Armed Forces Reserves to be Boosted by 2020
Measures to overhaul Britain’s Reserve Forces, to create fully integrated Armed Forces, were unveiled today as part of a wide-ranging consultation published by Defence Secretary Rt Hon Philip Hammond.
The consultation, ‘Future Reserves 2020: Delivering the Nation’s Security Together’, proposes more training for Reservists, a ‘kitemark’-type award for supportive employers, and a proposal to change the ‘Territorial Army’s’ name to reflect its enhanced role.
Under the proposals there will be a new relationship between Reservists, Employers and the Government; a more transparent approach with employers given greater certainty about the timing of possible mobilisations and more notice when they occur. The measures will create a fully integrated force of Regulars and Reservists, using similar equipment, and training together. It will mean that the Reserves will not only produce individual augmentees to support Regular Units, but also deploy as formed units and sub-units.
The number of trained Reserves will grow to around 35,000 across all three Services by 2020, aligning the mix of Regular and Reserve components with many of Britain’s closest allies. The Army will see the biggest change with 30,000 trained Reserves, creating a total land force of about 120,000. The MOD plans to grow the total strength of the Reserves to around 44,450 across all three Services by 2020. There are currently 29,291 Reserves across all three Services. With 25,430 in the Territorial Army, 2,526 in the Maritime Reserve and 1,335 in the Royal Auxiliary Air Force.
The plans are backed by an extra £1.8 billion in funding over the next ten years for new equipment, uniforms and training for the Reserves. This is already having an effect:
· 12 of the 26 Army Reserves overseas training exercises planned for 2012 and 2013 have already been conducted, in locations including Macedonia, Italy and Cyprus;
· 22 of these exercises are new and a result of the new Future Reserves 2020 Funding. The Royal Navy and Royal Auxiliary Air Force have continued to provide overseas training opportunities;
· overseas exercises are expected to double next year; and
· new uniforms in line with what their Regular counterparts wear, are being delivered to Reserve units.
The consultation will also look at:
· increasing the number of days Army Reservists are required to train – from 35 to 40 days a year;
· a change of name from ‘Territorial Army’ to ‘Army Reserve’ – better reflecting the future role and tasks; and
· encouraging more ex-Regulars to become Reservists– making it easier for them to transfer to the Reserves and developing incentives for them to do so.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said: “This transformation of the Reserves will see a radical shift in the way in which we use them, with units deployed as formed units or sub-units as well as delivering individual augmentees. Increased training, better equipment and extra investment in our Reserves are all integral to our vision of formidable, adaptable and flexible Armed Forces, with a Reserve/Regular balance more in line with our main allies. This Government has committed £1.8 billion to rebuilding our Reserves. The consultation I have launched today is about working with Reservists, their families and employers to use that money to design the Reserve forces of the future.”
When the announcement was made in the House of Commons Reading East MP Rob Wilson suggested that the MOD consider the establishment of a Gurkha Reservist Unit within the new Army Reserve. Mr Wilson argued that this would preserve the proud history and character of the Gurkhas and would bring their tradition of loyalty, courage and skill to the benefit of the Army Reserve.
In response, the Defence Secretary said that Mr Wilson’s proposal raised an “excellent question” and promised to look into what could be done to bring about the establishment of a Gurkha Reservist Unit.
Rob Wilson said: “The Gurkhas have a distinct character and a proud history of brave service for which this country should be enormously grateful. A specific reservist unit would enable the Territorial Army to continue to benefit from the Gurkha traditions of loyalty, courage and skill among ex-Gurkha soldiers and others of Nepalese heritage willing to serve. I am following this up with a letter to Philip Hammond today to move this proposal forward.”
The MOD’s consultation will run until 18 January 2013. Following this consultation the MOD will publish a White Paper in Spring 2013 setting out this new relationship.
The Future Reserves 2020 consultation is available on the Ministry of Defence website here.
This is a welcome boost to our Reserve Forces (of which I am one) but it will only have the desired effect if the Regular Forces are properly resourced and manned. I very much hope that Chancellor George Osborne will find the resources to provide some additional cash for the MOD in the public spending round next month.
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