Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40
WEDNESDAY 8 NOVEMBER 2000
40. When you write to us could you give us the
number of Permanent Staff Instructors by unit type as well as
the total figures, so that we have as much information as possible
within the different areas. I understand that with the changes
that you have had in the structure there will be a higher proportion
of people now in units which require higher levels of training,
for example, people in Signals, and it would be interesting to
know how that is working in practice. Secondly, could you give
us more information about the trialing that you are doing of this
Cresta system, when it is likely to go, assuming the testing goes
well, generally throughout the TA.
(Brigadier Durcan) It is throughout the Royal Engineers
now. It is slightly dependent upon, inevitably, another IT system
which is the successor to UNICOM, which is supposed to start to
roll out across the whole of the field Army, the TA and regular
Army from April next year.
41. When you say "supposed to", we
have not got another IT scandal here, have we?
(Brigadier Durcan) I am not an IT guru. I would prefer
to give you a written answer, otherwise I would be hazarding a
Mr Gapes: That would be helpful, if you
Chairman: You better put your seat-belts
on. We are going into a period of turbulence now.
42. Mobilisation. General Sir Charles Guthrie
told us during our inquiry into Kosovo that he came within a month
of two of mobilising 12,000 to 14,000 reservists to support an
opposed ground invasion of Kosovo. Would these all have come from
the TA? If not, what would the broad proportions for each of the
Reserve Forces have been?
(Brigadier Holmes) The overwhelming majority would
have been Territorials. In terms of percentage, well over 90 per
cent. This is a role which would have fallen substantially on
the Army's Reserve, both volunteer and regular.
43. What kind of proportions or numbers would
have been called-up as formed units?
(Brigadier Durcan) I am afraid we can give you the
global figures, but the establishment table for the Force is classified.
I would prefer to submit that in writing to you in a detailed
breakdown, if that is helpful.
44. Did you anticipate that these would have
been compulsory call-outs?
(Brigadier Holmes) Again, that is an area which I
would happily answer. Yes, indeed, this would have been a compulsory
call-out. In terms of general principle, what we have done since
the SDR is that we have asked for volunteers to meet the shortfalls
for situations like Bosnia and Kosovo, but this would clearly
have taken us beyond that, so there would have been compulsory
45. Am I correct in assuming that there would
have been no such compulsory call-out without, first of all, consulting
(Brigadier Holmes) Parliament would have been informed.
This operates in the same way that call-out orders which are already
in force do. There was, in fact, already a call-out order in force
for the Balkans, which would, in fact, have been valid. Parliament
would have been informed both by a statement and a question, and
the order would have been available for scrutiny by this Committee,
as previous call-out orders have been.
46. It would have informed, not asked for the
(Brigadier Holmes) Would have informed.
47. What would have been the approximate division
between yeomanry, infantry and other types of troops?
(Brigadier Durcan) May I ask that I can give you a
written reply, because of the classification of these answers?
48. How many would have been medical reservists?
(Brigadier Durcan) Again, may I include that in a
49. Earlier on we were quite astounded by the
candour and the honesty that was coming from our witnesses. I
wonder if we can just try to invite the same. Were you on stand-by?
(Brigadier Holmes) Clearly, again, from the early
stages of the crisis it was apparent that the crisis might reach
the point when we would need to call-out reservists. So my directorate
at the centre looked at the things that we needed to do and those
particularly concerned with the appeals process, for example,
when we have specific legal responsibilities. We spoke regularly.
I slipped the day job on to the back burner. We were to be found
burning midnight oil. We spoke regularly to single Services, but
we had not reached the point where individuals were put on stand-by.
We were aware of the time scale that we would have had to have
met, but we had not actually said to particular individuals, "You
are about to go."
50. As I said earlier, we were told by General
Sir Charles Guthrie that we were within a month or two from calling
up reservists, and then we read in the Sunday Times an
article from one of the people from the MoD that we were three
hours off of such a position. Were you aware of how close we were?
(Brigadier Holmes) I was unaware of three hours, I
have to say. I would have thought we were roughly somewhere between
two months and three hours!
51. May I interject and say that this is the
demob happy approach of someone who is about to leave the Service.
Would you like to take advantage of your freedom of expression,
(Brigadier Holmes) Not at all, Chairman. Clearly,
while I entirely understand your request for candour, this does
go to the heart of a very difficult and complicated issue. We
were certainly not far away, but it would be improper of me, I
think, to give a more precise definition than that. Certainly
I was able to resume the day job rather more quickly than I expected.
52. All the best on Friday then, Brigadier.
Does the Reserves Training and Mobilisation Centre have the capacity
to mobilise such a large number of Reserves?
(Brigadier Durcan) The RTMC is designed to mobilise
individual reservists. Where they would have been in both formed
unit and formed sub-units, they would be mobilised within the
regional chain of command system. So a good proportion of the
reservists thus mobilised would not have needed to go to Chilwell.
That said, the whole issue of whether Chilwell would have had
the capacity to surge to meet possibly a large scale operation
in the future is now under examination. Hitherto, we had thought
that what we might have to do is set up temporary clones of Chilwell
in other parts of the country, because it has been such a success.
What we are quite clear about is that the overriding requirement
is to mobilise individuals properly and professionally, which
had not been the case in the past, therefore,our aspiration is
to make sure that all individual reservists go from Chilwell,
and we need to readdress the issue of how to resource Chilwell
to be able to do that.
53. Did you encounter any particular problems
with planning and preparing for a mobilisation of this size?
(Brigadier Durcan) The problem we had in planning
was that we had to do a hell of a lot of work in a hell of a hurry.
Mr Hood: How long would it have taken
to get 12,000 reservists on the ground in the Balkans?
54. Competent, trained and ready to fight?
(Brigadier Durcan) The flow chart that we produced
took into account if you like the initial process of mobilisation
which includes the physical business of sending out calling out
notices, allowing people time for the post to deliver the thing,
appropriate time to consult, to lodge an appeal, employers to
be notified, people to report, and then to be concentrated and
then to carry out the necessary levels of training and then to
get to embarkation points and then to be deployed. A considerable
amount of detailed research went into this. A lot of it had to
be best judgement, I have to say, but you will not put 12,000
people anywhere overnight. Certainly proper allowance was made
for the realities of disengaging a reservist from his daytime
employment and getting him into the military pipeline.
55. But having gone through that process, because
it was more than a possibility it might have been put into effect,
did this reveal any shortcomings or omissions that hitherto had
not been noticed and therefore what gain will come out of this
(Brigadier Durcan) The shortcoming, Chairman, was
that we had rather allowed our eye to go off the ball since the
Cold War finished and this gave us a fright. It was a useful fright
and what we now intend to do, under the general umbrella I think
of promoting a culture of mobilisation, is to exercise and practise
this so that we can do a dry run before we have to do a wet run.
Next year we have a mobilisation exercise planned into our TA
training programme and the intention is to have a mobilisation
exercise of a modest scale initially to learn what we can and
build it in annually to the TA training call-ups.
(Brigadier Holmes) At my level this was certainly
a healthy shock, and it is a shock which we have taken advantage
of. I think there is no point in coming as close as we were, however
close that might have been, if one does not turn the experience
to one's advantage. What we have done at the centre is to set
up a mobilisation steering group, and that group (which I chair)
involves a plethora of one-star personnel from all services. We
have a strategic aim of encouraging planners, not in conscience
that they need much encouragement, to reflect on the use of reserves
at the higher levels of operational requirement, and to emphasise
that this is not simply an issue which concerns single services
or indeed the Ministry of Defence, so there is obviously a corporate
communications issue here. My ability to mobilise reserves is
going to be affected by local or national support. It is going
to be affected by employer support. We need specifically to liaise
with the Lord Chancellor's Department over appeals. We are now
far more aware than we were. There are also legislative issues
which emerged from the B-minus projected mobilisation which we
are looking at. For example, we have revised the guidelines
56. What do you mean by "B-minus"?
Do you mean the essay mark out of whatever it is?
(Brigadier Holmes) B-minus, Chairman, was the code
of the operation which would have constituted a full scale mobilisation.
57. I thought it was your academic mark for
the whole exercise, which was not really impressive, B-minus,
if that is the assessment. I used to get lots of B-minuses.
(Brigadier Holmes) I think "nice try but could
do better". The whole "could do better" process
is what has nerved the work of the mobilisation steering group.
We have done strategic things, we have done legal things, and
we are working on procedural things as well. The steering group
not merely remains in being but as a working group is teasing
away at many of the issues that emerged.
58. I think B-minus was a higher mark than the
Select Committee gave in its reports. We talked about relationships
with employers. Did you tell employers what was about to happen,
and, if you did, how did they react?
(Brigadier Holmes) No, we did not tell employers what
was about to happen because, as I said earlier on, we were not
sure at that stage of the proceedings precisely who we were going
to take. What we have done, I think prudently (and the NELC Secretariat
is part of my directorate) is that through the National Employers
Liaison Committee, to which we were talking on a regular basis
(and its Chairman, John Bridgeman was very helpful), we were making
it quite clear that we were indeed contemplating mobilisation.
I happened to be speaking to a regional employer liaison committee
close to the time at which we might have mobilised, and there
was a broad understanding that we had not definitively closed
the loop since we were uncertain as to what the precise people
were going to be and what the date was going to be. It highlights
the enormous importance of keeping employers on side and we have
subsequently been discussing the much vexed issue of whether reservists
ought as a requirement to tell their employers that they are reservists
and that is something which we could explore if you wish.
59. Thank you. You have been very helpful. When
you went through the process that you had to go through from beginning
to end did you work out how quickly and how long it would have
been frankly to have been absolutely able to fit in with the regular
Army in operations because at that stage we would have been pretty
close to winter, so it would be interesting to know? We are getting
into dangerous territory but it would be quite useful to know.
(Brigadier Durcan) I can, I think, reassure you. Everything
worked backwards from the last safe moment to do the business
on the ground. The calculation backwards of course, when we are
dealing with reservists, means that you have got to make decisions
very early on, and that of course poses a difficult political
dilemma for ministers. Our problem with this was that it was a
theoretical exercise and what we desperately need to do is to
practise it to make sure that our theoretical computations stand
the test. Therefore we are now in a climate where such practices
are more readily acceptable than perhaps they might hitherto have