The MPs said they were “increasingly concerned” about a “crisis” in the recruitment and retention of both regular personnel and reservists, with operational demands making recovery and training harder to achieve…reports Asian Lite News
The UK’s armed forces will not be ready for a “high-intensity” war unless shortages in personnel and equipment are rapidly addressed, MPs have warned. The Commons defence committee said personnel were leaving faster than they could be recruited, and the “offer” to them had to be improved.
A “vicious cycle” needed to be broken to allow the UK to face “increasingly challenging” threats, it added. Increasing recruitment and improving retention was a priority, the MoD said.
Last month, General Sir Patrick Sanders, the head of the Army and outgoing Chief of the General Staff. called for the country to train a volunteer “citizen army” ready to fight a land war, warning that an increase in reservist numbers alone “would not be enough”.
He highlighted the threat from Russia following its invasion of Ukraine, and pointed to steps being taken by other European nations to put their populations on a “war footing”.
He also called for more to be done to equip and modernise the armed services. Sir Patrick has previously argued for the need for a larger Army, whose professional ranks now number around 73,000, compared with around 100,000 in 2010.
The cross-party defence committee’s report, “Ready for war?”, found that, while it was a “matter of national pride” that whenever the armed forces were asked to act, they found a way, “overstretch has negatively impacted high intensity warfighting readiness due to the sheer pace of operations and other commitments”.
The MPs said they were “increasingly concerned” about a “crisis” in the recruitment and retention of both regular personnel and reservists, with operational demands making recovery and training harder to achieve.
As a result, the committee said, “it is unsurprising that more people are leaving the Forces than joining them”.
While acknowledging the problem and planning to address it, the government was not yet moving at the necessary pace to do so, it added.
A Ministry of Defence (MoD) spokesperson said: “Increasing recruitment and improving retention across the services is a top priority. Our armed forces are always ready to protect and defend the UK, and we continue to meet all operational commitments.”
Another area of concern highlighted was that the £1.95bn allocated for boosting ammunition stockpiles in last year’s Budget might be used to meet existing shortfalls in resources, rather than to replenish and increase capabilities.
The MPs urged the MoD to reconsider and produce a breakdown of the allocation of money promised in the Autumn 2022 and Spring 2023 Budgets.
The committee also called for improvements in procurement processes to increase the UK’s industrial capacity and production of munitions, both in the context of the Ukraine conflict and any future war. This should include retaining retired equipment “even halfway viable for regeneration”, it said.
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