Monday, 9 July 2012

Army 2020

In the aftermath of yesterday's excitement - well done Andy, you did us proud - I had a meal with friends.

The conversation drifted to the Westminster government's plans for the Army to comprise of 25% reservists by 2020.  It's planned the TA will expand to 30,000 part-timers who will be expected to fight on the front line with the regular Army.

But over the last two years the TA has failed to meet its recruitment targets by 20% and it will ned to recruit around 4,000 to 5,000 a year for the next eight years to have a fully trained, deployable force by 2020.

It would appear that the UK government have mistakenly bought into the idea of using reservist troops because the US military has successfully incorporated the use of part-time soldiers, marines and pilots into their regular forces.  But the US National Guard has a multi-billion pound budget, enjoys huge support from employers and provides a range of benefits for troops.

A new UK TA recruit is paid £35.04 a day which rises to £43.54 once basic training has been completed.  All soldiers who complete a minimum training commitment, 19 to 27 days depending on the unit, will also receive a bonus of £424.

Some TA units are run very professionally; in fact a few specialist units only recruit from within the regular Army, but there are other units run like weekend boys' clubs and the level of their expertise is limited.

Today's modern Army requires high quality personnel and, as many regular soldiers will tell you, a large percentage of the TA aren't fit enough to be on the front line. That is not a reflection upon TA personnel, but a criticism of naive politicians who have little understanding of military duties which require constant training and practice.  A few weekends and a week or two on exercise a year spent training an individual in military skills will never produce the equivalent of a regular soldier.

Yesterday, one of my dinner companions was a local employer.  He said he would not employ anyone who belonged to the TA, purely because of the disruption the absences would cause to his business and he was sure any government plans for financial compensation would be inadequate. We all agreed that was a perfectly acceptable reason.

The MoD is confident more people will join the TA under their new plans, but if yesterday's conversation is anything to go by, their confidence is misplaced. Private businesses will not want to be involved in the MoD's scheme, which will leave the public sector carrying the majority of their recruitment numbers.  But will there be enough public sector workers willing to join the TA and put their lives at risk for £43.54 a day?



MekQuarrie said...

Their thinking obviously comes about on the back of the proverbial fag-packet. It can't simply be a matter of switching 'x' thousand expensive soldiers with 'x' thousand cheaper soldiers; the full-time commitment can't be there.
(On a separate note, all the naval reserves I used to know were extremely professional; some of them been retired from their original commissions.)

Captain Ranty said...

I served in the TA for 12 months before deciding to join the regulars.

My year in the Royal Engineers showed me that the "Weekend Warriors" are every bit as good as the regulars. It helps being trained and equipped to the same standards, and pay was continually being improved. We took on the regulars in competitions many times and we always won. Maybe it was because it was fun for us (but a full time job for them) or maybe we had different motivation.

At the time I was in the TA there was almost no chance of me being deployed to a hot theatre. Nowadays, members of the TA are found in hostile zones all over the place.

And maybe that is why recruitment is down. It can be hazardous to one's health joining the TA....


Brian said...

Perhaps TA duty should be considered as being on a par with maternity leave by employers. As an incentive to companies to become more TA-friendly, it could be made a preferential condition when tendering for government contracts.

JRB said...

Once again, politicians and government have taken a potentially good idea and opened it up to the likelihood of disaster simply by trying to do things on the cheap.

subrosa said...

No it can't be that way Mek but that's the way it's being planned.

I'm not suggesting for a minute that most reservists aren't professional, but there's a vast difference between being deployed for a month somewhere and the regular 6 months or more we have these days.

subrosa said...

Some TA squadrons are superb Ranty and some are not. I've witnessed both.

Auch, surely you know by now that the regulars always let the weekend warriors win at games. :)

I'd agree that's perhaps the main reason the numbers are down. With Afghanistan going to feature highly for several decades yet, I'd suggest that wives are not willing to allow their other halves the 'pleasure' of joining because of the risks involved today.

subrosa said...

There's an idea Brian but it would need to be refined. A number of women don't return to the workplace after having a baby and that can suit businesses.

subrosa said...

Having an army consisting of 25% reservists is very risky JRB, particularly when our politicians want them to be front line material.

I know Finland's army is composed mainly of reservists but then it is a defence force - albeit a highly professional one I believe.

I would like to see an independent Scotland's military set up along the same lines.

However, I can't see the MoD managing to recruit the numbers it requires. In the past 20 years we've become an aggressor throughout the world and many lives have been lost.

What may happen is that regulars who have been sacked or come to the end of their service, may volunteer and that would boost the numbers a little.

pa_broon74 said...

I think the UK government's biggest problem and by extension the Armed Forces is that people are hellishly cynical about the intent and motivations of governments regarding deployment of troops around the world.

They'll still get youngsters coming through but its the seasoned experienced soldiers that form the backbone of a professional army and I think with whats happening, they'll be leaving in their droves.

I imagine in many cases, the only reason its not happening more quickly is because there is very little for the lower and middle ranking people to go to in terms of jobs if they do leave.

This is another area where the UK and Westminster is in a state of disintegration.

Woodsy42 said...

So you think we will still have a UK army in 2020.
I suspect we will be supplying troops to the EU defense force and the EU will be setting the terms and pay etc.

subrosa said...

I understand many are leaving pa_broon or not re-enlisting once their time is up. Those folk are the ones who know they will get another job in civvie street (often with better pay and conditions).

For every highly skilled person who leaves, they aren't being replaced.

subrosa said...

Well Scotland could have its own army by then Woodsy. :)

Discussions have been going on with the EU for a while now. I suspect this reorganisation has the EU's approval.

Related Posts with Thumbnails