11th UK PUBLIC ACCOUNTS COMMITTEE REPORT 2014-2015 – ARMY 2020
04 Sep 14. The Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts, said, “It is astonishing that the Ministry of Defence went ahead with plans to cut back the regular Army by 20,000 and increase the number of Reservists without testing whether this was doable and without properly consulting the Army itself.
“The decision to reduce the size of the Army was driven by the need to make financial savings in a time of austerity. However, it is remarkable that the Chief of the General Staff was not involved in all stages of the decision-making process given the magnitude and importance of the change required, and its impact on the service which he commands.
“The MoD did not test the feasibility of recruiting and training the 30,000 reserve soldiers it needs by 2019. The strength of the Army Reserve has stayed at around 19,000 for the last two years, and we remain to be convinced that the MoD will recruit the required numbers in time.
“The Army told us that shortfalls in recruitment are increasing the risk of capability gaps emerging in some parts of the Army’s structure. This in turn increases the risk of additional pressure being placed on regular troops.
“The Army’s recruiting partner, Capita, missed its regular soldier recruitment target by 30% in 2013-14 and recruited fewer than 2,000 reserves against a target of 6,000. Yet Capita was paid as though it had delivered the full 6,000.
“The MoD’s bungling around the recruitment contract with Capita has meant at least £70 million of the planned £267 million savings from the contract have already been lost. There was no clear understanding of the scale of the recruitment challenge, poor information about potential recruits and the MoD did not provide Capita with the IT infrastructure it needed.
“Army 2020’s smaller Army will be even more vulnerable to the under-manning that was common before the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, so it is wholly unacceptable that the MoD’ current ‘Plan B’ is to get ‘Plan A’ to work.
“What contingency plans we heard of could have long-term negative consequences. Extended tours of operational service for regulars, for example, could lead to lower morale and more people leaving the regular Army.
“The Department prevented full Parliamentary scrutiny of its Army 2020 plans by withholding timely information from the National Audit Office. This must not happen again.”
Margaret Hodge was speaking as the Committee published its 11th Report of this Session which, on the basis of evidence from: Jon Thompson, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Defence; General Sir Peter Wall, Chief of the General Staff, Ministry of Defence; Dawn Marriott-Sims, Chief Operating Officer, Capita and Simon Fovargue, Vice President and General Manager, HP Public Sector Defence, ATLAS Consortium, examined the subject of Army 2020.
The Ministry of Defence (the Department) determined the future size of the Army based on the need to make financial savings while maintaining enough military capability to deliver required defence outputs. However, it did not adequately consult the Army on its plan to reduce the regular Army by around 20,000 and increase the Army Reserve, or fully assess the feasibility of that plan. The Army needs to increase the trained strength of the Army Reserve to 30,000 by 2019, but its strength has remained at around 19,000 for the last two years. The Army tells us that there will be an increased risk of capability gaps emerging in parts of the Army structure until it reaches the 30,000 reserve target. The Army has some mitigating actions it can take if recruitment performance does not improve, but it has not worked these into a fully developed contingency plan with clearly defined trigger points. The Army’s recruitment contract with Capita was not established on the basis of a clear understanding of the scale of the recruitment challenge and at least