Rumours have been circulating that the Army would start sending out the first of a couple of hundred Manning Control Point letters about now. In an astonishing related development, the lead story in today's Sunday Times claims that the Ministry of Defence is planning to renege on a previous promise not to use Manning Control to discharge personnel who had been wounded on operations.
The Sunday Times story has several quotes from what it says is a leaked document entitled Management of Army Personnel who are Medically Unfit for Service, written by a senior civil servant at HQ Land Forces at Wilton. The document says that while "only a proportion of those discharged are likely to have been injured on operations ... this number is likely to grow as operations in Afghanistan continue".
According to the ST story by Michael Smith and Maurice Chittenden, the "weakest" 1,500 soldiers will be discharged first, with another 750 going each year.
The leaked document advised ministers, senior civil servants and top brass that "Difficult decisions will inevitably need to be made about individuals who already have a significant media profile. These will require careful handling".
The briefing paper apparently does not explain why wounded troops who do NOT already have a "significant media profile" should be treated any differently from those who have.
Almost unbelievably, it does advise that the discharges need to take place before "the public become aware of the sheer numbers of seriously injured personnel in the army".
Defence secretary Liam Fox told the newspaper that he would order a review of the policy and blamed Labour for setting it in motion.
We have already said in broadcast interviews months ago that:
BAFF does not object to the stated aims of the policy as set out by the MoD, but says there is a need for independent monitoring of the policy's implementation and advocacy of those affected, as Manning Control has a distinctly murky history.
We accept the principle that the Army and other services are entitled to manage personnel who for one reason or another are not fully effective, and ultimately to terminate their careers early. We also recognise the seriousness of the problem being experienced by commanding officers who are expected to hold injured or unfit personnel on their strength.
But we insist on everyone affected by this policy being treated fairly and with consideration, as was not always the case when manning control was used before.
Rather than concentrating on the public relations consequences of discharging high profile individuals, the nation (not just the MoD) needs to get a proper solution in place before ANY personnel injured on duty are flung out against their will.