Kosovo and the Threat of Mass
42. In our inquiry into the SDR we noted that
The Reserves, and in particular
the Territorial Army, have traditionally been seen as 'a general
reserve for the armed forces', to be called upon in the event
of a general war.
However the SDR changed this role to make them more
versatile. The Reserve Forces have seen an almost total transformation
in emphasis since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Traditionally regarded
as a defensive force, the new priorities under the SDR were to
support the Regular Forces, as both individuals and formed units.
During the discussions on the SDR, the MoD considered what size
of TA would be required to carry out their new role. The then
Minister for the Armed Forces, seeking to defend the decision
to cut the TA by around one-third to 42,000 or so, told us that
the MoD had concluded that on the strategic planning assumptions
underlying the SDR, a Territorial Army of only 7,000 was necessary.
We expressed our doubt about the validity of the SDR calculation
of the size of the TA, and noted at the time that events had often
overturned previous defence reviews and shown how quickly and
dramatically planning assumptions can be proved wrong.
43. Operation Allied Force in Kosovo between March
and June 1999 showed how near this assumption came to unravelling.
General Sir Charles Guthrie, the then Chief of the Defence Staff,
told us during our inquiry into the lessons of Kosovo that he
came very close to a large scale mobilisation of Reserves. He
told us that he "was thinking of 12,000 to 14,000" reservists
being called out for an opposed ground invasion had that proved
In written evidence to that inquiry the Ministry of Defence cited
a figure of 18,000,
comprising 8,786 TA soldiers and 9,250 individual reinforcements
to be drawn from Regular reservists or the Territorial Army.
We note that the formed units required would have included almost
all the remaining TA Royal Engineer units, who took the second
largest cuts under the Strategic Defence Review, a fact we deplored
in our report on Kosovo.
We also note that even to mount the much smaller operation to
initiate KFOR, substantial numbers of Territorial Army and Regular
Reserve infantry personnel were required to bring units entering
Kosovo, such as the Royal Green Jackets, up to strength. Brigadier
Holmes told us that the majority of the troops required for a
ground attack on Kosovo would have been from the Territorial Army,
and "in terms of percentage, well over 90%".
These would have been mobilised using compulsory call-out powers.
We were told that
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
44. If the MoD had had to mobilise up to 18,000 reservists
it is hard to imagine that it would have been achievable in an
orderly and efficient manner using present facilities and procedures.
It is clear that the MoD was taken off-guard by the sudden prospect
of such a large mobilisation. Brigadier Durcan put it bluntly
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.
As we stated in our Lessons of Kosovo Report
of last Session
Given the lower readiness
states to which many TA units have been reduced, we also suspect
that both the TA and reservists would have required considerable
pre-deployment training before being ready to be thrust into a
war-fighting (forced entry) scenario, all of which would have
added to the total time needed to mount the operation.
45. The Reserves Training and Mobilisation Centre
(RTMC) at Chetwynd Barracks, Chilwell, near Nottingham, has responsibility
for mobilisation of troops. We visited the RTMC in July 1999 and
were impressed by the facilities. However, at that time we recommended
that its capacity needed to be increased.
While the RTMC has been responsible for the successful mobilisation
of over 1,400 reservists during 1999/2000 for operations in Bosnia,
Kosovo, Turkey, Kuwait and the UK,
it clearly does not have the facilities for a mobilisation on
the scale being planned for Kosovo.
46. The Director of the Reserve Forces and Cadets
acknowledged that the RTMC would not have been able to cope with
the estimated number of troops required for Kosovo. The RTMC,
he told us, would have to have mobilised individual reservists,
in both formed unit and formed sub-units within the regional chain
of command system.
The Chairman of the CRFCA, Colonel Taylor, emphasised that
The RTMC would be the model
if it was a mass mobilisation and there would have to be satellites
around the country in order to handle the numbers because it almost
certainly would be rather too much to expect one location to handle
However, on being asked whether he had been consulted
about any proposed locations for such satellites, Colonel Taylor,
told us he had not.
It is surprising, to say the least, that the CRFCA had yet to
be consulted on this point when such a large scale mobilisation
was being considered on an extremely tight timescale.
47. The MoD witnesses made no attempt to conceal
the shock to the system that Kosovo provided. Brigadier Durcan
The shortcoming ... 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 also admitted to being taken somewhat
on the back foot
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
... involves a plethora of one-star personnel from all services.
We have a strategic aim of encouraging planners ... 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.
Brigadier Durcan concluded
The construct of SDR shifted
the centre of gravity of the Territorial Army into combat service
support and the exercise that we went through for Kosovo allowed
us if you like to test the theory of the SDR, and it does work
on paper, although it obviously needs to be practised. The problem
frankly for infantry and yeomanry is that the construct of SDR
does not require those cap badges in formed major units, but they
need to train them in the context of a formed unit in order to
48. We applaud the frankness with which our MoD
witnesses owned up to the lessons of Kosovo for the use of the
TA. We trust our successors will take time to check the MoD's
good intentions have been put into practice. Meanwhile, we
expect that our successors will be briefed on the results of the
mobilisation exercise referred to earlier.