In the latest speculation about the imminent release of the FR20 study (now expected on Monday) it is reported that thousands of regular soldiers could be sacked to boost the role of the Territorial Army. Former Labour defence minister Kevan Jones MP says that “Major changes are gong to cost money. Without that, the report will simply sit on a shelf.” The British Armed Forces Federation, which includes reservists as well as regular and retired forces personnel amongst its membership, pointed out in a recent radio interview that any defence capabilities transferred to the reserves must be adequately funded, genuinely usable and "not mere window dressing" - otherwise they must remain with the regular forces. From the Daily Telegraph:
The Daily Telegraph has learned that reserves will take a significant role in front-line operations at the expense of up to 5,000 regular soldiers.
The reserves review, which was commissioned by David Cameron and will be published on Monday, has led to clashes with senior military commanders concerned about the impact of further cuts on the army's operational capability.
Critics of Britain’s reserve forces say they are inefficient and ineffective, while advocates say that properly supported reserves can be cheaper and more flexible than regular forces.
The review will recommend that the TA should retain it's current strength of 36,000, with an estimated 5,000 reservists will be trained for front-line operations. According to defence analysts, however, at present only one in 20 TA soldiers has sufficient training to be deployed.
It is understood that the MoD is asking the Treasury for £150 million a year of extra funding for the TA to cover the oost of additional recruitment, training and equipment.
Gen Sir David Richards, the Chief of the Defence Staff, is understood to be battling to receive guarantees that the Army will not face any further cuts until the TA reforms are in place with the estimated 5,000 “deployable troops ready and trained”.
The review has been conducted by General Sir Nick Houghton, the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff, and Julian Brazier, a Conservative MP.
If TA reservists are on the front-line by 2015 then it is likely that the Army will allow cuts of 5,000 regular troops, on top of the 7,000 already underway. The redundancies will see the Army drop to 90,000 troops, its smallest size in more than a century.
“If the TA can deliver the manpower and if this can be funded outside the MoD budget then we could see a like-for-like reduction to the regular Army,” said a planner involved in the reforms.
"That is the surety that the Chief of Defence Staff is looking for but he wants to see the model proved before any reductions are made.”
As well as doing more front-line work, reservists could contribute more to “homeland security” work dealing with the aftermath of terrorist attacks and other emergencies.
The review was set up last year after ministers ducked out of plans to make deep cuts in the TA.
A Whitehall official said that Mr Cameron intends to kick the review into the long grass to avoid another clash with military chiefs.
The official said: “You’re basically talking about a plan that would require sacking regular units to fund the expansion of an organisation that’s already struggling to keep up its numbers. Why on earth would the PM agree to that?”
Kevan Jones, a Labour defence spokesman, said: “Major changes are gong to cost money. Without that, the report will simply sit on a shelf.”
An MoD spokesperson said: "Following the defence review a series of additional studies has been undertaken to continue the work of transforming and rebalancing defence. We expect to announce the findings of these studies to Parliament next week and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time."
- Source: Daily Telegraph article, by James Kirkup and Thomas Harding - Territorial Army reserves could replace 5000 soldiers in review
- BBC News - Army may face further cuts to fund TA posts - Helen Hawkes reports