DeM Banter: One thing we are hearing from DC is that recruitment and retention are fine for the US Armed Forces–I am sure the Brits thought the same thing. If we continue down the line of cutting equipment, benefits, and funding for the US DoD…I wonder what we will look like in the coming years. There is a lot of talk of leaning on the Guard and Reserves more in the US…I really wonder what that looks like–more to the point–how do we lean on them any more than we are now? If we do…who would want to join? And then you get what we see in the UK… Interesting times.
London Sunday Times
August 11, 2013
Army Recruitment Crisis
The confidential army memos reveal that in the past three months the number of people enlisting in the Army Reserve, the new name for the Territorial Army, was just 367 — barely a quarter of the target. Over the year, the number of recruits is predicted to be half what is needed.
Expanding the reserves is at the heart of the coalition’s new defence strategy. Ministers want to see a fully trained reserve force of 30,000 by 2018, to fill the gap left by cuts to the regular army, where numbers are to fall by 20,000 this decade.
However, the memos leaked to The Sunday Times suggest a hugely expensive televisionadvertising campaign that was launched in February has failed.
The result, according to one former commander, is “panic” among defence officials.
One memo marked “restricted” states: “The army is failing to attract sufficient recruits. Although this is a pan-army issue, the impact is most serious in the Army Reserve given the need to deliver 30,000 personnel by 2018. As a stark indicator, 367 recruits were enlisted in Q1 of 2013-14 against a target of 1,432.
“The prediction against an overall in-year target of 6,383 is that only 50% of this number will be realised. Predicted performance against a more ambitious 2014-15 target of 11,124 is equally pessimistic.”
The disclosure will expose Philip Hammond, the defence secretary, to Labour claims that he has mishandled the reshaping of Britain’s forces.
Jim Murphy, the shadow defence secretary, warned earlier this year: “The government’s defence plans are based largely on their reserves strategy, but this has been rushed, with serious flaws.”
The crisis follows the decision to close dozens of army recruiting offices last year and hand a 10-year contract worth £440m to run recruitment to Capita, the outsourcing firm.
One priority, the memos say, is to rebrand the army as early as next month, highlighting the significance of the reserves by using the new motto: “Army: Be the best. Regular and Reserve”.
Another plan is to ensure “the nation is left in no doubt that the army is recruiting”. This is to be achieved by forging links with employers and signing corporate covenants with them, trade unions and public sector bosses.
The idea is to encourage employers to send positive messages to workers through channels such as Facebook, emails and in-house magazines about joining the reserves. Controversially the plan also envisages a massive increase in money allocated to corporate hospitality, allowing commanders “to spend it without undue encumbrance”.
A new “official hospitality” budget of about £550,000 for the six months from October will aim to “promote and develop corporate support through funded entertainment at upmarket venues with the opportunity to interact with reservists and senior officers”.
Richard Kemp, a former commander of British ground troops in Afghanistan, said senior officers were having to take panic measures because of the situation ministers had put them in.
“It is a panic and a crisis. Capita has failed to achieve its objectives. The army is having to step in as it did over G4S and the Olympics.
“This rebranding and entertaining is not going to work. The fact remains that, as some of us predicted, the whole concept of recruiting vast numbers of reservists to compensate for regular cuts was ill-conceived from the outset. Meanwhile, a hollowed-out regular army is even hollower than planned.”
The MoD said: “Personnel numbers continue to rise as we grow the Army Reserve. This has always been a challenge.
The way is clear for a sustained recruitment campaign to start to build the numbers.”