCTURING

12. The Government notes the Committee's concern that the strength of the Territorial Army is being reduced at a time of high levels of operational commitments. However, the operational demand is for Territorial Army personnel trained in particular specialist areas and these are not the areas that are being reduced.

13. The Government notes the Committee's request for information on the strength of personnel in different functions, and an assessment of progress towards achieving the required skill mix in the Territorial Army. Detailed quarterly returns of actual manpower showing the difference in numbers by skill or trade are not held centrally; we are therefore considering how best to assist the Committee in this regard. The request for a qualitative report is also under consideration to establish what statistical evidence could be produced to support such a report.

14. With regard to the recruitment of Territorial Army medical reservists, our aim is to achieve full manning as soon as possible. A focussed recruitment marketing campaign specifically aimed at the medical services of the Territorial Army was launched on 23 September 1999 and will continue until the end of the year. Initial indications are encouraging but it is too early to assess the full impact of the recruitment campaign.

15. The Government notes the Committee's concerns regarding the proportion of the Territorial Army assessed as fit for role and the number of man training days per volunteer. Because of the readiness levels at which the Territorial Army was held during the period 1 April 1998 to 31 March 1999, it was expected that approximately 50% of the TA would be fit for role; the level of 49% for the period was therefore acceptable. Training days were also at an acceptable level over the period.

16. The Government notes the Committee's concerns regarding the proportion of Permanent Staff instructors. Permanent Staff levels are generally higher than they were pre-SDR when considered as a ratio to total Territorial Army numbers. The Territorial Army Establishment Review will allow for a re-examination of the organisation at the end of the first year if it is obvious that the required standard of training is not being achieved.

17. The Quarterly Report submitted for the period from January to April 1999 contained an error in the statistics reported for numbers of regular and non-regular Permanent Staff. In fact, there were 1,374 non-regular Permanent Staff and 1,713 regular Permanent Staff. This mistake has been corrected in the latest quarterly reports to the Committee.

18. The Government notes the Committee's view that reductions in the trained strength of the Territorial Army should be suspended or that generous overbearing should be offered to Territorial Army units. The Territorial Army capabilities which have been subject to the greatest reductions are not those which are in heavy demand in the Regular Army, and retention of these elements of the Territorial Army would not have been effective in alleviating problems of overstretch. The Government agrees on the need for flexibility in the transitional period. The change in emphasis in the new structure of the Territorial Army from combat to combat support roles will make the force more effective and usable for supporting the type of operational deployments the Regular Army is required to undertake today.

19. The Government welcomes the Committee's support for compulsory call out of the Territorial Army for peacekeeping tasks. The Feasibility Study into compulsory mobilisation of the Territorial Army to sustain Peace Support Operations in the Balkans has now been completed, and has concluded that compulsory mobilisation is feasible in both legal and practical terms. This will enable the TA to make a major contribution to front-line operations and reflects and supports the intent of the SDR that the TA should be usable. At the same time, as a result of the reduction in the force levels in the Balkans, we judge that compulsory mobilisation is not operationally necessary at this time.

20. The Government notes the Committee's concern that frequent call out could put a strain on the relationship between the volunteer, employer and the Ministry of Defence, and that the Ministry of Defence will need to demonstrate that the post-SDR establishment of the Territorial Army can successfully accommodate the compulsory call out of formed units. MOD will keep the possibility of compulsory mobilisation under constant review in the light of operational requirements and any decision to call out elements of the TA compulsorily will take into account the needs of employers and employees.

Ministry of Defence, 13 January 2000


6   See: First Report, Session 1998-99, The Strategic Defence Review: Territorial Army Restructuring, HC 70, paras 47 and 48; Sixth Report, Session 1998-99, The Reserves Call-out Order 1999 and Progress of Territorial Army Restructuring HC 860, paras 17 to 22 and Ev p 2 Back


 
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