British Army, Army Air Corps, SNCOs on leadership course, Bulford (Crown Copyright, 2015)

“What’s Gone Wrong” with British Army Recruitment?

Government Accused of “Broken Promise” on Military Recruitment

With a new report showing that Her Majesty’s Armed Forces are more than 8,000 people below what is required to maintain an effective military power, the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, faced toughed questions today in parliament.

When asked “What’s gone wrong?”, the PM responded by insisting that the Government was “recruiting people with the skills that our armed forces need”.

Derek Twigg, Labour MP for Halton, challenged the Government on staffing problems during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons, saying:

The (National Audit Office) report today says our armed forces are 8,200 people below their current requirement. The numbers leaving the armed forces has increased and there are significant shortfalls in critical skills.

But in their 2017 manifesto, the Tory Party and the Prime Minister said we will attract and retain the best men and women for our armed forces. Isn’t this just another broken promise? What’s gone wrong?

Mrs May replied:

Can I say to him that we do, of course, want to ensure (that) particularly that we are recruiting people with the skills that our armed forces need. Of course as we look at the modernising defence programme, we are looking at the capabilities that we require in order to defend this country and face the threats that we face, and that will also involve looking at the particular skills that are necessary.

Military Recruitment in Crisis as Figures Show Largest Shortfall in 10 Years

The report published by the National Audit Office (NAO) stated that the UK’s full-time military was operating at 5.7% below the current target, as of January this year.

With more than 8,200 regulars needed to meet the requirement, the NAO highlighted that this is the “largest gap in a decade”.

In the last five years, the Ministry of Defence has spent £664 million on recruitment, including the most recent and most disastrous advertising campaign for the British Army that inexplicably ignored the Army’s key demographic.

Armed Forces Lacking Critical Skills

The NAO emphasised that the problem extended beyond the recruitment gap in personnel across all three services — Royal Navy, British Army and RAF — to reveal “much larger shortfalls in critical skills”.

Whitehall’s spending watchdog warned earlier this week that Britain’s armed forces were critically under-staffed in key areas, particularly intelligence and engineering.

Meg Hillier, chairwoman of the Public Accounts Committee, commented that:

In these uncertain times, it is more critical than ever that Britain has a well-staffed armed forces with the technical know-how to handle threats to national security. But the NAO report shows that the armed forces are woefully below compliment, especially in crucial areas like intelligence and engineering.

The NAO identified 102 so-called “pinch-point” trades that were effecting operational effectiveness. Most of these pinch-points were in six areas: engineering, intelligence, logistics, pilots, communications and medical. What this means is that there are not enough trained regulars to carry out operational tasks without cancelling leave or training within these key areas.


Image: British Army, Army Air Corps, SNCOs on leadership course, Bulford (Crown Copyright, 2015).