Volunteer Reserve Forces
17. An important link between civilian and military
is provided by the volunteer Reserve Forces. The Reserve Forces
were reorganised in the first half of the 1990s in a process which
culminated in the Reserve Forces Act 1996. They were subsequently
significantly restructured in the Strategic Defence Review and
we commented on the implications of these developments in our
report on the SDR.
We have monitored developments since then, and we will report
shortly on the current state of the Reserves. But the net result
of the reorganisation and restructuring has been a substantial
reduction in the numbers in the Volunteer Reserve, as shown below.
Trained Strength of Volunteer Reserve Forces
|Total Volunteer Reserve
Note: Naval Service includes the Royal Navy Reserve
and the Royal Marine Reserve.
Source: Defence Analytical Services Annual Return, UK Reserves
and Cadets at 1 April 2000, TSP 7 (Revised), 27 September
2000 and SDR Supporting Essay 7, paras 16-18
The trained strength against the trained requirement
in the Volunteer Reserves at 1 December 2000 was as follows:
Trained Strength against Trained Requirement
Volunteer Reserve Forces (December 2000)
| ||Trained Strength
Source: HC Deb, 16 January 2001, c145w
The figures demonstrate a deficit of 1,313 or 33.8%
in the trained strength of the naval volunteer reserve and 532
or 24.8% in the trained strength of the RAF volunteer reserve.
Whatever the effects may have been on efficiency, Professor Hew
Strachan, Director of the Scottish Centre for War Studies at the
University of Glasgow, believed that the SDR had done nothing
to strengthen the role of the Reserves and the Cadets in linking
the Armed Forces and society: 'the cuts have simultaneously weakened
the regional imprint and weakened unit cohesion' and this has
resulted in a recruiting crisis in the Reserves which is only
disguised by the fact that their establishment has been so reduced.
The MoD acknowledges that
... in many areas of the
country, it has been the Reserves rather than the Regulars who
provide the visible Armed Forces' presence. This helps to build
links with, and informs the wider community of the role of the
Armed Forces, to promote their values and support recruiting.
The MoD is of the view that 'although the overall
numbers within the TA reduced, the so-called 'footprint' of the
TA was maintained as far as possible in the circumstances'.
Attempts at improving the footprint are, however, being made.
For example, the Royal Navy Reserve is taking steps to broaden
its links by creating six sub-units in cities or towns which have
not had a naval presence for some years.
18. The Committee has devoted considerable attention
over the whole of this Parliament to tracking the implementation
of the post-SDR restructuring of the Reserve Forces. The government's
declared aim, particularly in relation to the TA, was to make
them better trained and better integrated with the Regulars, and
therefore more usable.
This is a laudable aim, although we have expressed some scepticism
about whether the MoD have made the right choices about how to
achieve it. Greater use of part-time personnel, and greater
flexibility of employment patterns, are features of the solutions
sought by almost every civilian organisation facing rising personnel
costs and/or skill shortages. Similarly, the government has frequently
restated its commitment to forging a more effective alliance between
the public and voluntary sectors. These are areas in which some
really radical thinking could be done by the Armed Forceswe
are not convinced that, as yet, sufficient imagination has been
shown in adapting these developments in society as a whole to
the specific needs of the Armed Forces.
Increasing Armed Forces' visibility
19. Faced with factors such as a reduced number of
volunteer Reserves, the Services are undertaking a number of measures
to increase their visibility in wider society. A new 'youth initiative'
is being piloted in schools in Newcastle and Norfolk which involves
15 to16 year-olds who are disaffected with the education system
spending a day a week with military instructors over a two-year
period. The Deputy Chief of Defence Staff (DCDS) (Personnel) told
us that this was a 'social responsibility' rather than a recruiting
initiative, but in the US model on which it is based about 40
per cent of participants go on to military service.
20. During the summer a 'Meet Your Navy' exercise
was conducted involving 20 ships, including an aircraft carrier,
which visited a large number of ports and cities around the country
and resulted in 51,000 people visiting naval ships.
Professor Strachan believed this was a very positive move and
that the general public are very willing to take up such opportunities
to get a closer look at the Armed Forces if they are made available.
21. Any increase in contact between the Armed Forces
and wider society should be welcomed and we hope that the Services
will continue to come up with innovative and imaginative schemes
to ensure that this happens. Links to the wider community, however,
do not only affect recruitment. They are likely also to affect
retention, and also contribute to a climate of debate in which
the questions of the right level of funding for defence can be
addressed in a more informed and understanding way. We appreciate,
however, that Services which are currently very stretched may
find it difficult to release the necessary personnel from their
everyday commitments for such activities. This is part of the
wider problem of fewer people having to do more, which we discuss
below. But building and maintaining links with the wider society
should be regarded as core tasks of the Armed Forces, and should
be afforded a high priority.
22. Having looked at the general context in which
the Armed Forces inter-relate with wider society, we will now
focus on the most direct benefit they can derive from such contacts:
21 AFOPS, p 14 Back
and Standards of the British Army,
Commanders' Edition, March 2000, p 1 Back
p 1 Back
Eighth Report, Session 1997-98, op cit, para 62 Back
then Secretary of State announced the reversal of this inhibition
in October 1998. See Ev pp 30-31, para 8.1 Back
p 32 Back
p 31, paras 8.7-8.8 Back
Deb, 15 January 2001, c 35-36w; see also Q 303 Back
RAF College, Cranwell Back
Report, Session 1997-98, op cit, paras 258-289. See also
First Report, Session 1998-99, The Strategic Defence Review:
Territorial Army Restructuring, HC 70, para 47 Back
For the Naval Service and the Army, University Forces are included
in the Volunteer Reserve Back
Service includes Royal Naval Reserve and Royal Marine Reserve.
Territorial Army figure does not include Non-Regular Permanent
Staff, which are included in the figures in Table. Back
p 2, para 13 Back
p 32, para 8.11 Back
p 31, para 8.4. The six places are Dundee, Edinburgh, Londonderry,
Llandudno, Swansea and Chatham Back
eg First Report, Session 1998-99, The Strategic Defence Review:
Territorial Army Restructuring, HC 70, and Sixth Report, Session
1998-99, The Reserves Call-out Order and Progress of Territorial
Army Restructuring, HC 860 Back
81-82; Ev 31, para 8.9 Back
p 31, para 8.4; Q 266 Back