SDSR 2015 and the Army Contents

5Army personnel


84.The Coalition Government, in its 2010 SDSR, envisaged a Regular Army of 95,000.170 However, the Army 2020 plan, published in 2012, reduced this figure to 82,000 Regulars supported by around 30,000 Reserves, with a training margin of 8,000.171 The Army was expected to reach the Regular strength target by 2015 and the Army Reserve target by 2018.172

85.Responding to the reduction, our predecessor Committee recommended that the MoD develop a concept of a “critical mass” for the Armed Forces in order to establish a clear, measurable statement of the minimum threshold of operational effectiveness to enable effective verification and monitoring by Parliament.173 This concept was important given the acknowledgement of the then Secretary of State for Defence that the Army 2020 plan had been designed to fit a financial envelope.174 He told our predecessor Committee:

We have available to us a fixed envelope of resources, and making the decision to proceed with the draw-down of Regular force numbers to the target of about 82,000 and to build the reserve over a period of five years allows us to take the dividend from the reduced size of the Regular force and invest in the recruitment, training and equipment provision of the Reserve forces.175

86.Following SDSR 2015, General Sir Nicholas Carter, Chief of the General Staff, went some way toward this when he declared that the credibility of the Army would be based on its capacity to field a warfighting division.176 He explained that SDSR 2015 had identified a figure of 50,000 to deliver an expeditionary force and that:

The 80,000-odd [Regulars] that we have at the moment, give or take 3,000 or 4,000 here or there, and the Reserve we have, provide us with the essential capacity to be able to deliver a division like that.177

He argued that the MoD had “carefully calculated” the capacity of the Army to deliver a warfighting division although he conceded that the margins were “quite tough”.178

87.General Carter also emphasised that any consideration of critical mass should focus on the “target end strength of 120,000 personnel” rather than distinguish between Regular and Reserve personnel.179 He told us:

If you take the whole number that I have described and you bring readiness criteria into it—how quickly you would expect us to field this thing—the plain fact is that that provides you with the ability to do a one-off divisional intervention, probably in a multinational context, and then it probably provides you with the opportunity to reorganise and to keep something behind thereafter while also watching your back in the UK, but there is not much margin for error thereafter.180

88.Although the warfighting division would be able to undertake a one-off intervention, General Carter conceded that the capacity did not exist to replace the full division following its deployment although it might be possible to find a replacement divisional headquarters at readiness and to deploy a brigade on an enduring basis.181

89.We note the MoD’s view that the critical mass required by the Army to deliver a warfighting division will comprise the overall combined strength of trained Regulars and Reservists. This makes it critically important that the full strength of trained Regulars and Reservists is achieved. If it is not, the credibility of the warfighting division will be undermined. We also note the Chief of the General Staff’s acknowledgement that, at present, the capacity does not exist to replace the full division following its deployment on a one-off intervention. We recommend that the MoD and the Army undertake work to establish the critical mass required for the Army to be able to deploy the warfighting division on a one-off deployment and to be able to replace it with a capable second division.

Trained personnel

90.The trained strength of the Army was formerly defined as the number of Service personnel who had completed their Phase 2 training; the ‘Special to Arms’ training which is specific to a particular type of unit. In June 2016, the MoD changed the definition of trained strength to include Regulars and Reservists who had passed Phase 1 training: entry training to provide basic military skills.182 This change provided an increase in the Army’s available force size; however, it was limited to responses to a crisis within the UK.

91.In November 2016, following a public consultation (which received no external responses) the Secretary of State announced that the term “Trained Strength” would now include all personnel trained to undertake the core functions of the Army (Phase 1 trained) and that this would be reflected in the monthly Service personnel statistical publication from 1 October 2016.183 Full-Time Trained personnel who had also passed Phase 2 training would now be classified as ‘Trade Trained’.184 This would enable continued reporting on “Trade Trained” personnel which would allow consistent comparisons with the previous statistical time series.

92.There is logic in the MoD’s decision to include, in numbers of Trained Strength, Army personnel who have completed Phase 1 Training so that they can be deployed on national resilience tasks. However, we seek assurances from the MoD that the target strengths for Regulars and Reservists set out in the Army 2020 plan—which were based on personnel who had completed Phase 2 training—remain unchanged.

Army strength and recruitment

Regular Army

93.The target figure of 82,000 for the Regular Army was reconfirmed in SDSR 2015, together with a commitment that the Regular Army would not be reduced below that level.185 However, although over 8,100 new recruits joined in 2015–16,186 the MoD confirmed that this target had not been reached.187 Statistics published by Defence Statistics on 9 March 2017 gave the Full-Time Trade Trained Strength of the Regular Army as 78,620.188

94.Several reasons were given for the current shortfall in Regular Army personnel. The MoD cited a “highly competitive” recruitment market as a result of falling unemployment and rising earnings;189 the Army highlighted a “steady decline” in applications from traditional recruiting areas alongside an increasing BAME population which historically has not been attracted to a career in the Armed Services.190 Other factors cited were the Raised Participation in Education Agenda and rising levels of obesity.191 Dr Warren Chin agreed that the MoD should cast its net wider,192 and Sir Paul Newton believed that the MoD would benefit from a greater focus on women and BAME recruits.193 Sir Paul also highlighted an end to combat operations as another contributory factor, as those operations had been an attraction for some recruits.194

95.In summer 2015, the MoD set itself targets to increase the diversity of both Regular and Reserve personnel: to increase female personnel to 15% of total intake by 2020 and to increase BAME personnel to a minimum of 10% of total intake by 2020 with progress towards 20%. The current position for the Army is set out in the tables below:

Table 1: Army strength by gender as at 1 April 2016



Regular (Trained Strength)

Total Female



Total Male



Reserve (Total Strength)

Total Female



Total Male



Source: Ministry of Defence (figures are taken from Defence Statistics (Tri) Biannual Diversity Report)195

Table 2: Army strength by ethnicity as at 1 April 2016196


Percentage (of those known)

Total Army Strength Regular


of which UK BAME

of which non-UK BAME












Total Army Strength Reserve









Source: Ministry of Defence (figures are taken from Defence Statistics (Tri) Biannual Diversity Report)197

96.When he came before us, the Chief of the General Staff acknowledged the need to improve the Army’s recruitment performance, in particular, to target a wider recruiting base.198 However, the MoD remained confident the Army had the manpower it currently needed to meet all the operational demands placed on it and that it would achieve the target of 82,000 Regulars by April 2020.199

97.The Armed Forces monthly personnel statistics, published on 9 February 2017, did offer some encouragement with a significant increase in the number of applications to join the Regular Army. Compared to the previous year, 2016 had seen an overall increase of 23,840 applications to join the Regular Army.200 However, these figures relate only to the number of applications received and not the number of applicants. Therefore the headline figures could mask the fact that some candidates may submit several applications and others may decide against a career in the Army after submitting an application.201 Therefore, intake figures are not comparable to the application figures for the equivalent period.202 Furthermore, it is worth noting that the outflow of personnel from the Regular Army in each year since 2010 has exceeded intake, and that compared to the 12 months to 31 January 2016, intake to the Army had decreased by 6.1%.203

98.The target establishment of the trained Regular Army was for 82,000 trained soldiers by 2015. However, despite the fact that this target was lowered from 95,000 in 2012, the strength of the Army remains below 80,000. Although the MoD asserts that the current level of personnel is sufficient for the Army to meet current operational demands, we do not believe this figure is adequate to counter a sudden unexpected threat. The MoD has to address this shortfall. An Army which falls below the already historic low target of 82,000 makes itself dangerously vulnerable to external aggression.

99.We welcome the MoD’s acknowledgement that its traditional recruiting grounds are no longer sufficient for the Army’s needs and that it must access a wider pool of talent. In its response to our Report, the MoD should set out the progress it is making to achieve its targets for women and Black and Minority Ethnic recruits.


100.One of the most controversial aspects of Army 2020 was the proposed growth of the Army Reserve to 30,000 trained personnel,204 with a requirement for 8,000 to be in training at any one time. The deadline set for delivery of this new Reserve was the end of the 2018–19 financial year.205 Following the MoD’s decision to redefine “Trained Strength” for the Army, the Secretary of State agreed a revised growth profile for the Army Reserve.206 The original and revised Army Reserve growth figures for future financial years can be found in the table below:

Table 3: Planned Army Reserve Growth Profile

31 March 2017

31 March 2018

31 March 2019

Original Target (phase 1 and phase 2 trained)




Revised Target (phase 1 trained)




Source: Ministry of Defence

101.In December 2013, the MoD also published target recruitment figures, for each financial year, for the volunteer Reserve element of each Service.207 These targets were further broken down between trained entrants (who would immediately count against the trained strength) and new recruits.208 The former were predominately former Regular Service personnel. The targets for the Army Reserve are shown in the table below:

Table 4: Recruitment Targets for the Army Reserve


FY 14





Trained entrants






New recruits












Source: Ministry of Defence

102.Following the decision to change the definition of “trained strength”, the MoD discontinued publication of data on the progress against these targets, as external reporting of the growth of the Reserves would be based on strength profiles only.209 As at 1 February 2017, the Army Reserve Total Strength stood at 29,770 and the trained (phase 1) strength was 26,530 (against a target of 26,700 to be achieved by 31 March 2017).210

103.The MoD exceeded its target for the recruitment of Reservists in 2015–16. However, while the UK Future Reserves External Scrutiny Team (EST) acknowledged this improvement, it was not confident that the final target of 30,000 trained Army Reservists would be achieved by March 2019.211 Air Vice-Marshal (retired) Paul Luker, Clerk to the EST, anticipated that it would take one or two more years beyond March 2019 to achieve the target.212

104.The Secretary of State emphasised that the target was important and that progress had already been made towards it.213 He also believed that the EST had been too pessimistic and not taken full account of some of the improvements already taking place, for example, the reduction from 240 days to 120 days in the average time to join the Reserves.214 In written evidence, the MoD told us that even if the target were missed, it would not have a significant impact on capability.215 However, it acknowledged that not reaching the target to time would “reduce the capacity of the Reserve to provide regeneration and reconstitution” and would also impact on the reputation of the Army.216 Commenting on the potential reputational damage, the Secretary of State contended that this was currently hypothetical as it had not yet happened. However, he acknowledged that Ministers would be accountable for the target.217

105.We are not convinced by the MoD’s assertion that missing its manpower targets for the Army Reserve “would not impact significantly on capability”, particularly given the Chief of the General Staff’s evidence that the critical mass to deliver a warfighting division will comprise the total combined strength of Regulars and Reserves. A failure to recruit the necessary numbers of Reservists is not so much a threat to the Army’s reputation but a threat to the credibility and competence of the MoD’s approach to delivering a revitalised Reserve. The MoD must conduct a review of its recruitment policy to identify the blockages that exist in the system which are hindering the recruitment of sufficient Reservists.

Recruitment Partnership

106.In March 2012, a ten-year recruitment partnership contract was signed with Capita to deliver recruitment services for the Army. Air Vice-Marshal (retired) Paul Luker, clerk to the EST, argued that although there had been an uplift in recruits coming through the system, there remained a number of structural faults within the initial recruiting process, and the time it took for a Reserve candidate to go through the medical process was too long.218 Whereas previously the EST had given Capita and the Army the benefit of the doubt over the partnership; it now questioned whether the contract was fit for purpose. In particular, the EST argued that Reserve units were spending too much time engaged in administrative matters and were undertaking tasks which were the responsibility of the recruitment partnership. AVM Luker, added:

I am not saying for a moment that they should not nurture [new recruits], but I don’t think they should be taking on so much of the role, which they are necessarily having to do at the moment. The whole of the process needs a firm look. I also think that we need to look very carefully at how we manage medicals and whether in all cases the criteria for joining remain valid, and we definitely need to look at the referrals and deferrals process.219

107.Despite being signed in 2012, the Recruitment Partnership has yet to reach full operational capability. According to the MoD, the declaration of full operating capability was dependent on the implementation of a Capita-provided ‘Information & Communication Technology solution’.220 The ‘go-live’ date was currently under consideration by Defence Ministers and the Treasury.221 The interim ICT systems currently being used were performing adequately but the implementation of the new ICT solution has been subject to a series of delays.222 In response to a Parliamentary Question on 31 October 2016, Rt Hon Mike Penning MP, Minister for the Armed Forces, informed the House that a revised ‘go-live’ date had been set for November 2017, although Capita was working to deliver an earlier date of Spring 2017.223

108.It is unacceptable that the Recruitment Partnership for the recruitment of both Regulars and Reserves, which was signed in 2012, is still not fully operational and that evidence presented to us pointed to the Recruitment Partnership contract being not fit for purpose. In its response to our Report, the MoD must set out the problems which need to be addressed and the timetable for the delivery of the new ICT systems and for fully-operational status to be achieved. We expect urgent action from the MoD and Capita to resolve the outstanding issues.

Other recruitment and retention initiatives

Whole Force Concept

109.As well as the recruitment challenges faced by the Army, it also needs to ensure the retention and development of its personnel to ensure efficient delivery of the Army’s element of Joint Force 2025. Much of this work will be delivered through the ‘Whole Force Concept’. This concept envisages Defence being supported by the most sustainable, effective, integrated and affordable balance of Regular military personnel, Reservists, MoD civilians and contractors.224

110.The MoD stated, that over the past 5 years, the Army has sought vigorously to exploit current legislation and policy, to enable it to begin to operate as an integrated force.225 Initiatives announced under SDSR 2015 provide further legislation and policy opportunities to enable the Army to adopt modernised ways of working and conditions of service.226 A key challenge, however, will be how the Army engages with the Civil Service, as it reduces in size and evolves under the SDSR, to ensure that the Army’s new structures are a complementary part of the Whole Force Concept.227

Maximising Talent Initiative

111.The Maximising Talent Initiative is intended “to deliver a sustainable manned and motivated whole force, with the best talent and right skills at an affordable cost which is representative of UK society by 2025”.228 The initiative has six elements: skills, culture, career structure, contractual framework, manning numbers and human potential. This work will be underpinned by the development of the Army as an inclusive employer through the roll-out of the Army Leadership Code and an Inclusivity, Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan.

112.Future changes to terms and conditions outlined in SDSR 2015 include:

113.The Chief of the General Staff emphasised that if the Army were to maximise talent, it needed to re-examine career structures which had been primarily designed for men, so that they could be adapted for all personnel.230 Flexible working was being introduced to give Service personnel the opportunity to change the pace of their careers—for example to meet family obligations—and then return at a faster pace at a later date. In addition, the traditional Army career path was being modified to promote a career structure which valued specialisms but did not necessarily require those personnel to be commissioned.231

114.There is general support for these innovations, but cautionary notes have been sounded in respect of flexible engagement. Varying levels of commitment will need to be clearly understood and valued by defence stakeholders.232 The Regular Army rightly has a strong service ethic where continuous availability is seen as part of the identity of being a soldier. Professor Vince Connelly, of Oxford Brookes University, warned that this ethos must be taken into account as the Army changes its employment options:

The behavioural norms associated with commitment are conflated with the notion of affective commitment—failure to demonstrate the former is evidence of failure of the latter. This is why a large proportion of Regular personnel when asked their opinions “questioned whether individuals in the Reserves ‘took it seriously’” and this was also demonstrated in recent research for the Army where Regulars and Reserves each had quite different views of professionalism and thus what commitment meant to them and how they judged it.233

New Employment Model

115.The New Employment Model (NEM) is a business change programme which emerged from the 2010 SDSR.234 The NEM covers four broad areas of policy: Pay and Allowances; Accommodation; Training and Education; and Career Structures and Career Management. Some changes have already been introduced, for example, loan schemes to assist Service personnel with financial help to buy or rent accommodation and a new pay model. An Officers’ Talent Management scheme was also established in Autumn 2016, focusing on improving operational capability by ensuring that the Services have the tools to identify, develop and assign officers in a more structured and objective way. Although the NEM programme is expected to close in 2018, certain strands will continue to transition up to 2020 and beyond.235

116.There is some concern that the NEM work and the Flexible Engagement initiative are seen as “cost cutting” measures.236 This has been cited as one of the key concerns amongst Service personnel. Professor Connelly told us:

The difficulty of course is that these proposals do indeed have an affordability agenda but they also have much more behind them in terms of encouraging and retaining the diverse workforce the Army requires for the future. The potential benefits of a diverse workforce with varied forms of commitment have yet to be accepted by many in the Regular Army and in wider society.237

Army culture

117.A particular ambition of the Chief of the General Staff is to challenge and change certain parts of Army culture and to demonstrate that the Army is a caring employer.238 His aim is to instil an understanding in the Army that its culture is changing and that, as it does so, it will become a more inclusive organisation. This change, he asserted must be led from the senior levels of the Army.239

118.In September 2016, the CGS gathered together all commanding officers and their regimental sergeant-majors to launch a new Army Leadership Code, which set out the expectation that leaders had to live up to the values and standards which the Army espoused and that its leaders should be accountable for this.240 The CGS also wanted the Army to be transparent about the challenges it faces and how it addresses them. As examples, he highlighted what he described as an overly sexualised culture and problems involving alcohol, bullying and harassment.241

119.We support the Chief of the General Staff’s commitment to changing the culture of the Army through initiatives on employment, talent management and leadership. Successful implementation of these initiatives could provide a structure within which all soldiers can achieve their full potential. However, we recognise that this must not be to the detriment of the Army’s ability to undertake its core role of warfighting. We note the concerns expressed about cultural resistance within the Army to this agenda, particularly in respect of Flexible Engagement. In response to our Report, we should like to receive further details on how the Army’s various initiatives will dovetail, and how the MoD will ensure that resistance to a changing culture is overcome.

Women in ground close combat roles

120.In July 2016, the Government announced that women would be allowed to serve in “ground close combat” roles.242 Roles in the Royal Armoured Corps were opened up to women in November 2016, while those in Infantry units will become available in 2018.243 To achieve a successful roll-out, measures are being implemented for these two phases:

121.Sir Paul Newton was uncertain whether there would be a vast number of women volunteering for these roles, but he did not consider it to be a profound change which would undermine the Army’s warfighting ethos.245 He thought it important to make equipment as light as possible for all soldiers, and stressed that maintaining the fitness and training standards was the important factor.

122.We support the decision to allow women to undertake ground close combat roles, provided that standards of fighting effectiveness can be maintained. As part of the roll out of this initiative, the Army is revising its training policies and undertaking a review of the physical demands placed on all Army personnel. We believe that these changes can be delivered without diminishing the fighting capability of the Army and other Services. However, we wish to receive regular updates on the introduction of women in ground close combat roles. These updates should include the outcomes of the scientific research being undertaken into the physical demands placed on all Army personnel.

170 HM Government, Securing Britain in an Age of Uncertainty: The Strategic Defence and Security Review, Cm 7948, October 2010, para 2.D.6

171 The 8,000 would be additional personnel in training to sustain the overall number of 30,000 trained Reservists; HC Deb, 19 January 2012, col 939W.

172 The MoD expects to reach its target for 30,000 trained Reservists by 2018 (see British Army, Modernising to face an unpredictable future: Transforming the British Army, July 2012, p 9). The reduction in Regular Army personnel to 82,000 was expected to be completed by mid-2015 with the restructuring of the Regular component by 2016 (see Defence Committee, Ninth Report of Session 2013–14, Future Army 2020, HC 576, Q 67, Q 125 and Q 271).

173 Defence Committee, Ninth Report of Session 2013–14, Future Army 2020, HC 576, paras 35–42

174 Defence Committee, Ninth Report of Session 2013–14, Future Army 2020, HC 576, paras 27–32

175 Defence Committee, Ninth Report of Session 2013–14, Future Army 2020, HC 576, Q270

176 Q39

177 Q39

178 Q39

179 Q44

180 Q44

181 Q45

185 HM Government, National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015, Cm 9161, November 2015, paras 4.33 and 4.51

186 The MoD advised the Committee that the recruiting year covers the same period as the financial year.

187 Ministry of Defence (ARM0012)

189 Ministry of Defence (ARM0012)

190 Ministry of Defence (ARM0012)

191 Ministry of Defence (ARM0012)

192 Q200

193 Q201

194 Q201

195 Ministry of Defence (ARM0015)

196 Explanatory note by the Ministry of Defence (ARM0015): The total Regular BAME figure is comprised of both UK Nationals and non-UK Nationals (including Gurkha transfers, the BAME element of the Commonwealth who do not have Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), Commonwealth who already have ILR, and non-White personnel). While there are non-UK BAME in the Army Reserve, they require a minimum of 5 years’ residency to be eligible to join so are not counted separately here.

197 Ministry of Defence (ARM0015)

198 Q46

199 Ministry of Defence (ARM0012)

200 Ministry of Defence, UK Armed Forces Monthly Personnel Statistics: 1 January 2017, February 2017, pp 11–12

201 Ministry of Defence, UK Armed Forces Monthly Personnel Statistics: 1 January 2017, February 2017, p 11

202 Ministry of Defence, UK Armed Forces Monthly Personnel Statistics: 1 January 2017, February 2017, p 11

204 Reservists who had completed their Phase 1 and Phase 2 training; see Ministry of Defence, Reserves in the Future Force 2020: Valuable and Valued, Cm 8655 July 2013, p 11, footnote 5.

205 HC Deb, 19 January 2012, col 939W

207 HC Deb, 19 December 2013, col 124WS; Paper deposited in the House of Commons Library by the Ministry of Defence Future Reserves 2020, 19 December 2013 (Ref: DEP2013–2063), available at:

208 HC Deb, 19 December 2013, col 124WS; Paper deposited in the House of Commons Library by the Ministry of Defence Future Reserves 2020, 19 December 2013 (Ref: DEP2013–2063), available at:

209 Ministry of Defence, UK Armed Forces Monthly Personnel Statistics: 1 October 2016, November 2016, p 3

211 Council of Reserve Forces’ and Cadets’ Associations, The United Kingdom Reserve Forces External Scrutiny Team Annual Report 2016, paras 1 and 4

212 Q127

213 Qq259–264

214 Qq 259 and 261

215 Ministry of Defence (ARM0012)

216 Ministry of Defence (ARM0012)

217 Qq268–269

218 Q107

219 Q108

220 Ministry of Defence (ARM0012)

221 Ministry of Defence (ARM0012)

222 Q281

224 Ministry of Defence, Reserves in the Future Force 2020: Valuable and Valued, Cm 8655, July 2013, p 86 (Glossary)

225 Ministry of Defence (ARM0002)

226 Ministry of Defence (ARM0002)

227 Ministry of Defence (ARM0002)

228 Ministry of Defence (ARM0002)

229 Ministry of Defence (ARM0002)

230 Q48

231 Q48

232 Professor Vince Connelly (ARM0009)

233 Professor Vince Connelly (ARM0009)

234 Ministry of Defence (ARM0012)

235 Ministry of Defence (ARM0012)

236 Professor Vince Connelly (ARM0009)

237 Professor Vince Connelly (ARM0009)

238 Q46

239 Q52

240 Q52

241 Qq52–58

242 Prime Minister and Ministry of Defence press release, 8 July 2016, Ban on women in ground close combat roles lifted

243 Ministry of Defence (ARM0012)

244 Ministry of Defence (ARM0012)

245 Q210

28 April 2017