Army needs 'miracle' to keep up numbers

Few part-time soldiers have signed up to cover cuts to regulars

The Government's £1.8bn plan to create a 35,000-strong reserve force by 2018 to compensate for the loss of 20,000 sacked soldiers in the coming years will need a "minor miracle" to succeed, Lord Dannatt, a former Chief of the General Staff, has warned.

Experts calculate that at the current rate of recruitment it will take 433 years for the plan, known as the Future Reserve 2020 (made up of Army, Navy and RAF reservists) to meet the target pledged by Defence Secretary Philip Hammond.

Cuts to reduce the Army from 102,000 to 82,000 by 2020 were agreed on the basis that a large force of reserves, or part-time soldiers, would fill the gap.

But the trained strength of the reserves is currently 22,010 – an increase of only 30 personnel compared with 12 months ago – according to statistics released by the Ministry of Defence last week. The bulk of the reserves is the former Territorial Army, which accounts for 19,150 (down 50 from a year ago). As for the regular armed forces, they are significantly under strength – with the deficit of the full-time personnel having soared tenfold in four years.

"There is no plan B," Lord Dannatt said. He described the past 12 months as a year of "treading water", with the MoD's IT system "unable to do the business".

Asked whether the 2018 deadline is achievable, Lord Dannatt admitted: "On the face of the current evidence it will take a minor miracle to achieve it, but people are trying to make that miracle happen."

The former head of the British Army added: "It was difficult enough to recruit enough reservists when we had the potential excitement of Iraq and Afghanistan."

Another challenge is establishing whether "employers of small and medium companies are going to be willing to take the risk of one of their valuable employees having up to a year away every now and then", commented Lord Dannatt.

There will be a three-year gap, between 2015 and 2018, when "they won't have recruited the reservists and we won't have got the regulars" – which means the Army may not be able to take part in meaningful action overseas. "That's an acknowledged risk the Government's going to carry," he added. "Maybe it will be OK, maybe it won't."

Mr Hammond, said last month: "Army Reserves will be critical to mounting military operations in the future and we intend to grow the number significantly by 2018."

But an MoD spokesperson admitted yesterday: "We have always recognised that growing our Reserve Forces to 35,000 by 2018 would be a challenge... We know it won't happen overnight."

Vernon Coaker, the Shadow Defence Secretary, said: "It is incredible that as the Defence Secretary says his plans to recruit thousands of new Army reservists are on course, the figures show that the number of reserve soldiers is actually falling."

Even if the MoD's plan works, the Army in 2020 will be at its smallest for nearly 200 years.

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmWhat makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes hobby look 'dysfunctional'
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher - from October half term

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Long term Math Post - potentiall...

Year 5 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education is currently recruitin...

SECONDARY SUPPLY TEACHERS NEEDED IN AND AROUND DARTFORD

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: Description Randstad Education i...

SECONDARY SUPPLY TEACHERS NEEDED IN AND AROUND SWALE

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: Description Randstad Education i...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week