Select Committee on Defence Fifth Report

6 Force Structures and Personnel Issues


112. We discussed the equipment implications of network-enabled capability in our SDR New Chapter report, noting that much of the equipment identified by the New Chapter as supporting NEC either predated or arose from the original SDR work.[107] Programmes that MoD identified as supporting the goal of more flexible and rapidly deployable expeditionary forces included the future aircraft carriers and the Future Joint Combat Aircraft (now focussed on the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF)), the Watchkeeper UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) programme, the Future Rapid Effects System (or FRES - a family of medium weight armoured vehicles), and a variety of strike assets including cruise missiles such as Storm Shadow and Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles. We concluded that we had seen "little evidence of the urgency that the MoD has claimed to be devoting to acquiring new capabilities and embracing new technologies".[108] We have seen no reason to revise this judgement in the past year.

113. Sir Kevin Tebbit told us that the most important programmes that were going forward at present towards the realisation of NEC were the Bowman digitisation of Army communications, the Watchkeeper programme, the arrival of ASTOR, (an airborne stand-off radar and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, or ISR, system), and FRES.[109] We continue to be surprised at the slow pace with which UAV technology is being embraced by the UK Armed Forces. It does not seem that many of the effects-based operational capabilities that the MoD indicated it was exploring in the New Chapter have been significantly advanced since, although we welcome the introduction of Bowman ahead of its (albeit revised) in-service date. A number of the key programmes identified at that time have either slipped further or remain unchanged. We are concerned that the UK still does not have sufficient secure data links to allow it to integrate with United States forces, especially in the land environment.

Force Structures

114. During the New Chapter inquiry we were promised more detail on force structures once the White Paper was published. However, in the event the White Paper was short on specifics, and now we have been told that further detail on equipment and force structures will come out "later in the summer".[110] We concluded in our New Chapter inquiry that:

the MoD's approach appears to be that the UK's armed forces should primarily be involved at the start and at the end of operations, offering agile expeditionary forces which can change their operational focus very quickly. So far, however, the Committee has seen little indication of what specific choices and trade-offs are likely to be involved in this process which, the MoD insists, is underway but still at a relatively early stage.[111]

115. Other than the decision to create an additional medium brigade from a heavy brigade, announced in the White Paper, there has been little evidence of further progress since our conclusion of 2003. We also concluded in our SDR New Chapter report that the MoD had not addressed the risk of over-commitment leading to overstretch and we urged the MoD to consider these issues "in an open and inclusive manner".[112] In evidence, the Secretary of State and the Chief of Defence Staff refused to discuss the current MoD work streams in which a range of issues including future force structures are being considered.[113] We have been disappointed at the lack of openness by MoD witnesses during this inquiry in responding to what we believe have been reasonable and appropriate questions.

116. The decision to move towards more medium-weight forces, at the expense of certain heavy formations may appear strange so soon after the largest deployment of heavy forces for many years, but according to CGS, was based on an analysis of what the Army had been doing for some time:

When you…see what the Army has been required to do…it is quite striking the relative frequency with which the heavy end, the heavy armoured end, is used as compared to the light end. It is the latter which has been called on very much more frequently…So there was an imbalance…of use and it meant…that we were having one part of the army being over-used, and…another part being relatively underused.[114]

In the longer term, he said, the solution would be FRES, although he could offer no certainty about when it might be available and accepted that the current target of 2009/10 was "challenging".[115] We are surprised that the Army is prepared to do away with, as yet, unspecified quantities of heavy armoured forces when their replacement remains a concept which has not even left the assessment phase.

117. One of the structural changes already seen in operational deployments in recent years, and likely to accelerate as a result of the focus on effects-based operations, is the commitment of advanced intelligence capabilities down to battle group level, a significant change from traditional practices and potentially a force driver towards flatter hierarchies. In the past, significant intelligence capabilities would be given to brigade-sized forces and above, but only exceptionally to smaller force packages. Intelligence Corps personnel can now routinely be attached to relatively small units designed to achieve "effects" previously expected only of larger formations. We saw evidence of this on recent visits which demonstrated the importance of supporting tactical level operations with operational level assets such as intelligence.

Air-land integration

118. The key to successful effects-based operations is the fusion of the various operational realms into one seamless battlespace in which effect can be delivered. One area of deficiency in this respect that was revealed by Operation Telic (and which we discussed in our Lessons of Iraq inquiry) was that of air-land integration. A prime lesson of Operation Telic was the importance of close air support, in particular "kill box interdiction-close air support" (KI-CAS) and the need for the RAF to practise it more widely. We also received reports of a lack of air-land communications capability on the part of British forces during Operation Telic.

119. We were told that UK forces had been better at air-land integration in the Cold War and needed to practise it in relevant environments with future coalition partners. In our Lessons of Iraq report we concluded:

We feel that the shortcomings in the practice and training of close air support by the RAF and Land Forces which have emerged in recent operations must be urgently addressed. This will require a reassessment of the numbers of and equipment for Forward Air Controllers, both on the ground and in the air, the provision of adequate targeting pods for individual aircraft and significantly greater exercising of these capabilities in a joint environment. Such exercises are likely to have to take place overseas since, as we understand it, no UK based facility exists for such training.[116]

CAS agreed with this analysis and told us that, "where it worked extremely well…was because those involved were practised, understood the procedures, understood one another and had done it before they actually got to theatre".[117] MoD told us that additional targeting pods had been judged desirable but "unaffordable at the time".[118]

120. Given that the solution is understood, we were disappointed to learn that even where it is practised, the lack of effects-based thinking throughout the command chain can obviate such efforts. For example, during this inquiry we learned that even where air-land training is undertaken it may not be carried through to operational deployments. The Royal Marines were trained in using air support properly in exercises including Saif Sareea, but when they were deployed to Afghanistan, a decision was taken not to send a UK Air Wing with them, with the result that they had to learn from scratch how to work with the US Air Force.

121. The requirement is not only for forward air controllers to practise with the air component, but also for embedded command and control elements of sufficient numbers of personnel practised in air-land integration to be present in land headquarters—an expensive capability and one which appears unlikely to be adequately resourced under current plans. MoD told us that they had created "additional TACPs (Tactical Air Control Parties) in each Division and (were) working to establish further teams in each manoeuvre Brigade."[119] Forward air controllers are planned to be equipped with tactical satellite communications from January 2005 according to MoD.[120] The CDS accepted that air-land integration was an area of deficiency. He told us that they were "trying to make sure that those who are going to be taking part in these sorts of operation are going to have the right training but I do not think we have put the package together finally yet."[121] A study by the Army and RAF on the air-land interface was underway CGS added.[122] CGS also told us that "the day of the forward air controller is most certainly not over."[123]

122. We were told during our Lessons of Iraq inquiry that the intention was to increase the involvement of the RAF in the BATUS training centre in Canada where large mechanised forces from the British Army train.[124] But BATUS can only exercise one battlegroup at a time and because of operational commitments it is unlikely that the RAF will be able to train with Army formations at battlegroup level this year. Furthermore, the introduction of Bowman means that such training will be even harder to arrange for the next few years, as individual Brigades are taken out for conversion to Bowman. Even so, CDS told us that he did not think BATUS was the solution because it was not large-scale enough, arguing that co-ordination of the air effort had to be at the divisional or corps level.[125] Since the White Paper envisages increasing operational deployments at the "small" to "medium" scale (both below divisional level) we are not convinced by this explanation.

123. The future challenge of close air support, demonstrated by Afghanistan and repeated in Iraq, is how to supply timely and precise air support to small numbers of friendly forces in non-linear engagements, not how to destroy large enemy divisions such as Saddam's Republican Guards. It is a problem that does not appear to have been resolved by MoD. Given the repeated references to "jointery" in official policy documents policy we are surprised that the operational practice of air-land integration has been so slow to change. We recommend that MoD addresses this question with much greater urgency than has been displayed to date.


124. The SDR did not balk at using the terms "overstretch" and "undermanning" (unlike the current White Paper) and set itself the target of "full manning". It optimistically stated: "the review has designed a future force structure matched to the level of commitments we plan to be able to undertake. These structural changes, combined with measures to increase recruiting and retention, will ease overstretch".[126] This is not what has happened in the last six years, however, with commitments regularly outstripping resources. The Defence White Paper for its part does not suggest that things will become less busy for the Armed Forces:

our armed forces face a broader range and frequency of tasks than assumed in SDR, across a greater geographical area. This operational tempo will maintain the pressures and demands on our service men and women…flexibility and rapid mobility will therefore remain key requirements.[127]

125. In this high tempo environment, expectations will rise about the way in which the management of readiness cycles will be handled, to ensure that sustained operations are possible. CDS told us that the strains of conducting operations in Iraq in 2003 were such that the UK would not be able to mount a similar large-scale operation before the end of the decade—2008 or 2009—unless it was an emergency.[128] He also told an audience at the Royal United Services Institute that:

The norm for Service Personnel will be individual mobility with frequent deployments and consequent separation from families…it is important that we pay attention to the "deal" we offer to our Service personnel.[129]

126. CDS described to us what that deal means for each service:

We plan to what we call harmony guidelines…the tour interval for the Army…was to try and make sure that somebody had a two year period after his operational tour to recover, to do his training and prepare himself for the next one. Traditionally the Navy have had a much harder one…660 days expected away in three years, which is a long time. The air force is 198 or 192 over two years…that is what people sign up for when they join the organisation.[130]

However, we were told that in the case of the Army these 24 month tour intervals were not being met. In some cases it appears the average was under 10 months between tours and on occasion no more than two months. The Royal Navy target of no more than 660 separated days in three years, or 220 in any single year, was broken during Operation Telic for almost 100 personnel. The RAF is working towards a harmony basis of rotations of 4 months followed by 20 months at home, with the goal of 4 months deployment followed by 24 months at home and also hopes to ensure that no-one would be asked to do more than 140 nights away from home, in any one year—as a number have been required to do recently.

127. The White Paper was depressingly short on detail about how the challenges on excess stretch and tempo of operations are to be tackled:

The recent levels of commitments faced by all three services has imposed demands on some of our people and assets that are not sustainable on a routine basis.[131]

It describes the dangers (Supporting Essays para 5.10-5.13) but only notes that "we are currently gathering data on separation for all service personnel as excessive levels of separation are demoralising and retention-negative. This data will help us identify and introduce alleviating measures".[132] CDS told us that they were "looking at the degrees of readiness of the various component parts of the force elements that make up the [JRRF] concept, making sure that the force packages…are robust enough to take account of the experience we have had over the last five/six years".[133] We believe work on dealing with excess stretch is urgently required and represents one of the greatest weaknesses of the SDR implementation to date.

128. One initiative for improving the balance in the Navy is called Topmast. Under this, each vessel is crewed not to 100% but rather 130%, allowing for time ashore, training and career development to be planned by the ship's captain and not constantly knocked out by operational requirements.[134]

129. In the Army the "formation readiness cycle" is the way in which training is organised for the Army's six non-specialist brigades (a significant proportion of the Army's fighting strength) to ensure that sufficient forces are available at any one time to meet the planning assumptions for sustainable operations. The problem has been that the operational tempo in the past few years has exceeded those guidelines on a number of occasions. In the coming years this is going to be complicated by the introduction of Bowman through the Army, which will in effect remove one brigade from that cycle at a time. Furthermore, with the creation of a mechanised brigade and a light brigade through the loss of one of the heavy brigades, the availability of heavy brigades at appropriate readiness for operations will become less frequent. Given that these changes and commitments will undermine the formation readiness cycle and that a large part of the Army does not work to this cycle, the challenge for the immediate future is to create a training and deployment plan that will enable the Army to meet its commitments, both current and unforeseen, keep to harmony guidelines that enhance retention and maintain its war fighting skills at an acceptable level.

130. CGS acknowledged that the future army structure depends on addressing the problem of units being undermanned and then requiring "backfilling" when sent on operations. The Army Board is seeking to readjust this through the Future Army Step 2 programme. We asked how this initiative would work. We were disappointed that the Chief of the Defence Staff prevented the Chief of the General Staff from answering this very reasonable question.[135] We regret the level of secrecy that has met our repeated requests for detail on the implications of the White Paper for force structures and personnel, and urge Ministers to review their approach to parliamentary oversight of these matters.

131. We have concluded that many of the individuals required for operations are at present not replaceable by network-enabled capability. Operational tempo is the key to the provision of these forces and it is clear from our inquiries that elements of the services are only just managing to cope with the tempo of current operations—a situation that has been tolerated for too long. The burden of further operations could place an intolerable strain on these people.

132. Now that the Armed Forces exist primarily to be used on operations, as the White Paper suggests, the robustness of planning assumptions and questions of sustainability increase. Despite our repeated requests for detail about the likely changes in readiness assumptions and the evolution of the Joint Rapid Reaction Forces (JRRF) concept we were told that work on these matters had not been completed. We find it odd that a policy document as significant as the White Paper can be issued before conclusions on force structure and readiness, issues which lie at its heart, have been reached. Since the SDR, the MoD's own harmony guidelines have too often not been achieved in terms of the work life-balance of Armed Forces personnel. We have seen no evidence in the White Paper that the demanding operational tempo of the past six years and consequent stretch on too many of our service personnel will not be repeated. We urge MoD to place the achievement of harmony guidelines at the top of its list of priorities.


133. The total size of the Armed Services (about 200,00) was judged by CDS as about right. He argued that the demographic base of the United Kingdom was unlikely to be able to support a significantly larger structure. Furthermore, while the number of 16-24 year olds is likely to stay steady until 2009, thereafter the number will tail off significantly.[136] Thus not only do the Armed Forces have to find better ways to recruit people for the demanding operational outlook set out in the White Paper, but there will be an increasing premium on retaining as many as possible and developing the skilled workforce that network-enabled capabilities will require. Financial incentives have been used for certain specialisms, with some success, but as CDS argued:

there are always going to be a number of pinch points and I do not think the answer is to make the armed services bigger, we have just got to make all efforts we can to ensure that those who come in as specialists are retained for as long as we can…[137]

134. Although technology has allowed for a reduction in manpower in many areas, for example in the Navy whose ship's complements have fallen significantly in recent years, the advent of asymmetric challenges is beginning to reverse this trend. The First Sea Lord told us that "we [are no longer] able to drive those numbers down as much as we want to in our ships and our platforms because we need sentries, we need people to go on board and search ships, we need to leave, for want of a better word, prize crews on board…all of this adds to the numbers".[138] Instead, reductions in manpower by the Navy have been ashore, where tasks that do not require a uniformed specialist have been contractorised.

135. We met a number of junior and senior ratings during our recent visit to Iraq. They argued very forcefully that the loss of shore jobs meant that they were being required to spend longer periods at sea. This disrupted their home life, and, they believed, was likely to lead to significant retention problems. We were very struck by the level of discontent expressed by these groups of service personnel, which was significantly greater than we have previously encountered.

136. According to MoD figures as of April 2004, the Navy was 1,980 (5%) short of its trained strength requirement for regulars, the Army 3,900 (3.8%) and the RAF 830 (1.7%).[139] In the case of the Navy we were told this headline figure masked "serious gaps".[140] We were also told that in the Navy retention would be acceptable if they were not under strength, but as they are, so the pressure on retention is even greater. The same problem of gaps applied to the RAF, but skills shortages often reflected shortages in the national pool, not merely in the services.[141] In the Army, as of December 2003, the Royal Logistics Corps was 6% under trained strength, the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers 7%, the Army Air Corps 13%, and the Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps 23%.[142] Furthermore, many of the skills required to operate the technologically more sophisticated equipment are exactly those most sought after in the private sector, with a consequent impact on retention.[143] Many of the key enabler specialists had been trained by the services themselves having joined with limited or no qualifications. Significant gaps remain in Defence Medical Services, intelligence officers, communications experts and some engineering specialisms.[144] However, the real challenge, as CAS told us, is how to identify which critical enablers are likely to be required in the future and to train them in sufficient numbers in advance.[145]

137. We believe that manpower shortages and the resultant practice of "gapping" (not filling posts deemed non-essential) must be tackled seriously and urgently by the MoD. Achieving full manning levels must be a priority for the Armed Forces in an era of regular deployments.

Volunteer Reserves

138. Gaps in manning are, of course, regularly filled by reservists. Since 1995, the Reserves have provided between 10-14% of UK forces in the former Yugoslavia (5,400 members of the Territorial Army and over 2,100 ex-Regular Army Reserves).[146] Reservists also served in Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, East Timor and the Democratic Republic of the Congo in this period, as well as more recently in Iraq. They also support the work of military training teams in over 30 countries.

139. The White Paper talks about ever-closer integration of regular and reserve forces, and as the regulars are restructured, so the reserves will also have to be integrated with whatever emerges.[147] Since the SDR it has become clear that reserves will not only be used to augment the regulars for occasional large scale operations (with longer lead times) but for all operations. Furthermore, we received evidence that in a number of cases the armed services were forced to fill a number of the "key enabler" gaps with reservists in Operation Telic—hence the need for very short notice sometimes. As CAS put it "we could not have done without them".[148] One senior officer told us that the future use and structure of the reserves was the most important strategic question facing the Armed Forces post-Operation Telic.

140. The most dramatic recent change has been the use of compulsory call-out orders. These were first used following the attacks of 11 September 2001 to call-up intelligence specialists and RAF movements personnel—the first compulsory call-out since the 1950s.[149] During Operation Telic 1 (i.e. the major combat phase) some 7,500 reservists were compulsorily mobilised for service in Iraq and many continue to serve in a variety of deployments today, for example there were some 1,600 on Operation Telic 3 in March 2004.[150] Under the Reserve Forces Act 1996 there are specific limits for mobilised service under different call-out orders: under section 52 (national danger, great emergency or attack on the UK) reservists may be called on to serve for three years in five; under section 54 (warlike operations) one year in three; and under section 56 (peacekeeping and disaster relief) nine months in 27.[151] Before Operation Telic, MoD came "perilously close" to having to use compulsory mobilisation for operations in the Balkans.[152] Since Telic, because of operational demands, 140 compulsory call-out orders have also had to be used for reserves to support operations in the former Yugoslavia.[153]

141. Although to date the system of compulsory mobilisation has worked well, there are concerns that due to the high turnover of personnel in the TA, the trained strength of the volunteer reserves may not be as large as suggested by the total establishment figures and therefore the pool available for operations that much smaller. Furthermore, having come down from 55,000 to a target of 40,000 under SDR, the TA as of December 2003 was under strength by over 2,000 at 37,750.[154] Operation Telic revealed marked differences between the various services—the Royal Auxiliary Air Force for example mobilised 85% of its actual strength, while for the Royal Navy Reserve the figure was 10%, with 33% of the Royal Marine Reserve called up.

142. CAS noted that the RAF tended to rely too much on reserves to provide specialist capabilities and this meant that they were hit very hard during times of great need. This is the heart of the problem—should reserves act as an augmentation element of the regulars, or as the providers of essential specialist capabilities? Either way in an era of regular operations, what it means to serve in the reserves is changing and this will need to be understood by the reservists themselves and their employers.

143. The Secretary of State acknowledged that in the future MoD needed to give employers more information and needed to be more responsive to the effect that the removal of individuals could have on smaller companies. He also acknowledged the importance of notice periods before call-outs. We reported in our Lessons of Iraq report that almost all those called-up for Telic 1 were given 14 days or less notice to report, despite the target figure of 21 days or more and called upon "MoD to ensure that the appropriate lessons are learned to avoid the need for such short notice to report, and to recognise the impact of this on reservists, their families and their employers".[155] In its response, the Government noted that for Operation Telic II & III, 21 days notice to report was generally given and for Telic IV, MoD generally achieved over 28 days. However, it warned that operational circumstances meant that a set period of notice could not be guaranteed.[156]

144. We are surprised that in a whole chapter on the reserves in the Supporting Essays Volume of the White Paper, there is not a single reference to the families of reservists.[157] This despite the main White Paper referring to the need for "a commitment to improve the relationship between the services, the reservists themselves, their families and their employers".[158] CGS accepted that MoD could not be complacent, lest the good will of reservists and their employers was lost. Given that many reservists are mobilised for service in units that are not close to their homes, we are concerned that MoD should be seen to be prioritising effective methods of welfare support to the families of mobilised reservists, who in many cases receive extremely short notice of call-out.

145. It appears that the MoD still has not decided how best to deploy reservists—as specialists or as formed units. Efforts are under way to draw up databases of skill-sets that the MoD can draw on, but the Secretary of State told us that not all reserves want to use their specialisms, adding, "we should not in principle mobilise people because of their civilian skills".[159] Nevertheless, we understand that the Territorial Army is considering whether to use reserves as formed units or as back-fillers for gaps in the future. In the Royal Navy all reservists are used as individual back fillers, although following a decision taken in 2002 to restructure the reserves to provide niche capabilities where gaps existed, some fill specific specialisms such as in psychological operations and civil-military co-operation.[160] A longer-term question is whether reserve units should train with their regular partners so as to integrate better operationally, a question that we have not had answered as yet.

146. Another factor to be considered is the welfare of the individuals concerned and their families. Some have argued that reservists tend to be better supported if they serve in their own units, which can provide an established structure of pastoral care. But given the patchy "footprint" of the reserves around the country, many reservists do not have the extended family relationship with their regiments enjoyed by regulars. This point was accepted by the Secretary of State who told us MoD needed to do more to alleviate such problems:

…individuals…may not actually live anywhere near a unit or a base. Their particular unit may have its headquarters a long way from their home. We have to do more to make sure that family members in particular are informed as to where they are and what they are doing…the kind of support …a regiment would provide. Given the nature of reservists and where they live and how they operate, that is actually quite an important factor.[161]

147. However it is achieved, in an era of reliance on the reserves to support operational deployments, there will be an increasing requirement for MoD to look after reservists and their families. Although there is no detailed information on this matter in the White Paper, we were pleased to note some attention to this problem in the Government's response to our Lessons of Iraq report.[162] We recommend that MoD considers mobilising Welfare Officers across all the services where reservists are deployed.

148. In our Lessons of Iraq report we also noted pressure on reservists to carry out tasks of a civilian rather than a military nature:

We are concerned about the continuing requirement on the ground for specialists from the military in areas which would under other circumstances be provided by civilian organisations. Many of these specialists will be reservists, and their prolonged deployment may have adverse consequences for retention in specialisms which are already suffering from undermanning.[163]

Sir Kevin Tebbit told us that, rather than accept the increasing use of reservists to fill specialist gaps, notably for post-conflict reconstruction work, the focus was now on creating a pool of experts from various departments, companies and non-governmental organisations ready to contribute to such operations at short notice.[164] A cross departmental working group (MoD, DFID and FCO) has been established to consider ways in improving UK planning, co-ordination and management of post-conflict reconstruction activities.[165] We welcome these initiatives as important steps towards the realisation of true cross-departmental effects-based operations and look forward to being updated on their progress.

149. We are also concerned that the establishment of the Civil Contingency Reaction Forces in each brigade district may have implications for future mobilisation policies, especially if the move is towards the deployment of composite units. We understand that out of the headline figure of 500 CCRF troops per brigade district, no more than 350 are actually expected to turn up in time if called out. This may not matter as much when the odd dozen have been mobilised as individuals, but could be significant if whole units are deployed overseas, especially as those who have volunteered for the CCRFs may, in many cases, be not only fit for role, but also the keenest members of the volunteer reserves.

150. Sir Kevin Tebbit, denied that this might be a problem:

Some of the individuals who might be in the CCRFs might also at certain times be reservists who would be called up to engage in operations overseas, but my understanding is in very small numbers, very small proportions…I am not aware of a significant issue there.[166]

In fact, the numbers concerned were not small—as of March 2004, some 852 members of the CCRFs were mobilised overseas or were on active service in the UK.[167] Furthermore, the total figures can mask significant regional disparities with consequences of exactly the sort we warned about in our earlier SDR New Chapter report. In January 2004, 150 members of the London Regiment CCRF (the district which faces the greatest likelihood of call out) were deployed on Operation Telic. They were still there in May 2004 when members of the regiment escorted us during our visit to Iraq. In addition, 147 members of the 15 North East Brigade (S) CCRF, 126 members of the 49 East of England Brigade CCRF and 99 members of the 15 North East Brigade (N) CCRF were also deployed at the same time.[168] It is clear from these figures that during a period when the British consulate in Istanbul was bombed and Madrid suffered its worst terror attacks ever, the capital's flagship reinforcement unit, the London district CCRF had deployed a third of its trained strength to Iraq. Furthermore, these figures do not include reservists serving on other operations.

151. We conclude that MoD has still not taken seriously enough the need for a "predictable" element to be available for civil emergencies at home. We remain to be convinced that the MoD has adequately thought through the use of reserve forces at home and away in an era of constant operational commitments and a significant threat to the UK.

152. The employers of reservists are extremely varied and include many small companies. Among the largest employers are the public services which all-together employ 30% of all volunteer reservists.[169] One of the main issues that needs to be addressed is whether the mobilisation requirements enshrined in the Reserve Forces Act 1996, are now, in an era of mass compulsory call-outs and repeated operational deployments, too onerous for reservists and employers alike. At the time of enactment, these requirements were rather more theoretical than is the case today. CGS told us that this was a problem he took very seriously:

I think we need to be careful. It would be, I think, a mistake to assume that we could use the reserves at the tempo at which we have been using them over the last year. The Reserve Forces Act [1996] says once in every three years and certainly that is the law, but I personally think that may be a bit too often.[170]

153. Solutions being considered include a possible "new deal" on compulsory mobilisation and a possible return to voluntary mobilisation if at all possible. A new arrangement with employers could be that, notwithstanding the Reserve Forces Act 1996, the normal goal would be for no more than one mobilisation year in five in the future. Another possibility is for reservists to be offered, as it were, career breaks from their service, when they could know they would not be called up. There is also the question of the reimbursement of employers for the full cost of having to replace staff when they are mobilised, which, we were told, is not always covered under the current arrangements. In our Lessons of Iraq report we criticised the way in which MoD had decided to require reservists to inform their employers (and prospective employers) of their membership of the volunteer reserves, which could have negative implications for the employment prospects of some reservists.[171] In its reply, the Government argued that employers were automatically informed of employees' membership of the reserves upon mobilisation and did "not expect routine employers notification to have a significant impact on employer support".[172] This did not answer our actual point about the interests of the reservists themselves.

154. We are pleased to note that the MoD is taking seriously the pressures that have been placed on the reserves in recent years. We welcome this, but we would urge the MoD to avoid exploiting the commitment and dedication of the reserves through overuse. If the reserves are intended to fulfil an ever increasing role in the Armed Forces, this will require fundamental structural changes in the relationship between the regulars and reserves. We await detailed proposals from the MoD on how it intends to improve the terms and conditions of reserve service, both for the reservists themselves and their families as well as their employers.

107   HC 93-I (2002-03), para 107 Back

108   Ibid. Back

109   Qq 100-103 Back

110   Q 79 Back

111   HC 93-I (2002-03), para 118 Back

112   Ibid., para 123 Back

113   Qq 17-19 & 88-114 Back

114   Q 221 Back

115   Qq 222-227 Back

116   HC 57-I (2003-04), para 104 Back

117   Q 210 Back

118   Government Response to Lessons of Iraq Report, HC 635 (2003-04), para 31. Back

119   IbidBack

120   Government Response to Lessons of Iraq Report, HC 635 (2003-04), para 31. Back

121   Q 209 Back

122   Q 209. The Coningham/Keyes Study by Land and Strike Command. Back

123   Q 212 Back

124   HC57-I (2003-04), para 101.  Back

125   Q 210 Back

126   Strategic Defence Review, Vol 1, p 32 Back

127   DWP 2, para 5.1 Back

128   Qq 66-67 Back

129   'Annual Chief of the Defence Staff Lecture, December 2003', RUSI Journal, p 39.  Back

130   Q 31. See also Ev 78-82 & 84. Back

131   DWP 1, para 4.24. Back

132   DWP 2, para 5.28. Back

133   Q 196 Back

134   Q 35 Back

135   Qq 231-233 Back

136   Q 32 Back

137   Ibid. Back

138   Q 35 Back

139   DASA, Strength of UK Regulars and Requirements TSP03, April 2004, Back

140   Q 35 Back

141   Q 36 Back

142   HC Deb, 20 January 2004, col 1120W Back

143   Q 37 Back

144   Qq 34-40 Back

145   Q 39 Back

146   DWP 2, p 11 Back

147   Q 45 Back

148   Q 47 Back

149   DWP 2, p 11 Back

150   Q 158 Back

151   HC Deb, 29 January 2004, 505W Back

152   Q 156 Back

153   Letter from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, MoD, to the Chairman of the Committee, 1 April 2004. Not printed. Back

154   HC Deb, 26 January 2004, col 11. See also Q 46. Back

155   HC 57-I (2003-04), para 116 Back

156   HC 635 (2003-04), paras 34-36. Back

157   DWP 2, Essay 3-Developing the Reserves, pp 8-11. Back

158   DWP 1, para 4.25 Back

159   Q 160 Back

160   Q 47 Back

161   Q 158 Back

162   HC 635 (2003-04), para 148  Back

163   HC 57-I (2003-04), para 411 Back

164   Q 153 Back

165   HC 635 (2003-04), para 194 Back

166   Q 123 Back

167   HC Deb, 24 March 2004, 270WH Back

168   HC Deb, 26 January 2004, 71W Back

169   Q 158 (Sir Kevin Tebbit) Back

170   Q 46 Back

171   HC 57-I (2003-04), para 132 Back

172   HC 635 (2003-04), para 52 Back

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