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CORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE To be published as HC 803-i
HOUSE OF COMMONS
TAKEN BEFORE THE
FUTURE ARMY 2020
WEDNESDAY 5 DECEMBER 2012
GENERAL SIR PETER WALL
Evidence heard in Public
Questions 1 - 93
USE OF THE TRANSCRIPT
1. This is a corrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the House. The transcript has been placed on the internet on the authority of the Committee, and copies have been made available by the Vote Office for the use of Members and others.
2. The transcript is an approved formal record of these proceedings. It will be printed in due course.
Taken before the Defence Committee
on Wednesday 5 December 2012
Mr James Arbuthnot (Chair)
Mr Julian Brazier
Mr Jeffrey M. Donaldson
Mr Dai Havard
Mr Adam Holloway
Mrs Madeleine Moon
Sir Bob Russell
Ms Gisela Stuart
Examination of Witness
Witness: General Sir Peter Wall, Chief of the General Staff, MoD, gave evidence.
Chair: Order, order. I am told I must say that. Welcome to this afternoon’s session, CGS.
General Sir Peter Wall: It is a great pleasure to be here, Chairman.
Q1 Chair: It is very good of you to come to talk about the robustness of the plans for the Future Army 2020. Some people have described it as the most radical change we have seen since the end of conscription. Do you agree with that?
General Sir Peter Wall: I think it is radical, yes. The circumstances in which the plan was hatched were certainly novel by the standards of recent decades, and it called for an opportunity for a significant rethink, which we were afforded the time to do by the Department, for which I am very grateful. So I think it is radical.
Q2 Chair: Was there a lot of appetite for it in the Army? Was it driven by a need to change the way the Army appeared to the outside world because of money, or was it because of a change of threat, or what?
General Sir Peter Wall: If we had been going forward from roughly where we are now, with two years to run until the end of combat operations in Afghanistan-three years at the point at which we were having these discussions-on a level budget with the prospect of certainty on where we were going to be based, how we were going to train and how our equipment would play, we would have had to have done a considerable amount of recalibration to tune the Army for the post-Afghan environment, but the need for the radical change was really driven by three things that conflated into a big transformation opportunity, in addition to the need for post-Afghan recalibration to a broader approach to the future nature of conflict.
Those three things are, first, the Government’s direction that the Army should reduce by 20,000 people, which equates roughly to 20%. Secondly, the Reserves Commission, which reported at the same time as the announcement about the reductions in the Regular Army, heralded the need for a reform programme to make the Reserve 50% larger, and to make it a more usable, committed Reserve, and therefore, by implication, integrated into the Regular part of the Army to make a useful whole. The third thing that played into this space was the Government’s direction that we should withdraw from Germany, where at that point we still had three brigades-worth of people, or 20,000 in total, plus their dependants.
Q3 Chair: You almost make it sound as though the Army had little say in either the direction that there should be a reduction of 20,000 people or the withdrawal from Germany. Was there any consultation, or was it a direction from Government? If it was a direction from Government, on what was that direction based?
General Sir Peter Wall: The direction from Government on the size of the Regular Army was very clearly about reducing manpower costs as that segment of the defence budget was also going to be slightly reduced.
Q4 Chair: So it was about money rather than the forces we needed to counter any threats that we might face?
General Sir Peter Wall: I did not look at it from that perspective.
Q5 Chair: Should you not have done?
General Sir Peter Wall: Our job is not to interfere with Government decisions about the amount of resource devoted to defence or the Army as a share of the defence budget; it is to find the best way of delivering the most useful and effective capability to meet the envisaged military demands of the time.
Q6 Thomas Docherty: General, I am slightly puzzled by that last answer, and I am wondering if you can help me understand it better. You say that it is not your job to interfere with Government decisions. Isn’t it your job to advise Ministers, who then make a political decision based on the best military advice and finite resources?
General Sir Peter Wall: That is absolutely right. Perhaps "interfere" is pejorative, but the insinuation was that we had volunteered to have the Army reduced by 20%, which certainly was not something that we would have found attractive. It was therefore our job to combine that with the uplift in the Reserve and the opportunity for efficiencies provided by getting the Army into a tauter basing perimeter, primarily on the UK mainland-obviously, with some out-stations here and there-to come up with the most efficient way of running the Army to deliver the optimum capability within the resources available.
Q7 Chair: I was not meaning to insinuate that you had volunteered a reduction of the Army. What I meant to suggest was that you, as Chief of the General Staff, would have some input into the threats that you thought that this country faced, and therefore the forces that might be needed to counter those threats. Is that a fair assumption for me to make?
General Sir Peter Wall: I think it is a very reasonable approach to take if you can be very specific about the threats to the national interest and the ways you might meet them, but we are in a less clearly defined security environment. We are well aware that the world is not necessarily a safer place. It is not likely to impact more favourably on UK national interests, the interests of our close partners and so on. But that is a general statement. We cannot identify or quantify specific-sized threats and specific-sized responses to them with quite the sort of refined accuracy we could in the days of the Cold War, for example. There is an element of choice. There is a risk-investment balance and those conversations clearly happened. The original plan in the Defence Review-you will recall, Chairman-was that the Army would reduce manpower by 7%. It was about nine months later, when I think the fiscal predicament had become clearer, that it was decided that it should reduce by more. Implicit in that is a deduction that, had it been affordable, it would have been desirable to have a slightly larger force.
Q8 Mrs Moon: Given the reduction and the anxiety that you are portraying at the proposed reduction that we are now facing as reality, do you feel the Government have gone too far? Are we still capable of meeting whatever risks are out there, or have we pared ourselves too close to the bone?
General Sir Peter Wall: That is a difficult question to answer because we do not know what sort of risks are going to present themselves and we don’t know what stance the Government will take, but it has been made very clear in the strategic space that we really value our partnerships. We see ourselves doing very few operations independently. We would be working as part of a coalition. It has been stated clearly that that is very likely to be with close allies that we have been working with for the past few decades, but we also sit firmly with emphasis in the NATO envelope and so on.
There is also a clear acceptance that there are ways in which we can mitigate threats by other forms of investment, such as international development and upstream capacity building in the military space. They are funded separately, but play in the same dimension of trying to nip threats in the bud, stop potential failing states going that way and so on. If you look across the whole waterfront of upstream activity, the forces we can bring to bear and the way in which we can produce quite a resilient force for a protracted period, given notice, I think that we ought to be capable of dealing with these issues, as long as they are in the sort of envelope that has been envisaged from the SDSR.
Q9 Mr Havard: As I understand it, there are assumptions about threats, which clearly need to be taken into account, and there is the question of how much money might be able to be expended over time. There is also the question about relative composition, with a greater emphasis on Reserves. Those are the background things.
There were attempts to look at what an Army might look like going forward. Then there was a discussion about those criteria. There was a series of iterations here; it is not something that you did in one go. Then you come up with a structure that is adaptable that you can fill up or empty and transfer. So you have an Army structure that fits in with the whole force structure, as I understand it. There are security forces as well in relation to what an Army might do. Those were all givens, but they were contributing factors. Not one or any of those was a determining factor. Is that correct?
General Sir Peter Wall: Yes, that is absolutely right. There was a hierarchy of thinking that started with the National Security Strategy, went down through the Strategic Defence and Security Review and so on and so forth, obviously looking at this in a pan-defence context. The reason why, in my earlier answer, I talked about the decision to reduce the Army by 20% was because for me that was the main trigger for an absolutely fresh look at the way in which the Army should be designed and structured.
Q10 Mr Havard: The structural composition is meant to endure as opposed to the detail at any given time?
General Sir Peter Wall: Yes, that is a very important point. We did not, in a sense, design this thing solely to meet a single and specific resource point. It is a concept for the Future Army that is scaleable to resource. It would benefit from resilience if more investment could be made, but it could also be scaled back with attendant implications if that were required.
Q11 Thomas Docherty: At the risk of returning to this point because, as you know, I struggle to understand things sometimes, at its most fundamental level, and the assumptions that were made in the National Security Statement and the SDSR in 2010, do you have the minimum level of personnel in Regulars and/or in Reservists to meet those assumptions that were made?
General Sir Peter Wall: Yes, I think we do, but we should be clear that those assumptions are quite generic. They are not about a specific number of people at a specific place in the world with specific notice against a specific task. They are quite broadly stated ambitions, and I think we can, handled properly, deal with them.
Q12 Thomas Docherty: I am going to press you, though. I know that you are trying to avoid numbers, but there must be a figure when you look at the size at the Army and say, "If we fall to such a level, we can’t meet those assumptions." Are we approaching it?
General Sir Peter Wall: Yes, we probably are approaching it, but I think that we are above it now, subject to our ability to deliver by 2018 the integrated Reserve and Regular components into the Army 2020 force design.
Thomas Docherty: I will come back to it later on.
Q13 Bob Stewart: General, as the professional head of the Army, how do you view the morale within the Army when it looks at 2020? How do you feel the people in the Army feel when they look at it?
General Sir Peter Wall: I think that they are enthusiastic about it. Let me be very clear. I didn’t wish to imply by anything that I have said up till now that I don’t think we have come up with anything other than an extremely innovative and implementable pragmatic solution to the challenge we have been given. When all those changes have been made-and it will take a few years-we will have an Army that we can all be extremely proud of and that will provide very worthwhile careers for talented people.
That has been detected by the rank and file, and the officer corps of the Army, who clearly are interested in the path that has to be taken to get to that state and are never attracted by the attendant uncertainties of any change programme. We are working through how we implement that in a way that gives them confidence. While they do have one or two particular worries about the robustness of terms and conditions of service and things like that, as we go out into the future, which have been affected by the sorts of savings package that we have had no choice but to implement as part of the national issue, for the most part they are very attracted by the military intellectual dimension of this design. It is not a multi-tier Army; it is something that has a number of different facets, each of which has its own appeal.
Q14 Chair: Just to encapsulate, the planning assumptions set out in the SDSR say that we should be able to conduct an "enduring stabilisation operation…(up to 6,500 personnel)…one non-enduring complex intervention (up to 2,000 personnel) and one non-enduring simple intervention (up to 1,000 personnel)". Will Army 2020 be able to deliver on those planning assumptions?
General Sir Peter Wall: Yes, it will, Chairman. It will do it in two guises: first, it will provide the land element of those contributions; and secondly, it will provide the elements of capability that come from elsewhere in defence that, in many cases, involve Army personnel. The size of the Army isn’t just the bit that works for the Army; it is everybody in defence in terms of the 82,000 ceiling. It meets both those requirements, and we work very hard to make sure that’s the case.
Q15 Chair: How do you envisage all of this fitting in with the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force?
General Sir Peter Wall: In the joint construct, the 6,500 force, for example, could well be alongside a naval component, quite closely integrated with an Air Force component, providing surveillance capability, strike capability and so on; it could have other elements of the Joint Force Command from all three services, and perhaps even Special Forces; and it could be under a Joint Force headquarters. It is all designed to fit into that sort of set of plugs and sockets.
Q16 Sandra Osborne: Lord Astor said in the Lords that despite the cuts that have been announced, Army 2020 will deliver approximately 90% of current combat effect. What did he mean by that and where did the other 10% go?
General Sir Peter Wall: What we are actually saying is that if you look at what we have at the moment, we have an Army of 102,000 with a Reserve that is nominally 38,000 to 40,000, but actually it only has about 20,000 useful people in it. So that’s 120,000 people Regular, with Reserves of varying degrees of utility and commitment-that is our problem, not theirs. If you compare that with what the future heralds, which is 82,000 or so Regulars and 30,000 more usable Reservists, the delta is not nearly as significant as a 20% reduction in the regular Army would have suggested.
Let me just say if I may, however, that this is not just about numbers of people; it is about capability in the round-equipment, logistics and so on. An important element of that is that in the future construct, the Army has quite a way to go in making better use of contractors on operations as part of its planned design, rather than doing it in a slightly more ad hoc way, as we do in Afghanistan at the moment.
Q17 Sandra Osborne: Could I ask about the future structure of the Army in relation to the reaction and adaptable forces, with sets of troops supporting both those forces? Can you explain how those would operate in any given circumstance?
General Sir Peter Wall: Your point is absolutely critical to how we have gone about getting broader utility of a slightly smaller organisation. We have effectively split the force into two bits. We are talking big handfuls. First, there are those forces that are best-manned, best-equipped and best-trained to be at relatively short readiness for emergencies that might involve a deployment of up to a brigade on a more routine and repeatable basis, and very occasionally-"best effort" as we call it, and with notice-a division. That is the sort of thing we did at the beginning of our time in Iraq, for example, with Operation Telic.
The other part, which is organised rather differently and held at lower readiness, is called the adaptable force. Given notice it can, on the one hand, replicate the capabilities of the reaction force, but on the other it can do a number of other tasks in the United Kingdom or abroad, like defence engagement-that is the upstream capacity-building idea, which you may want to talk about. It is having this force of utility players, for want of a better word, who can adapt one way or another, given notice and training resources, that allows us to cover this broader range of tasks from a smaller size of force. That is the clever trick. Obviously there are risks, such as not getting the notice or the training time. It is an appealing part of the Army for people to serve in, because it provides that diverse range of opportunities.
The third part that you mentioned was the force troops, which essentially covers all of our enabling activities and is split into two. Half supports the adaptable force and the other half will be at high readiness, and highly manned and highly trained, to support the reaction force.
On how it will be used, it is fair to say that we are getting more of a sense of that as we do the detailed work on implementing it, and we now have our younger officers and NCOs talking about it. We are starting to understand that the potential of this mix of forces is perhaps even greater than at the point when we designed it. There has been a perception that, if there is a situation like Afghanistan, that will be dealt with by the reaction force. If there is a UK resilience task, a UK operation or something that involves UK engagement with the TA-or, indeed, doing training teams in another part of the world, such as Africa or Asia-that will be the preserve of the adaptable force. I think we will find that these two things co-exist, cohabit and support one another in varying degrees, depending on the situation.
Q18 Sandra Osborne: Will the adaptable force take over all the stabilisation operations?
General Sir Peter Wall: No, I don’t think it will. I think there will be certain niche capabilities held in the adaptable force that will be used on stabilisation operations, but if an operation has gone into the stabilisation phase, as in Afghanistan at the moment, there will be a lot of reaction force capability used on that as well.
Q19 Sir Bob Russell: Sir Peter, other colleagues will probably ask about the reaction force more widely. I will ask about the specific area of Reservists. We are told that the reaction force will provide the high readiness force that will undertake short-notice contingency tasks and provide the conventional deterrent for defence. We are told this will be based on three armoured infantry brigades and an air assault brigade-I assume 16 Air Assault Brigade-and they are going to provide the basis for future enduring operations. Given the high readiness nature of such a force, what type of Reservists will make up the projected 10% of such a reaction force?
General Sir Peter Wall: That is a key question, because there has been a general assumption that the Reserve only played into the adaptable force at longer notice, and that is not the case. You will be aware from your recent visit and from other experiences that the operations we have been doing for the last 10 years plus in Iraq and Afghanistan have relied heavily on-it varies by cap badge and function; from, for example, the inventory and inspection to the medics-7% to 10% of the force, and I don’t think that will change. So there will be some TA individuals-not formed units-who will find themselves marching towards the reaction force to deploy on those sorts of operations. The proportion will be slightly smaller at the very highest readiness, but by the time you have got up to three months’ notice or you are three months into an operation, I would imagine that the Reserve component will be about the same as it is at the moment.
Q20 Sir Bob Russell: But you would envisage individuals rather than units.
General Sir Peter Wall: Yes. The critical difference is that in the adaptable force the resilience provided by this integration of the Reserve comes at company level.
Q21 Mrs Moon: Given the description that we have had of the reaction force, it will need to have quite a high level of training and also quite specific equipment. Have you considered what equipment will be needed to ensure the success and the support of the reaction force?
General Sir Peter Wall: Yes. A lot of it is our existing corps equipment suitably upgraded over time-for example, upgrading the Challenger tank and the Warrior armoured fighting vehicle. There is also the acquisition of a new Scout vehicle to replace our reconnaissance vehicles, and the bringing into service from Afghanistan of quite a lot of our urgent operational requirement-driven fleets, which you have seen on your recent visit-bringing them into the core equipment programme to equip both the reaction force and the adaptable force. Inevitably in the way of modern operations, there will be a heavy reliance on surveillance systems and on high-speed broadband networks and all those sorts of things, which we have the experience of using in a sophisticated way on a day-to-day basis in Afghanistan, right down to company level. We will be bringing those back and applying them in a sort of manoeuvre brigade context for the reaction force. A lot of those systems, at slightly lower notice, will be available to the adaptable force, too.
The equipment programme is not absolutely guaranteed at the moment to meet all our requirements. Because the Secretary of State still had some outstanding decisions about how to commit the Reserve element of that, he has held back. That is money that would be spent in the later years, anyway, so I am content with that, but also we are anxious to see that we get the requisite share of that reserved funding-part of the capital equipment programme-to be able to answer your question as fulsomely as we would like to.
Q22 Mrs Moon: Would losing the Apache helicopters affect the capability of the reaction force?
General Sir Peter Wall: Yes, it certainly would. Although the Apaches are held in 16 Air Assault Brigade, as the last few years have shown us they are supporting everybody in a number of roles, and there is no plan to remove them. They have a funded upgrade programme as part of the equipment investment you alluded to earlier.
Q23 Chair: They were a brilliant purchase, weren’t they?
General Sir Peter Wall: They have been a very fine purchase, yes. They have stood us in very good stead. Since they came into operational use they have been used almost exclusively in Afghanistan, with the odd maritime excursion, including of course in Libya. I think we have further to go in exploiting their potential in a broader range of scenarios.
Q24 Mrs Moon: You briefly mentioned equipment coming back from Afghanistan. How quickly are you looking to have that brought back so that you have it in readiness? Perhaps you could outline in a little more detail what you think is going to be of particular importance to the reaction force.
General Sir Peter Wall: I think it is important to the Army as a whole. The logic we laid out in our Army 2020 design notwithstanding, I would not be at all surprised if we found some light forces in the adaptable force component taking post-Afghan equipment away on operations quite soon, or at quite short notice. We certainly have not ruled that out.
However, in terms of the component of capability over there, we clearly have to sustain the effort right out until it is no longer needed in that theatre. That is still the main effort. We are not intending to put people at risk there by withdrawing that equipment any earlier than we should. Equally, I am sure that we would love to have it in another place at the same time, because we could then train on it. These fleets were bought specifically for use in Afghanistan. They are tailored in size to Afghan requirements, and some of the capabilities are quite scarce. We should be redeploying that as fast as we can to elements of the reaction force, particularly the light elements of the reaction force, 16 Air Assault Brigade, and also to parts of the adaptable force, to make sure that our contingency capability is up to the standard of our current operations in Afghanistan as soon as we can get to that.
Q25 Mrs Moon: Money is very tight. As you have said, you would like to have some of the equipment in two places at once. Are you happy that you have the processes, and the recording and tracking capability, to make sure that some of that equipment-indeed quite a lot of that equipment-coming back from Afghanistan will not be lost or stolen?
General Sir Peter Wall: I do not think it will be lost or stolen. I think the question will be how rapidly we can recondition it for use in other theatres.
Q26 Mr Brazier: I have a brief question. CGS, what you are saying about bringing the equipment back and getting it back into use very quickly, particularly for the contingent force, obviously made sense. But the query that has been raised several times is about the armoured vehicles in Afghanistan being specifically optimised around protection against IEDs without particularly good protection against anti-armoured vehicle weapons. Clearly, for quite a large range of jobs, the emphasis would be at least as much on the latter as on the former. This clearly makes it more complicated, doesn’t it?
General Sir Peter Wall: Yes. Any future theatre is going to have a mixture of those sorts of threats. We might reasonably expect it to have more of the anti-armour direct fire-type threat than what we are witnessing with the insurgency in Afghanistan where, as you highlighted, the counter-IED and sniping are really the principal threats. But, of course, most of our armour is therefore not in Afghanistan; it is back in Germany, destined to move back to the UK as and when, and it is also being used by our brigades on Salisbury Plain as part of their core equipment. What we will have to do, as we always have done, is to come up with the right force mix for the situation that pertains. When compared with how we found ourselves in 2003 to 2005, when we first started coming up in Iraq, and to a lesser extent in the early days in Afghanistan, against IEDs as the most awkward threat to deal with, we are now superbly equipped-not to the point of eliminating all risks, but most of them-against that threat. We anticipate that in many of the theatres we go to in the future, that threat will be there, so we have the ability to mix and match as the situation demands.
Q27 Mrs Moon: The reaction force will provide a full spectrum of intervention tasks. Is there specific training that you think the force is going to need?
General Sir Peter Wall: Yes, I think it is going to have to do much more of the traditional manoeuvre training that was our staple before we got very much focused on framework operations in Afghanistan, but it is also going to have to bring with it a number of the Afghanistan-style skill sets, tempered and broadened to a wider range of situations, climates, environments and so on. Therefore, in a sense, we are going to have to come up with a training model that covers both those areas of activity, which will have cost and complexity implications, and put demands on equipment. Some of that can be done through simulation, but a lot of it, at least once in a while, has to be done using the equipment out on the ground, for which we are going to have to find the right training areas. We have a lot of people working on that and I am confident that that is an achievable outcome, but of course it is also linked to levels of resource.
Q28 Penny Mordaunt: Will harmony guidelines be the same for reaction forces?
General Sir Peter Wall: I think they will. We are not absolutely hard and fast on a deduction from the last few years that people should only be deployed for six months, but it is a very useful benchmark around which we should plan and structure the force, particularly if you get into operations that go on to the point where you are starting to draw the adaptable force into the force generation cycle, so at the 18 month to two-year point, when you get round to your fourth brigade, you are using an adaptable force brigade that has quite a significant reserve component. That starts to fix the tour length at six months because of the practicalities of drawing on the reserve viz their relationship with their employers and everything else. That is actually the habit that we have at the moment. To answer your question in a purist sense, harmony is not just about tour length; it is about how long you have between tours. We would see the six-24 model as being about right.
Q29 Ms Stuart: Just a tiny topical question in relation to harmony guidelines and deployment. What is your view on taking off an extra five days over Christmas?
General Sir Peter Wall: That is essentially a common-sense solution to a particular problem-or opportunity, depending on how we look at it-to make sure that as many people in the Army have the best chance to take their annual leave, or their post-operational-tour leave, in the context of the fact that the Olympics distracted a lot of people from doing that. When we made the plan to draw people back from Germany and various other places in the force to support the Olympics, there was always the assertion that we would guarantee that they got their leave, and this is just one of the mechanisms to make that happen. It is a cost-effective and organisationally effective way of pulling that through.
Q30 Ms Stuart: That is a very generous interpretation. You don’t think it is a rather panicky saving on electricity?
General Sir Peter Wall: No, the decision was mine and General Parker’s. It wasn’t about saving electricity, it was about getting leave off people’s leave cards. It might have an attendant benefit, as long as people don’t leave the lights on.
Q31 Mrs Moon: Can I get this clear? This is not a generosity issue of, "We’re giving you five extra days’ leave." This is, "You will take five days’ leave at this point of time in the year."
General Sir Peter Wall: Yes.
Mrs Moon: So there is nothing generous about it-
General Sir Peter Wall: Unless you volunteer for guard, in which case I am sure that we could make another arrangement.
To be very clear, this is an internal Army arrangement, independent of the rest of defence, to get around this particular problem of post-operational-tour leave having been interrupted by the Olympics. I think it has gone down quite well in the Army.
Chair: We will now get on to the adaptable force.
Q32 Thomas Docherty: The document that was published by the Secretary of State for the Regulars has quite a lengthy description of the role of the adaptable force. I don’t intend to repeat it but it says, for example, that it will deliver standing commitments to Cyprus, Brunei and the Falklands, to ceremonial duties and to the UN, in addition to undertaking challenging tasks including overseas, military and follow-on. Is that a fairly comprehensive list of the requirements that you expect the adaptable force to undertake? Is there anything missing? Are there any of those tasks that, after a few months’ reflection, you think that the adaptable force won’t be able to do at this stage?
General Sir Peter Wall: No, I think they will generally have to cover all of those bases. What they won’t be doing-and it is not implicit in any of the things that you mentioned-is suddenly taking on other people’s equipment and driving tanks or Warriors. Unless they get posted as individuals, they will be constrained within their units to the equipment, roles and modus operandi of the adaptable force, which is mainly at the light end of the spectrum but does have a lot more protection than would have been the case a few years ago in light of our Iraq and Afghanistan experiences. I do see it being prepared to operate across the spectrum that you articulated, but at notice. We are not expecting people to change overnight from mode A to mode M.
Q33 Thomas Docherty: That is very helpful. There are also references to homeland resilience. Do you envisage any change in the nature of the military support that is provided to homeland resilience as a result of the adaptable force?
General Sir Peter Wall: No, I think this will be demand-led and so, too, will the defence engagement task. It is just that there is a more conscious sense of the demand, and we now have people who will be better equipped to do it well. In the UK operations and resilience base we have seen examples this year: Operation Escalin, which was around the prospective fuel distribution strike that didn’t happen, but for which we trained 3,000 tanker crews across defence, but with the majority from the Army; Operation Quickthorn, which is our response to prison strikes-not prisoner facing tasks, but support to the Prison Service-and, of course, the Olympics, which isn’t going to happen that often but is an example of something coming out of left field which we were able to respond to reasonably adroitly, and with quite large numbers of people. So I think it will be demand-led.
Thomas Docherty: This is where I begin to struggle to understand, and I apologise because it is probably more my fault than the Army’s. The Olympics was a relatively certain event. Although you didn’t necessarily know the level of commitment, you knew for seven years that it was coming. With something like a prison or fire brigade strike, there isn’t that much notice. If the adaptable force is not supposed to be an instantaneous reaction, how will it be able to step up at relatively short notice?
General Sir Peter Wall: The key to this is complexity, scale and the level of integration you’re talking about. When we talk about the reaction force going with a brigade, that is 6,500 people-a very large orchestra with everybody playing their role in a fairly fast-moving situation. The sorts of situations in the UK resilience base tend to be about numbers of individuals with specific skill sets that match the requirement. For example, in the case of the putative tanker strike, which fortunately did not manifest itself, that involved four or five days’ training for people who already had their high-end articulated driving licences. It was a question of getting those individuals together into a force, but they were then dissipated as individuals to fulfil their ties. Provided it is not a really unforeseen, complex, sophisticated task, the adaptable force would be able to respond to it pretty quickly.
Q34 Thomas Docherty: You will be aware that there is a lot of political interest north of the border in the future of defence. I think many of us had just about got our heads around what an MRB was going to look like when the new Secretary of State tore up that plan and introduced the current plan. Could you help me to understand the footprint and the roles you will be able to serve? I am struggling to get my head around how this is going to work.
General Sir Peter Wall: It is a key question actually, because we can still deliver the five-MRB model, from a mixture of the reaction force and the adaptable force. If you took MRBs, being multi-role brigades, as they were known in the early days of SDSR, each of the three armoured infantry brigades in the reaction force can provide a multi-role brigade. They might do that by using their existing equipment or by drawing on special equipment, such as that which comes back from Afghanistan. In the adaptable force, you have three lightish brigades-smaller in size and lighter in style-that can be given notice and formed into the fourth and fifth multi-role brigades, which allows you to have the harmony cycle that we were talking about earlier. Now, that is dependent on getting the right equipment and capability mix, but it is how you would meet that requirement. We should recognise in this conversation that, although we are charged with providing the capability of an enduring brigade over time, it is thought to be a less likely thing for us to be engaging with in the future than perhaps it was in the last decade. But, given the training resource and the warning, that is what we can do.
Q35 Thomas Docherty: Again, apologies, but there are seven infantry brigades in the adaptable force, and you are talking about three of those. Are they three specific ones?
General Sir Peter Wall: Three specific ones, yes.
Q36 Thomas Docherty: And will one of those be Scottish?
General Sir Peter Wall: One of them, yes. Which of the seven fulfil the role I have ascribed to the three is driven solely by where our garrisons are. We are going to have one in Scotland and one around Catterick-both of those exist-and then we are going to expand our presence quite significantly in some of the airfields astride the A1 around Cottesmore, which will be where the third one will be.
Q37 Thomas Docherty: Finally, lots of figures are bandied around by politicians, and I am sure that sooner or later one of them will be true. If I look at the current Army footprint in Scotland and compare it with when you finish this process, will it be larger or smaller than at the moment?
General Sir Peter Wall: On the current plan, it will be one unit larger, and slightly bigger in numbers terms.
Q38 Thomas Docherty: As a layman, what would a unit be?
General Sir Peter Wall: Well, they vary a lot in this new structure. A unit is typically 200 to 500. I will furnish you with the precise figures. Certainly for defence as a whole in Scotland, the numbers are slightly greater, and for the Army I think they are also slightly greater. That actually provides us with an excellent opportunity to have one of these lower-readiness combined arms brigades in the adaptable force.
Q39 Mrs Moon: Given the range of tasks that the adaptable force is going to be called upon to do, and given that it is adaptable to be called on to do things that you can only imagine it being called on to do, I suppose, what sort of equipment do you think the force is going to need and how much of that are you going to need to have brought back from Afghanistan?
General Sir Peter Wall: We will be bringing everything back from Afghanistan that we can make good use of, which I think is pretty well most of it. That will be run on a fleet-managed basis. We have not got enough to give each unit a standard holding for its whole existence, so basically they will pick up equipment when they need to train on it, and it then will be handed back, maintained by somebody and then issued to the next regiment or whatever. That is what we mean by fleet management. It is an important element of making the Future Force affordable for us.
They will tend to be equipped with far fewer, if any, tracked vehicles or wheeled vehicles of the sort you will be familiar with from your Afghan visits, in terms of quite heavy personnel carriers and heavy protector mobility vehicles, down to new vehicles like the Foxhound, which is an extremely successful addition to our infantry. They will have the same personal weapons and direct fire combat equipment and dismounted combat equipment as the reaction force, including night sights and that sort of thing, although their holdings might be slightly different because they are at lower readiness. They will have the same communications suite and the same access to surveillance capabilities, including drones and so on, just on a slightly less enriched and less frequent basis. When they need to train with it, they will have it.
They will retain, in this adaptable force, the same core skills for understanding the way the various parts of the Army integrate and interact on the battle space, as part of their generic understanding of military business. It will be the same sort of training, to a less intense degree, as the reaction force, because that is actually part of everyone’s core education.
Q40 Mrs Moon: How do you think you are going to integrate the training between Reservists and the permanent members of the adaptable force, given that they will have different schedules and you will need to keep that variety of skills, ongoing?
General Sir Peter Wall: That is a key question. It is primarily an opportunity rather than a problem. Although Regular units and Reserve and Territorial units have trained together in the past, that has tended to be ad hoc, and has never been part of the base plan for the way in which we deliver capability in an organisation like the adaptable force-certainly not in my service. For all of the parts of the Army and cap badges that are relevant to the adaptable force, from the light cavalry, through the light protective mobility infantry and dismounted infantry, to gunners, engineers, logisticians and medics, I would see a pairing mechanism at the regimental level: battalion X, Regular, will be paired with battalion Y, Reserve, and those two commanding officers will have a responsibility to provide a fully fledged working battalion at a level of readiness that is commensurate with their point in the three-year cycle. For one year, that will be quite high readiness, and for the other two it will be less high readiness, and more tick-over training. There will still be the opportunity to go on deployments, if people want to use individuals, but their collective responsibility will be less for the other two years than it will be in the high readiness year. We will provide the resources and the opportunities for those people to achieve their individual and collective skill sets, all of which are mandated in well tried and tested documentation. We will clearly have to get to the right standards, by providing the right amount of ammunition, training space, time and so on.
It will be for the commanding officers themselves to work out whether this is happening on Wednesdays or Sundays. That goes to the crux of your point. Part of the arrangements that we envisage for the new Reserve commitment is that a chunk of the training year will be a continuous period-probably a fortnight. There could be scenarios where it is more than that, given our ability to harness the support of employers and things like that, but that would be a key period for testing these things and making sure that the integration at the personal and unit level comes together. Our people are enthusiastic about that. We want to get some pilot schemes running very quickly to make sure that we can test the best way of doing it.
Q41 Chair: The changes to the Army inevitably involve the loss of some battalions and you have told us that the changes were driven by the fewest number of cap badges being lost, long-term manning and sustainability based on recruiting demographics and not more than one battalion being removed from any one regiment. How many units have been lost altogether?
General Sir Peter Wall: Twenty-three out of 142.
Q42 Chair: Because we have had changing figures on that over the course of recent weeks I gather, but it is 23 is it?
General Sir Peter Wall: My understanding is that it is 23.
Q43 Chair: Right. We said that minimising the number of cap badges being lost was one of the factors. Did that distort the Army’s structure as a whole?
General Sir Peter Wall: No, I don’t think it has. The way we went about this was not to assume that the future structure should just be 20% reduced in every part of the Army, every function, every cap badge, from what we are currently doing. One reason for that, for example, is that there are certain trades, tasks and functions that are better suited to the TA than others. There are therefore places where the Reserve can play a more credible role in substitution for Regular manpower and others, and there are also places that lend themselves to the use of contractors much more than others. When you take this total support force idea and meld it with your requirement you can see the places where you can afford to reduce Regular manpower by more and those places where you can afford to do it by less. Therefore there are some organisations that have actually got bigger. There are some that have got bigger pro rata, such as the armoured infantry, where we have gone from five battalions to six in the Army as a whole. Then there are a large number who have gone down in terms of raw manpower by around 20%, plus or minus a bit, and then the percentage of unit reductions is, as the 23 out of 142 suggests, less than 20% because of the way we have chosen to organise ourselves. Part of that is because, typically, those adaptable force units that are going to draw on the Reserve for a significant part of their operational output can afford to be smaller in number, but they have got to provide the framework for part of the Reserve to come under their wings. That is how we did it.
Q44 Chair: There are various campaigns running to save battalions on the basis, partly, of the strength of the recruitment in those battalion areas. How will you manage to sustain the regimental system and take advantage of strong recruitments from some demographic areas?
General Sir Peter Wall: I think those two things are reinforced. Inevitably, the battalions that unfortunately contributed to the reduction in the size of the infantry from 36 battalions to 31, and it is unfortunate-some of them at the moment are reasonably well manned for reasons I could go into. Some of it is about the need to man them up with people from recruiting areas other than their own traditional recruiting grounds to meet the requirements of Afghanistan, something that we have always done to a greater or lesser extent. But au naturel, without that effect, it was relatively easy for us, taking a view going back a decade and going forward in terms of the Office for National Statistics demographic projections, on the assumption of no changes to our recruiting areas, to predict those who would find it more difficult than others. Those were the places we had to go, unfortunately. For the most part, it was reasonably clear cut.
Q45 Chair: Was a decision taken to spare Scottish regiments?
Thomas Docherty: There is only the Royal Regiment of Scotland.
Chair: To spare Scottish battalions.
General Sir Peter Wall: No, because the rubric that said that we will only take one battalion from each regiment was applied.
Q46 Chair: As Thomas Docherty quite correctly reminded me, the fact that there is only one regiment militated in favour of Scotland, did it not?
General Sir Peter Wall: Or the Rifles, or other organisations that might have found themselves deficient of manpower, taking the 20-year view.
Q47 Thomas Docherty: This is something where, again, I think, there are perspectives on the Scots, because they are going from five battalions to four battalions and a public duty incremental company. When you do, as an Army, your count about how many battalions you have lost, do you count that as a lost battalion?
General Sir Peter Wall: I do, effectively. If we look at what is going on in Scotland, and we ask ourselves whether the Army 2020 demand on infantry manpower in Scotland will be delivered, because of the roles that the Scottish battalions are fulfilling-their current manpower demand for five battalions is something like 3,250 people, and they are going to be required to produce about 25% less of that to produce four battalions of the sort that we are asking for: one in the reaction force; three in the adaptable force; and a small increment for the public duties company-it looks very achievable to me.
Q48 Thomas Docherty: But there is a lot of confusion in Scotland, because we have this changing structure. Am I right in thinking that the way you are going to do Scotland is that the public duty company will be a company drawn as a whole from one of the other four battalions and then badged as this, whatever title you have settled on-I’m not sure I am clear what the title is-and then it will be deployed to, say Edinburgh castle?
General Sir Peter Wall: Yes. The reason why we have alighted on this idea of an incremental company is to mirror the way we do public duties and ceremonial in London. It works very well in London, and it is even more apposite in the context of adaptable force battalions that have had their manpower suppressed, because that is going to be provided on transition to operations by the Reserve. We have done it that way.
In the particular case of the Royal Regiment of Scotland, its four battalions all draw their manpower from all of Scotland, and they all wear the Royal Regiment of Scotland cap badge. When people come out of the recruiting depot, they will go to a company in one of those four battalions; equally, they might go to this incremental company for a short period.
Q49 Thomas Docherty: Let’s say it is a six-month tour in the incremental company. Am I right in thinking that that whole company goes back to a battalion?
General Sir Peter Wall: No. That company exists and people go to it and leave it.
Thomas Docherty: Right. So it will not be 120 from one battalion, but it might be 30, 30, 30 and 30. They go for six months and then they come back.
General Sir Peter Wall: It is a standing organisation populated on a sort of trickle basis.
Q50 Mr Donaldson: This touches partly on the Reserves. On this question of adaptable force, there is no doubt that some regions are far more successful, when it comes to recruitment, than other regions, particularly in relation to the Reserves. I think it is important that where there is success, you follow success.
We are not going to get into a regional debate here, but Northern Ireland regularly produces 20% of Reserves on operational deployment, despite only accounting for 3% of the UK population; I certainly will be making a strong pitch for strengthening our Reserve base in Northern Ireland. Adaptable force can work, but it is important that where there is evidence of successful recruitment, that is not taken for granted and you go to other areas where there isn’t such recruitment.
General Sir Peter Wall: Without going into the specifics of particular regions of the United Kingdom-I completely agree with you on Northern Ireland-it would not be in our interests not to take maximum advantage of those places that have a very strong habit of not only being recruited into the TA, but also deploying on operations.
Q51 Bob Stewart: I have got to speak for the English; we have had Scotland and Ireland. Assuming that you have five battalions in Scotland, and there are 5 million people, 1 million people support one battalion. In England and Wales, it is 2 million people to provide the number of battalions. I am just looking at pro rata. Would it be fair to say that the Scottish and the Irish are twice as likely to enlist as the English and the Welsh? If you look at the numbers in England, and the number of battalions in England and Wales against that, it seems that you get better recruitability in Scotland and Ireland than in England and Wales by a factor of two. That is perhaps the logic of the change.
General Sir Peter Wall: I would look at it from a similar, but slightly different perspective, which is that the infantry is 25% of the Army, and we want to populate the whole lot. The Scottish have a strong representation in all parts of the Army-arms corps, the Scottish regiments, obviously, and the Scottish cavalry regiments and so on. I think it is true that we get 19% of our manpower from 12% of the population-Scotland. There may well be some similar phenomenon going on in Northern Ireland.
Bob Stewart: Which I think was my point.
General Sir Peter Wall: If you look at it from that perspective, it is very important, and it might explain why, from time to time, Scottish infantry battalions have been less well manned, because many people are heading in other directions within the Army.
Q52 Bob Stewart: There was a percentage there that I did not quite hear.
General Sir Peter Wall: 19%, but I will check the figures. I should say that we do not actually know precisely how many Scottish people we have in the Army, because it is the British Army. We do not go around carrying that sort of data. However, that was the figure that stuck in my mind. You only have to walk around the tank park of most regiments to spot that this is a disproportionate number.
Chair: And you might be forgiven for thinking that someone called Bob Stewart was Scottish.
Bob Stewart: Half.
Q53 Mr Havard: I was not intending to get into this, but I think 8% of the Army comes from 3% of the population as far as Wales is concerned. Perhaps that is because we step forward a bit earlier.
The point that Jeffrey was making earlier about where there is recruitment is important. You are looking forward to 2022 in terms of the demographics, and this is, as you say, going with where you have had success. It is less nationalistic to me than it is about efficiency and dealing with it on that sort of basis. I would just simply say, because my colleague would probably have made the point better than I, that the question about ceremonial and how you deal with that sort of stuff is exciting people in Cardiff equally as much as those in Edinburgh. It was not a point that I was particularly going to make today. It was not another male voice choir that I needed to get off your lawn, but it is a real point and I know that you are looking at that as you move forward over the next eight years. This is not something that is necessarily going to happen tomorrow, is it?
General Sir Peter Wall: No, and we have some issues that we have to deal with in a more structured way now than perhaps we have had to in the past. If, for example, you have a cavalry regiment that recruits from Wales, where should it live? Should it live in Wales, a long way away from Wales or a reasonable distance away from Wales? Ditto all the other people who recruit from specific areas. Some actually fancy getting away. Others fancy being close to home. It varies with individuals and with where they are in their careers.
There is another interesting issue over how we get the pairing mechanism right for the Regular and Territorial infantry, for example. If you take Mr Donaldson’s point about 2 Royal Irish, would most want to be paired up with 1 Royal Irish on the UK mainland? Is that sensible? I think it probably is because they are very keen and they travel, but it would make sense to get this cap badge allegiance as geographically sensible as possible. We are working on how we do all that, and we will not be absolutely clear on the optimum plan until we know how the Regular Army basing is going to be delivered.
Chair: We will come on to that in a moment. We will now move onto Reserve forces.
Q54 Mr Brazier: CGS, how is the recruitment of Reservists going? I ask because since April, we have had reports in the media about the new system, for which there is obviously the good objective of achieving a common standard. However, the reports are of considerable, bureaucratic delays in the system, with potential recruits waiting months. Is there a get well package coming to sort it out?
General Sir Peter Wall: There are a number of things going on here. The first is the move to single Army recruiting, so that the same standards are applied to Regular recruits and Reserve recruits. That has to be case if they are going to be doing the same sort of job in the same exacting places. Secondly, there is the fact that, coincidentally, we are moving to a new recruiting system in partnership with a commercial provider. That will give us far better reach to the younger cohort that we are trying to recruit through social media and so on. That inevitably has a bedding-in issue, and there are some risks in delivering it.
It has come to our attention that it is not as easy to convert from the Regular to the Reserve, or to join the Reserve, as it should be. We are giving the system a pull-through at the moment because we cannot afford to have any obstacles to growing our numbers. However, neither can we afford to have what was happening before, which is that because we were not scrutinising potential Reserve recruits in as much detail as we did for Regulars, we had something like a 60% fall-out rate before people became qualified through phase 2 training and became fully-fledged soldiers. We clearly cannot afford to have resources dissipating in that way. So it is all hands to the pumps to sort those things out.
Q55 Mr Brazier: What sort of support are you getting from employers? It is obviously early days, but there have been a number of initiatives, one or two of which I think you have been personally involved in.
General Sir Peter Wall: The macro answer to that will come with the responses to the Green Paper, which was launched on 8 November by the Secretary of State, and for which responses are expected from all quarters by the end of January-28 January, or something like that. It is important that employers, in particular, articulate in a genuine way how they view this, in terms of opportunities and concerns and what mechanisms and measures they would need to give them confidence that this was the right strategic path to go down. As we all know, without not just their tolerance but their enthusiasm, this proposition is not going to fly as well as we would like it to.
The people I have spoken to are, by dint of my personal engagement so far, more at the corporate end of the spectrum-the private sector-but it also applies to elements of the public sector as well. I think there is a significant chance that this is being viewed as an opportunity, rather than a hazard; something to lean in to, rather than avoid; and something that is an opportunity, rather than an imposition. We have got to keep it that way.
Q56 Mr Brazier: That’s good. You have already said quite a lot in answer to Mr Donaldson, Mr Havard and others on encouraging the ideas you have for developing pairing between Regular and Reserve units. Could I just push you a bit further on the detail of how basing works with that? As Mr Donaldson pointed out, there is an uneven degree of recruitablility. Of course, people travelling to Reserve training periods, whether it is weekends or evenings, are always travelling during the rush hour. What is local to someone may only be a very small number of miles. Given that the Regular Army is heading towards an ever smaller number of ever larger bases-to simplify slightly-how is that to be reconciled with a lay-down of Reserves, which, if it is to succeed, will have to be very distributed? How do you see pairing coming through that?
General Sir Peter Wall: First of all, in macro terms, we have to get the right battalions, which inevitably have a dispersed recruiting area if they are Reservist, paired with the right, Adaptable Force Regular battalions. In the fullness of time, it might be attractive to morph the lay-down of the Reserve gradually-but without scaring the horses, because there are a lot of people who feel that this is a threat-to a slightly more consolidated version of where it is at the moment, which is aligned better with conurbations. But we would not want to do that if it gave us a step down in availability of people because they hold dear particular drill halls, TA centres or regions of the country.
There is no simple solution; we have to feel our way very carefully, and do it gradually over time. There are opportunities for estates rationalisation, but that would not be a key driver. The driver at this stage would be to have the right numbers of TA units prepared to meet the assured commitment challenge that has been laid out.
It is not straightforward. There will be travel involved. It may be that the drill night has less of a place than slightly longer periods of concentrated training, such as long weekends. These are things that we shall have to work out when we get the pilot schemes going, but we all know that those who are determined to be Reservists have a resilient approach to this sort of thing, and without breaking down the current system, we can move towards something that is more efficient and that serves their interests better. But we would not want to reduce the local appeal of a particular drill hall, TA centre or cap badge, or regiment or role in the process.
Q57 Mr Brazier: Could I ask who you would principally look to for advice on that?
General Sir Peter Wall: Yes, I would look to the commanding officers of the regiments and the regional brigade commanders of the brigades that are dealing with this.
Mr Brazier: And the RFCAs?
General Sir Peter Wall: Yes, the RFCAs are inevitably involved.
Chair: RFCAs meaning?
Q58 Mr Brazier: Sorry, Reserved Forces and Cadets Associations.
There seems to be a discrepancy-albeit a welcome one-between the earlier paper and the Green Paper on reserves. If I read the Green Paper correctly, there is going to be an uplift, typically of about five man training days per year.
General Sir Peter Wall: The minimum will be uplifted, but I think that there will be a more significant uplift in the case of those people who are at the high-readiness end of the cycle. I think the minimum is being uplifted from 35 to 40 man training days per year.
Q59 Mr Brazier: How easily will you be able to recruit, train, deploy and form units/sub-units? Could I put a second question in with that? If I were a TA CO thinking about this 10% for the Reaction Force, how will that play against potentially having some of their best people stripped off them to go in the first wave in terms of then getting ready for a subsequent wave?
General Sir Peter Wall: This is another one where we are feeling our way. Ideally, when it came to providing the individuals, you would avoid drawing those from the high-readiness part of the Reserve footprint that is trying to form companies. How easy will it be to form companies? Well, if you are prepared to mix and match, as we do quite often now, it will be very easy, but that is not ideal. We want to have the cohesion that goes with people having lived and worked together, and that is going to be a function of the tolerances of employers, how much notice we can give people and what proportion of the footprint of a given town it would be. There is no guaranteed, straightforward answer to that, but we have done it before with gunner units, sapper units and infantry units. We know that we can do it, but it is a question of the most efficient way of getting to the right level of assured commitment.
Q60 Mr Brazier: Moving away from Reserves for a moment, you gave us a very clear picture of the three Reaction Force brigades and what three of the seven Adaptable Force brigades will be doing, but I do not think we have had very much of a picture as to what the other four Adaptable Force brigades are. Can you give us an idea?
General Sir Peter Wall: They essentially are slightly more like the regional brigades of today. They will still be responsible, in keeping with the three I mentioned earlier and in keeping with the Reaction Force brigades, which will probably all be based around Salisbury plain. They will have, in common with those, slightly smaller brigades, which may only have one or two Regular combat units and a handful of TA units in their area. It is essentially defined by the geography and the current lay-down.
Take, for example, Wales: brigade headquarters, one Regular battalion, one TA battalion, one big training area and a lot of other TA elements. They will have the responsibility for training to the required standard, once in the three-year cycle, the whole battalion including its TA component. They will be, as the regional brigades are at the moment, the primary focus for engaging with the first responders on issues of UK resilience and UK operations-flooding, or whatever it may be. The details are still being worked on, but they will probably have a defence engagement role where they will be the focus and centre of expertise for a particular region of the world where we provide training support to allow others to build up their military capability. They will certainly be the key organisation for engaging with the community, both for general Army purposes and more specifically for the whole business of the relationship between Regular and Reserve. They might have a small footprint, but they have still got quite a lot of responsibilities.
Q61 Mr Holloway: In terms of integrating Reservists with Regular units, in my minuscule experience of working with Reservists on operations, while they were capable of doing every task, the difficulty came down to working with specific bits of communications equipment or to the fact that they did not have the breadth of training on different weapons systems and so on. You have said that you will have different levels of training at different states of readiness, but is there a possibility that you will have to restrict the roles of Reservists because they quite simply will not have been able to go through all the different bits of technology?
General Sir Peter Wall: I think there is a distinct possibility that not everyone in either the Regular or the Reserve is going to be trained on everything. The nature of operations and the assurance we have to apply to managing risks means that Regular sub-units might equally find themselves operating in a restricted part of the spectrum with restricted access to certain equipment systems. I do not think that that will be a phenomenon unique to the Reserve. The ambition in this better-trained, more assured, formed organisation-certainly formed up to company level-is that the groundwork and basic training will have been more thorough, more extensive and more relevant in terms of exposing people to the same equipment that the Regular force is using. These are now in the same force, and the distinction between Regular and Reserve should get dissolved. These are companies in the same battalion. One of the real challenges is making sure that the command structure in these organisations has had the opportunity to gain the same experience, for the most part, as its Regular counterpart. This reform is a big challenge, but it is a whole new undertaking, so extrapolating too much from the current experience could be misleading.
Q62 Mr Holloway: I know that unlike the naysayers, you are very bullish about this. How will it work, partnering Reserve units with Regular units?
General Sir Peter Wall: I think that is the relatively straightforward piece. Talking about all this Reserve proposition in the abstract is complicated. If you and I are the two commanding officers in question, that is where the conversation starts; that is where the planning gets made. No one is going to second-guess the best way to do this for our particular group of companies, our role, our equipment set. You will have contacts and ways of solving problems, so will I. Obviously, the staff work is going to be done primarily by the Regular HQ rather than the Reserve one, but not exclusively so. When we start getting the juices flowing on these propositions we will realise that this is a very compelling idea.
Q63 Thomas Docherty: In response to points from Mr Brazier earlier, you appeared to make a very eloquent case for why, when we eventually get the basing announcement that we are supposed to get at the end of the year, it will only cover the Regulars. It seems that there is a vast amount of work that has not yet been done and won’t be done in time for that announcement. Am I right in my thinking?
General Sir Peter Wall: Yes, until we have certainty over the Regular basing and the timing of delivery of Regular basing, because there is clearly an issue of investing in infrastructure-the faster we invest, the faster we can move people out of Germany, which is what we want to do. Most of the change-90% of it-is driven by getting people out of Germany. We would be ready to do that in the time frame between 2014 and 2018. That is the peak period for change.
Then we can start to connect the linkages and take a view on the best basing plan for the Reserve. In the short term, the best basing plan for the Reserve is no change. The real issue is about roles and affiliations in the early stages. As I said earlier in my response to Mr Brazier, there will be a case in parts of the landscape for refining it, but not to the extent that it is going to cause a negative reaction.
Q64 Thomas Docherty: But isn’t it a negative reaction that having taken great pains to say that we are one Army-Regulars and Reserves are all part of the same Army-there will be many in the Reserves who will think of themselves as an afterthought? Whether or not that is your intention, that is how it may well appear to many. What of those communities who will go through another period of uncertainty, having done what they thought was the basing review, but it turns out to be just the Regular basing review?
General Sir Peter Wall: People will always find reasons to be discontented with this thing. We are undergoing a major reform. In the case of the relationship between the Regular and the Territorial force it is as significant as anything for many decades-way back before conscription. These sorts of reforms need to be sequenced. We could rush to satisfy those people who feel that this is slightly discriminatory, but all we would be doing is giving them false confidence, because if it was a rushed plan we would be changing it within weeks probably. I think we just need to hold our nerve.
Q65 Thomas Docherty: There are not many people who would regard a two-year process as a bit rushed.
General Sir Peter Wall: It isn’t a two-year process.
Q66 Thomas Docherty: The SDSR was October 2010. It is now likely to be January 2013.
General Sir Peter Wall: I don’t accept that. The redesign of the Army started in August 2011. The announcement was made in July this year. If we get this done by next Easter that will be good work.
Chair: Moving on to the implementation of Army 2020, Sandra Osborne.
Q67 Sandra Osborne: Can I ask about the redundancies? Are you on track to achieve the level of redundancies required to reduce the Regular strength to 82,000?
General Sir Peter Wall: As you know, we have already had two relatively small tranches of redundancy for the Regular Army that have been done in step with the other two services, the Navy and the Air Force. The next tranche-tranche 3-of redundancy should be announced early next year. After that will be the final one, tranche 4. Those will run respectively; in the case of tranche 3 for the first half of 2013. What I mean by that is that the sort of fields of people, of ranks and trades who are liable to be made redundant will be announced in January. Those individuals who are going to be made redundant either as applicants or non-applicants will be notified in June. That is the time frame. The fourth tranche of redundancy will be a repeat of that in 2014.1
There are a number of well thought through rules and conditions that apply, depending on whether you, as an individual, are due to go on an operation or not, or whether you are a volunteer or not and so on. The complete process will be over by the middle of 2015. At that point, we will have released another 9,500 people from the Regular Army by the end of tranche 4 on current plans.
If there are any changes in our manning conditions and we get a large increase in voluntary outflow, for example, we might be able to modify those numbers, but approximately half of that 9,500 will be prepared for tranche 3, which is coming up. That has been announced to the Army at large, although they are waiting for confirmation. Obviously, it is a very awkward time for everybody. It creates a lot of uncertainty, but this is the nature of reducing the size of a Regular Army.
Q68 Sandra Osborne: Those in the fourth tranche will have waited a long time to find out their fate.
General Sir Peter Wall: It is a source of great concern to me, and it is to all those individuals who are likely to be in scope for that sort of thing, some of whom may unfortunately find themselves liable in both tranche 3 and tranche 4.
Q69 Sandra Osborne: How is the uncertainty that is caused by the redundancies and reduced career opportunities affecting morale?
General Sir Peter Wall: It’s not enhancing it, that’s for sure. It is causing a lot of worry. In terms of career prospects, eventually the whole point of reshaping the manning structure of the Army is to get promotion prospects back on track for those who are part of the Future Force. For everybody, and a greater proportion of the Army is affected by the proposition than actually will be directly affected by redundancy when selections are made, it is a very worrying and destabilising time.
Q70 Sandra Osborne: Do you think that with what has been happening with the redundancies and the new structure, there will be problems recruiting people in the future?
General Sir Peter Wall: That is what often happens. When we shrink the Army, the natural assumption around the population is that if we are laying people off, we will be abating our recruiting or not even recruiting at all. Nothing could be further from the truth. The people we will be making redundant will, unfortunately, be in the middle swathe of their careers. There will be a minimum length of service in the five to six-year bracket, below which people will not be made redundant, and there will still be the same need to pull people in at the bottom-officers and soldiers-to populate the future structure.
We will, of course, be reducing the number of people we take in to balance off the future demand. Our recruiting figures are already being toned down to make sure that the future structure is in balance, but we still need, roughly, 80% of the people we were drawing in before-slightly more, actually. The message to anybody listening is that we are still recruiting and very keen to have talented people.
Q71 Sandra Osborne: And will it still be seen as an attractive career?
General Sir Peter Wall: I think it will be once we are back in steady state. In fact, for people joining now, they are joining the steady state so it should not deter people, providing that is understood. It is not always the easiest message to get out.
In terms of, "Is it an attractive career?", it is going to be different when we don’t have a guaranteed operation, which is a stimulus for many people to join. It is our job to make sure that the way of life of the future Army has the variety and challenge that it always has had to a greater or lesser extent. If you look at the opportunities and the Reaction Force and the Adaptable Force, there is something in that for everybody-and so it should be.
Q72 Ms Stuart: You started to address some of my concerns about how you reduce and regenerate at the same time, but there is one bit in the 2020 Army brochure that I am simply puzzled by and do not understand. I wonder whether you could rephrase it for me. It is the listing of the Force Development Deductions.
General Sir Peter Wall: Ah, figure 1.
Q73 Ms Stuart: Yes. Quite frankly, I do not understand some of the headings.
General Sir Peter Wall: Normally, you need a special lexicon to follow this sort of stuff. How can I help?
Q74 Ms Stuart: You could give me a broad paraphrase of what this is meant to say.
General Sir Peter Wall: Do you know what? I rather agree with you.
Q75 Chair: Do we take it you did not write this?
General Sir Peter Wall: No, but I know who did. I won’t mention his name; it would be unfair.
It is essentially talking about the nature of modern military organisations and modern conflict, for which we need to organise. So, first of all, it is talking about the fact that this is not just about the Army; at the tactical level it is about the Army in the context of a joint force with the other two services, and with other nations, and with other agencies-for example, DFID. That is the accepted norm, and I do not think we are going to step back from that. The emphasis on sophisticated surveillance and reconnaissance networked through a military broadband system, or a military internet-
Q76 Ms Stuart: It puzzled me that it said Force Development Deductions, so it gave me the impression that we are going to do less of something.
General Sir Peter Wall: No, no. What it means is that we have conducted a number of experiments that have led us to believe that these are the parameters of the force. While General Carter and his team, working independently of the Army chain of command down in Warminster, were doing the work on designing Army 2020, there was a parallel exercise called Agile Warrior, which was an experiment, a development exercise. They were taking soundings from that; they were taking lessons from Afghanistan and lessons from other armies on the way we think the future is going to play. They drew up this list of design parameters, if you like.
Q77 Ms Stuart: For the benefit of the future, how about you and Nick Carter getting together and using BabelFish to translate that little box for us, and send us a note? Would that be possible?
General Sir Peter Wall: I tell you what, that is a really good idea. Maybe we could call on your help to make sure we are using pure and plain English. My apologies.
Ms Stuart: That would be very helpful, thank you.
Q78 Bob Stewart: CGS, there are rumours around this place, although probably not at the MOD-so you can put me into touch, as it were, as you are chairman of Army rugby-that 82,000 may not be the last of it. Some people have suggested that it may go down below that. Are you in a position to put me straight into touch on that matter?
General Sir Peter Wall: I have heard nothing along those lines. My view is that we need all of those people to do the right sort of job in the context of Army 2020. There has been a sense that there might be more efficiency savings that can easily be achieved. I am absolutely sure that is not the case.
There has been a particular drive in defence against both military and civil service manpower in what is called the non-front-line space-those people who are thought to be just doing back-office functions, but of course everything they do is vital to the delivery of capability. In fact, the distinction between non-front-line and the front line is getting more and more blurred, with the fact that a lot of our thinking can be done by reach-back and that sort of thing.
Take for example our Operational Training Advisory Group, which you might normally think is non-front-line. Actually, it spends more of its time in Afghanistan working out how techniques are evolving than in does sitting back in the UK training people. You are familiar with that, the old NITAT.
So there are not easy ways we can slim this organisation down further. The enhancement and reform of the Reserve are quite demanding on Regular manpower; that is not a place you can go if you want the Reserve proposition to work. There are other parts of defence that call on Army manpower in quite large numbers, such as UK Special Forces, the Defence Intelligence Service and other niche areas such as the Defence Academy, DNS and the DIO. All those provide vital expertise to allow us to deliver our end outputs and capabilities. So I am not at all optimistic that we could achieve manpower savings below 82,000 without forgoing capability.
Q79 Chair: CGS, can you take it that we would be quite unhappy if we heard that-as a result, for example, of today’s announcements in the Autumn Statement-there were a need to reduce below 82,000? Would you share that unhappiness?
General Sir Peter Wall: Yes, I would share it. I am sure it is not what is intended.
Chair: Thank you.
Q80 Mr Havard: May I first ask a question on behalf of my colleague, Penny Mordaunt, who wanted to raise this question about how people find out? She is a Reservist and she is concerned about how people within the Forces understand the process as it goes forward on a day-to-day basis. There seem to be practical issues about getting into computers and getting access to information at particular times and so on. There is a communication difficulty, it would appear, in people fully understanding exactly what is intended and how they move forward. There are practical difficulties in their getting access to that information. I do not know whether you are aware of that, but you might have more detail on it. It is important in terms of taking people with you that they have a good understanding, not runic papers.
General Sir Peter Wall: I accept your point. To be honest, getting ahead of the rumour mill, particularly on propositions that are not immediately attractive, is challenge enough in the Regular force. With the dispersed Territorial Reserve cohort, it is even more challenging. We are trying to de-layer and remove the uncertainty in discrete chunks of information-most recently in the case of the Regular force to do with roles, shortly to do with basing, and then very soon, on the heels of that, by Easter, a roles and basing announcement for the Reserve. But I acknowledge that even when we have done those relatively big handful-type announcements, there will still be a lot of scepticism about how it is going to work: how it affects me personally, whether my employer will buy into it and all that sort of stuff. Some of that, I am afraid, we will just have to live with, but where it is within our gift to remove that uncertainty and drive things forward positively, that is firmly our intention.
Q81 Mr Havard: Can I ask you about the money? Always a difficult question. Are you confident that you have enough current funding to go on this trajectory that you are setting out? I know it is an impossible question to some degree, but there are going to be various iterations along the way. This is a plan that is taking you to 2020. There will be a Comprehensive Spending Review next year, or in 2014 or whenever. There is meant to be a Defence and Security Review again in 2015. You have certain funding set aside for transition until 2018, as I understand it, in relation to Reserves. So there is a series of milestones and watersheds that do not necessarily guarantee the process until 2020 as it currently stands. It would be useful if you could say something about that.
General Sir Peter Wall: I can. It is interesting. We had this process in the MOD called Programming Round 12. The Department was very generous to us. It allowed us essentially to take a bye throughout that programming round to go off and re-design the Army on the assumption that we would come in within the resource envelope that had been allocated in the PR12 process. So we were compliant in big handfuls at the end of PR12. The new programming round, which is called Annual Budget Cycle 13-ABC 13-is going through at the moment. I have done my first full cut of that with my Army Board colleagues and we are pretty confident that it is in the right ballpark.
I mentioned earlier that there were some decisions that the Secretary of State had yet to take on the final allocation of the equipment programme, and also, separately, some discussions about the front-loading of the infrastructure plan, which were important to getting us to a good place, but in terms of the stuff that we directly control at the moment, I am pretty confident that when Lord Levene’s recommended delegations click in, which they will on 1 April next year, it will be a real boon to us to be able to run our own business, identify the trade space and work out where we can make the right adjustments-do things in a different way, make better use of contractors, use substitute civilian manpower, whatever it might be. We will find a way through this. I do not yet fully understand the implications of what has been announced today.
Q82 Mr Havard: I am interested to hear you mention that there have been changes, because you are going to have a different budgetary set up. We will be asking questions about that in the stuff we are doing on procurement and acquisition. I was concerned to get a view from you on that, so what you say is interesting. I was wondering whether you might get into a position where you have to start trading certain things against other things.
General Sir Peter Wall: We are bound to have to-we always have. If we weren’t making those sorts of trading considerations, I don’t think we would be doing our job. Even if we had a guaranteed surplus of resource, we would still be doing trades. That is even more necessary when you are at an appropriate margin. We have designed this force to the resource that we understood we were going to have-we designed it with contingency, but not a lot of float, if you know what I mean. So I think that owning the trading process is a real bonus to us. In terms of whether we will be ready to receive this delegation, I have been having briefings this week from my gurus in the equipment support space. These are quite large sums of money, and with more resolution on the detail I am sure we can do things more cost-effectively to deliver the same capability.
Q83 Mr Havard: Regarding the people plan, as it were, you aren’t going to be in the invidious position of trading people for kit in this process, and, if you are, you have the controls to do that for yourself. Is that what you are saying?
General Sir Peter Wall: I think we might well be making adjustments, but in big handfuls. No, not trading people for kit. Essentially, the size of the Army is a Government-endorsed number, and we need all those people. But there are places where we can make trades: for example, what we spend on contractors versus what we do through other channels in-house, or the way we do our training model-the extent to which we invest in simulation versus live firing, with ammunition savings in prospect. Those are just examples of the sort of places we can go. The number of vehicles of a given type that we buy, compared with our training model-again, that is linked to simulation and that sort of thing. These are big sums of money, and there is inevitably more than one way of skinning any of those cats, and that implies trade space.
Q84 Mr Havard: So the pace and shape will change, but presumably there are milestones, and not only the financial ones that I outlined earlier.
General Sir Peter Wall: The organisational issue is very significant. The senior officer responsible for bringing the whole change programme together for the Army is General Everard, the Assistant Chief of the General Staff in the office next door to me. He runs all the programmes to make sure that they do not interfere with each other or clash. I would say what I have said to the Army, which is that while we are getting these programmes to run as smoothly as possible as projects in their own right, ultimately, success is gauged by meeting the next operational challenge properly, not just by re-organising.
Q85 Mr Havard: Okay. Well, our question was really about where you go post-2015, but we will come back to that-no doubt this will not be the last of it.
Can I ask you about basing, because it is a major element? At the start, you said it was one of the big three factors. There is the issue of bringing people back from Germany, and there is an ancillary issue with the Falklands as well. There is the whole business about where you put them when you bring them back, and the relationship with training. Could you say a little more about what the pace and shape of that transition is likely to look like? We had initial declarations about timing for Germany; can you tell us whether that is going to be met and how it will shape up?
General Sir Peter Wall: The 50% out of Germany by 2015 is quite likely to be met not least because, sensibly, quite a lot of the units that are disbanding, rather than amalgamating, are going to be disbanded in Germany. Although that gives us a challenge in looking after the individuals properly, that is a price worth paying for knowing that we have come to the end of our occupation of those barracks and garrisons in Germany, thanks to the huge generosity of the German nation. So that is something we will achieve.
The other half is the bit that needs the most infrastructure investment and, of course, it needs places to train. So you are absolutely right if I may say so, Mr Havard, to highlight the linkage between training and basing as an infrastructure entity, rather than one and the training as an afterthought. On the training areas we have access to at the moment, some are in Germany for low-level armed manoeuvre training; there is our training presence in Canada at Suffield, which you may have been to; and then there are other options in and around the UK, including Salisbury plain, which is where most of the heavy armoured equipment is headed for, assuming the infrastructure can be built there.
There is an aside to that; this heavy equipment is the most expensive to run and an efficient fleet management system with those vehicles allows us to save quite a lot of money. So that is an important feature. I think we will still be doing that sort of training in a mixture of the UK and Canada, and possibly seeking permission from the Germans to retain a presence close to NATO facilities in northern Germany. We have not yet bottomed that out. There are obviously cost implications but it is a very attractive place to train.
For the lighter forces and probably more the adaptable force we would like to sustain a vibrant portfolio of training opportunities at company and battalion level, for example-all cap badges, but company battalion for ease of discussion-in Africa and in other places. So we have a very developed opportunity in Kenya, which we see as being a core location. There are a few other places where we have trained in the past, and for reasons of the pressures of Afghanistan or particular facilities, we may have let those arrangements lapse. We might want to re-invoke those, as it would be very important to sustain the enthusiasm of young people joining the Army who don’t have an immediate prospect of going on operations. That training of the adaptable force brings with it defence engagement opportunities because, frankly, any training nowadays that is not partnered in the way we are currently partnered with the Afghan forces on operations is falling short of the requirement. So we are looking not just for space but for people to train alongside.
Q86 Mr Havard: It will be interesting to see what happens to Cyprus, the Falklands and one or two other places.
General Sir Peter Wall: In terms of external to UK permanent basing, clearly we have a garrison liability in the Falklands which is done by sending people down on six-month tours, or thereabouts. Some people live there permanently. We anticipate that Cyprus will be a permanent base for two battalions with accompanied service, and there is also Brunei where we still have a battalion of the Royal Gurkha Rifles.
Q87 Mr Havard: Can I couple this with my last question, which is about your ability to recruit but also to retain the 30,000 Reserves you are going to get to this position? A lot of elements have already been covered, but there is the question of the tempo at which things will be happening and how much you need to mix in for different things at different times. You are looking a long way ahead here. The duration of activities obviously come into play. How confident are you that at the end of the day we will have something that is not just recruitable but sustainable? It is the retention part that we want some confidence about.
General Sir Peter Wall: I think we know we always have challenges at the margin in sustaining the Regular force at the strength and level of talent we need. If anything, the talent required in a slightly smaller force that is doing the full spectrum of diverse things is not going down. It is certainly demanding. We need to market ourselves properly and get the right sort of relationship with the nation, so that people understand the opportunities we are offering, but that situation is no different from the one going back many decades. Pretty well whatever size the Army is pitched at, it is always difficult having it absolutely at full strength. It is uncommon as it is at the moment, but we should expect in a period of non-operational intensity such as this to have to work hard to get that.
In the case of the Reserve, it is a much more open question. This Reserve reform proposition could take off. Critical to it is your point about retention. We do not want to be running to keep it up to strength, but with a level of experience that does not grow over time. There are opportunities in the way we integrate the regular Reserve with the future TA part of the Reserve structure, because you have people there who might be slightly older, but they have careers of experience. We have to play all the tunes we can to make sure that we do not end up in the situation you are describing, where we might be hitting the numbers but not hitting the experience levels and the assured commitment levels that we will need.
Our relationship with employers, as an Army and as part of something that is an Army-owned strategic proposition-admittedly under Government direction-is very important. That starts to become a more manageable idea when you disaggregate it from an abstract conversation such as this to one where you know which companies, which commercial organisations, which public sector organisations you are talking about and what TA capabilities you are trying to derive from that. You can bring in the Regular folks as well, who are going to provide the training, and start having that three-way conversation. At that point, we will be able to gauge precisely why we are not catching the wave-if that is the case-and work out what to do about it.
Q88 Mr Havard: A concern is that you don’t really get sufficient money post-2015 to complete the plan, so the structure is there but the numbers are different. Even if you do get the numbers, if they are not as usable as you would like them to be in quality terms, that transfers the pressure back to the diminished number of Regulars, who now have to work at a higher tempo and take the strain. That is not necessarily going to be helpful.
General Sir Peter Wall: That is a wicked circle that one could get into, but we will be working hard to stay in the right place and to stay balanced.
Q89 Mr Brazier: Could I take you back, CGS, to the questions about redundancies? Sitting down with the little group who have become known as the unpensionables-the people who retired immediately before pension age-with a professional actuary, one was struck by the fact that the number of people involved is absolutely tiny, but the disaffection it is causing in the Army is quite disproportionate. Has the possibility been considered of having a very small levy across the board, which could produce a cost-neutral solution, or simply saying for subsequent batches that nobody within one year of drawing pension will be picked on for compulsory redundancy? The figure is less than 2% of the total.
General Sir Peter Wall: I absolutely share your view that this has a disproportionate impact, because even when looked at hard it is a very difficult phenomenon to explain to oneself as something that is fair and sensible. The route out of this is not constrained by lack of money. This is not about saying, "If we apportioned the money differently, we could give those people a better deal." It is about the fact that we have to have a systematic pension-plan-legitimised way of defining the boundaries of this. If you were to say, "We are not taking anybody within a year of their pension point," you are, by implication, therefore taking somebody else and it is unfair on them. That one year would be arbitrary. You would open up the whole system to scrutiny and to some sort of legal challenge. That has been our dilemma. Using the best advice that we can get in the commercial legal sector, we have looked for ways of avoiding this very awkward conundrum. We have not yet found one that will not be more open to legal challenge and one where legal challenge would succeed.
We have not made people’s pension conditions a factor in the selection of individuals for redundancy. It has been about their relative competence to do the job compared with other people who are liable for redundancy in that field, of the same rank, trade, age and experience. That is because a justification for the redundancy programme in the first place is to adapt to the new structure of the Army in terms of its precise make-up of trades, ranks and everything else. The constraint is not one of finance; it is one of finding a legally acceptable mechanism to avoid this awkward issue.
Q90 Chair: We have been talking about the whole of the Army 2020 progress. What is the thing that concerns you most about its implementation as we go forward?
General Sir Peter Wall: There is nothing that keeps me awake at night. There are inevitably some potential frictions that might afflict us. As I was suggesting earlier, we can do all the change programmes as professionally as we like, but the real test is whether we are ready for the next operation. If that comes too adjacent to our extraction and recalibration with Afghanistan, that will be a challenge. We are already making provisions to minimise the risk of that happening. Significant changes to our funding streams will have an impact on our capability. None of those things, however, are clear and present dangers. They are just things that are in the back of our minds that we may have to contend with.
Q91 Chair: If there is anything that this Committee can do to be constructive and to help with the process of transforming the Army, we would be very eager to do so.
General Sir Peter Wall: Thank you very much. I have really appreciated the opportunity to explain all this today, so keeping you abreast of things as they unfold will be important for spotting places where you might be able to assist us.
Q92 Chair: You won’t thank me for this, but, nevertheless, last week we had an extremely valuable visit to Afghanistan and while we have you in front of us, there is one issue that we would like to raise with you. It may be that some of the things you might want to say in response to the issue of the insider attacks are things that you might wish to say in private, which is why we have left this right to the end. Nevertheless, I first want to thank you for having facilitated what I regard as the best visit to our armed forces deployed in Afghanistan during the course of my time on the Defence Committee. Having said that, I want to hand over to Bob Stewart.
General Sir Peter Wall: It was my great pleasure. I am delighted that it worked well. We have a lot to be proud of out there. You have seen it more recently than I have. I am going at some stage reasonably soon. It will be easier to talk about the insider threat offline.
Q93 Chair: You would prefer to do that in private.
General Sir Peter Wall: Yes. If there are any other wider questions about the operation, I am happy to do those, within reason, in this forum.
Chair: I think that we had such a good opportunity to talk to everybody at all levels that that is probably not necessary. If you would prefer to talk about the insider threat in private, I propose that we now thank everyone who has attended to listen to this for coming and move into private session.
 Note by witness: T he precise details of the redundancy programme beyond Tranche 3 remain subject to agreement, depending on the final outcome of Tranche 3 and the manning conditions that apply at the time.