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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
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

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....

Recruitment Genius: SAGE Bookkeeper & PA to Directors

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map