BRITISH ARMY BATTLES FOR NEW RESERVES!
By Howard Wheeldon, FRAeS, Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd.
03 Jul 13. As the Army belatedly faces up to radical change and restructuring in regard of planned 2020 future capability requirement it seems that Coalition Government plans to reduce the size of Regulars Army numbers from 102,000 to 82,000 and to double the number of reservists from 15,000 to 30,000 continue to find criticisism in Westminster and amongst the military and defence community as being high risk, unjustified, unacceptable and unlikely to succeed.
My first premise on the overal subject and why the issue surfaced is that we have to accept that a standing Army is a hugely expensive burden on taxpayers. Affordability decides UK defence policy from here on.
For almost double the length of the second-world-war now the Army has of course been fighting alongside our allies in Afghanistan and for that reason alone it does have an excuse for being well behind the curve in adapting to new affordability based conditions. Maybe but as the Army comes home from Germany and soon also from Afghanistan it has no choice now but to force through change.
The Regular Army today consists of 102,000 soldiers plus an additional 15,000 reservist members of the Territorial Army many of whom have fought alongside Regular Army soldiers in both Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. In its ‘A New Reserve, New Support, New Relationship’ statement the MoD statement tells us that including none fully trained reservists there are currently a total of 28,670 Reserves across all three of our armed forces of whom 24,690 are in the Army Reserves, 2,620 in the Maritime Reserve and 1,370 in the RAF Reserve.
The plan envisages that the number of Reserves across all three armed forces growing to around 44,450 by 2020 of which 35,000 will be fully trained – 30,000 of these being in the Army. Also announced by the Secretary of State today in the Reserves statement are additional benefits for Reservists that include:
* The introduction of paid annual leave when training as well as when on operations;
* Generous Armed Forces pension entitlements when training and on operations under the Armed Forces Pension Scheme is to be introduced in April 2015;
* Better training and access to the equipment used by their regular counterparts;
* Access to key defence health services when training and on operations;
* Transferable skills and academic qualifications;
* An Army Reserve training commitment of around 40 days per year
* Legislation to ensure access to Employment Tribunals in unfair dismissal cases against Reservists, without a qualifying employment period.
SME’s employers will also benefit from being paid £500 per month per Reservist on top of the allowances that are already available when Reservists employees are mobilized. In addition more notice will be given so that employers are able to plan for the absences of their Reservist employees. The plan envisages greater recognition for leading supportive employers and a national relationship management scheme to strengthen relationships with larger employers.
Although I have very serious reservations on the plan insofar as it affects the Army I have no wish to be cynical on Reserve plan. Before moving to discuss the issue of Army Reserves a reminder of where the Army stands today. In my book the British Army remains as complex as it ever was in terms of structure and the vast number of different competing regiments, battalions and of how these operate from maybe as many as seventy-five or more bases, units and multiple barracks situated across the UK and that includes several former Royal Air Forces bases.
The Army is today very well equipped with a range of modern fighting vehicles that are now very much better protected against the threat of improvised explosive devices (IED’s). These include superb vehicles such as Foxhound, Mastiff and Ridgeback. UK defence strategy has allowed th