The Defence Committee has agreed to the following
THE STRATEGIC DEFENCE REVIEW: POLICY FOR
1. The United Kingdom's Armed Forces are acknowledged
to be amongst the best in the world. It may be a truism to say
that their quality depends vitally on the volunteers who constitute
this country's Armed Forces, but it is a truism which is worth
repeating. A central element of the Strategic Defence Review (SDR),
the results of which were announced in 1998, was the 'Policy for
People', intended to put people at the centre of the Ministry
of Defence's plans and to provide a more strategic approach to
Elements of this policy were developed into the Armed Forces Overarching
Personnel Strategy (AFOPS), published in February 2000. We have
more to say about the tension between single-service and overarching
prescriptions for addressing personnel questions below. That strategy
had as its guiding vision: 'to generate and maintain modern, joint,
battle winning forces, by placing Service personnel and their
families at the centre of our plans, investing in them and giving
them confidence in their future'.
In our Report on the SDR, we commented
The challenge of eliminating
under-manning in our Armed Forces is one of the most intractable
problems the Review has had to address. If its policy for people
fails to deliver, then the vicious circle of declining morale,
reduced recruitment and retention, and increased overstretch,
We have examined issues relating to personnel in
a wide variety of contexts in the period since the SDR was published.
Of course, there is more to generating 'battle-winning forces'
than people alone. But in undertaking this wide-ranging inquiry
our intention was to examine the extent to which the MoD is doing
what is necessary to ensure that the United Kingdom has sufficient
and appropriate people in our Armed Forces, and is providing them
with the leadership, training and support necessary to deliver
its defence policy now and in the medium to long term.
2. The Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) said recently
that 'Manning is the single most critical element to shaping the
Armed Forces of the 21st Century'.
We agree: if the current manning situation in the UK's Armed Forces
cannot yet be described as a crisis, it is certainly a chronic
problem which shows little sign of responding to treatment. The
trained strength for all three Services at 1 November 2000 was
189,318 against a trained requirement of 198,043. Most of the
deficit, nearly 6,000 people, is in the Army and this is compounded
by the SDR requirement to increase the strength of the Army by
a further 2,000 by 2005.
These total figures mask some particularly acute problems in key
specialist areas, and are accentuated by the high proportion (almost
8%) of service personnel who are at any one time medically unfit
for active service.
As we have commented before,
recruitment is not the main problem at the moment: it is retaining
personnel which is the greatest battle. It is one which the Armed
Forces have yet to prove they can win.
3. There are many factors, political, economic, social
and cultural, which have changed the context in which Armed Forces
recruitment and retention policies must operate. The Services
must adapt themselves to these changes if they are to remain viable.
With a strong economy, there are plenty of other employment opportunities
for those who might previously have considered joining the Services.
This is equally true for serving personnel who can see attractive
alternative careers outside the Services, making the security
offered by the Armed Forces less of an anchor than in the past.
4. In the post-Cold War world, the role of the Armed
Forces has changed dramatically. Transforming themselves into
an expeditionary force has presented the Services with a very
different, and many would say a more difficult, set of demands
to which they are still adjusting. A changing role for the Services
is running parallel with rapid changes in society which contribute
to making the values of the Armed Services seem less relevant
and less acceptable both to many of those looking in from the
outside and many of those inside looking out. Along with these
cultural changes, the disappearance of the 'cradle to grave' ethos
of the Armed Forces may mean that the perceived benefits of life
in the Services may no longer be enough to outweigh the attractions
of civilian life.
5. The battle to achieve and maintain full manning
must also take place against a background of a defence budget
which is broadly static and seems unlikely to increase significantly.
Achieving full manning will put further strain on an already stretched
financial situation. In this context, the MoD has to be prepared
to think radically about how it achieves its capability
there are, for example, trade-offs to be struck between investment
in capital equipment and in personnel, and between the use of
Regulars and Reservists. Nibbling at the edges of the problem
will ameliorate the situation, not resolve it. That resolution
will require adequate finance and strong leadership. At the same
time as providing the vision, Ministers must also be ready to
allow the freedom necessary for the individual services to pursue
imaginative and radical ideas matched to their special needs.
6. The Armed Forces must find ways of overcoming
or adapting to the challenges they face if they are to continue
to meet the demands placed upon them. In this era of 'joined-up
government', other government agencies also have to recognise
that they have a role to play in adapting the world to the needs
of national defence.
7. The Defence Committee has tracked personnel issues,
and the various government initiatives designed to address them,
since its inception. This has often been in the context of our
predecessors' annual reports on the Statement on the Defence
Estimates. They particularly studied the implementation of
the reductions following the end of the Cold War.
Most recently, we ourselves discussed personnel issues at some
length in our Report on the MoD's Annual Reporting Cycle.
8. Our current inquiry has involved oral evidence
from a wide range of Ministry of Defence witnesses, including
the three Service principal personnel officers, the Deputy Chief
of Defence Staff (Personnel) and the Minister for the Armed Forces,
as well as those specifically responsible for military training
and for housing. Oral evidence sessions were also held with an
panel of academics, the Equal Opportunities Commission, the Commission
for Racial Equality, the three Service families' organisations,
and SSAFA-Forces Help. We put a number of written questions to
MoD at the start of the inquiry and received a very substantial
memorandum in response.
Written evidence has been received from a number of other organisations
and is published with this Report.
We are grateful to all those who have contributed. We also undertook
informal visits to the Royal Navy's School of Communications and
Weapon Engineering at HMS Collingwood; 1st Battalion,
The Staffordshire Regiment at Tidworth and 3 (UK) Division, Signal
Regiment at Bulford Barracks; and the officer training college
at RAF Cranwell. We are grateful to all the military personnel
who gave up their time to speak to us and to the MoD for help
with these visits, which were invaluable.
9. We have examined in some depth the ways the Armed
Forces are tackling the task of recruiting and, most important,
retaining the personnel they need; and what further measures they
are planning for the future. The Armed Forces Overarching Personnel
Strategy categorises its aims as being to
- Cultivate: prepare the ground for obtaining personnel
- Obtain: attract, acquire and train high quality,
- Retain: provide personnel with a rewarding career
which stimulates and develops them and provides the foundation
of a second career
- Sustain: provide an environment in which Service
men and women and their families will be willing to maintain their
- Remember: provide ex-Service personnel and their
dependants with help and support, particularly with resettlement
back into civilian life.
We have used these aims to assess the extent to which
the Policy for People, the AFOPS, and the individual Service strategies
are meeting the personnel needs of the Armed Forces. We have also
sought to identify where they conflict with, as well as reinforce,
10. The MoD witnesses discussed in their evidence
the concept of 'tolerable variation'that is, the extent
to which the special circumstance of each Service or different
branches should be recognised by divergences from the prescriptions
of the overarching personnel strategy.
We recognise the value of an overarching strategy in setting
high standards and demanding targets, and eliminating obtrusive
inequalities in treatment. In an era of ever-increasing 'jointery'
between the three Services, it answers a particular need. But
we also approach our consideration of the policies in the spirit
of an underlying conviction that there is much to be said for
subsidiarity in the application of personnel policyexcessive
centralisation and uniformity in its application could stifle
imaginative and innovative approaches to the particular needs
of particular groups of personnel.
11. The Policy for People (but not the Armed Forces
Overarching Personnel Strategy) also addressed the needs and expectations
of the many thousands of civilian personnel who support the UK's
Armed Forces and make their work possible. The issues affecting
these personnel are in many ways distinct from those which the
Services must address. In this Report we have concerned ourselves
exclusively with personnel issues relating to the Armed Forces.
But the vital role played in our defence by the civilian workforce
should not be forgotten, and we take this opportunity to acknowledge
8 Strategic Defence Review,
Cm 3999, July 1998, para 138 Back
Forces Overarching Personnel Strategy, February 2000, p 16 Back
Report from the Defence Committee, Session 1997-98, The Strategic
Defence Review, HC 138-I, para 433 Back
to the Royal United Services Institute, 19 December 2000 Back
Deb, 16 January 2001, c 145w; UK Armed Forces Strengths and
Requirements, TSP3, Defence Analytical Service Agency, 9 January
February 2001 the figure was 15,900 (out of a trained strength
of nearly 190,000). This figure includes those who are ignored
or ill but do not require hospital treatment, those who are pregnant,
those who have been treated and those are recuperating, and those
who are permanently downgraded but who have been retained with
limited employability. Back
Report, Session 1999-2000, Ministry of Defence Annual Reporting
Cycle, HC 158, para 87 Back
eg Third Report, Session 1991-92, Options for Change: Army:
Review of the White Paper Britain's Army for the 90s, HC 45;
Fifth Report, 1994-95, Defence Cost Studies Follow-up: Defence
Medical Services, HC 102; Second Report, 1995-96, Manning
and Recruitment, HC 69; Sixth Report, 1995-96, Future of
the Married Quarters Estate, HC 424; Third Report, 1996-97,
Defence Medical Services, HC 142 Back
Report, Session 1999-2000, HC 158 Back
pp 25-54 Back
pp 233-264 Back
p 16; see also Ev p 25 Back
76 and 77 Back