Why not bring back National Service?
The role of the Army is to defend the nation and its national interests and it is not structured with the right manpower, funding, or estate holdings to reintroduce conscription. Further to this, with the rigorous selection criteria required by a professional Army it is quite likely that conscripts would not satisfy the current entry criteria, required to make any form of military training worthwhile. Given all of this the British Army has no plans to reintroduce conscription.
Is the kit and equipment you have in the Army good enough?
Very good. We seek to buy the best equipment we can afford and we prioritise equipment to meet the objectives that we have been set. Equipment procurement procedures are getting better; the latest independent audit of the equipment plan found the cost of the MoD’s 11 biggest equipment programmes fell by £397m in the past year. The current plan is to spend around £163bn on new equipment and support over the next 10 years. Our priority is delivering the 9 key projects that will enable the Army's new Strike capability (eg AJAX), the division (eg Challenger 2 and Warrior, Attack Helicopters and Chinooks) and Command and Control systems. The MoD has reduced costs by almost £400m in our major projects and we have enjoyed our best performance on cost since 2005 and on time since 2001.There is always more we can do, but we are constantly improving.
After long campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, how is the Army supporting serving soldiers and veterans that develop mental health (MH) issues?
The Government is absolutely committed to the wellbeing of our Armed Forces and provides a wide range of support both during and after service.
The Veterans Welfare Service exists to enhance the quality of life for veterans and helps them access the services they need, while a 24-hour helpline is available for veterans seeking advice on mental health issues.
A total of £2.2m of Libor fines was given to Combat Stress for its Community Outreach and to complete the second phase of the 24-Hour Mental Health Helpline. This is in addition to the £775,000 of Libor funds to help provide the helpline for veterans, £332,855 awarded to Big White Wall and £2.7m for the Help for Heroes ‘Hidden Wounds’ service.
The Regular Army has decreased in size by 30,000, why are you still recruiting?
The Army depends on high-quality young people wanting to join for rewarding and exciting careers. Despite the reduction in the overall numbers of personnel, the Army is still recruiting and training to replace those personnel who leave at the end of their contracts.
Why do you not have more women employed in the Army? What are you doing to recruit more?
The Army recognises and values difference and the short answer is that we do not have enough women in the Army and we are doing what we can do to improve this.
We have set a target of 15% of the Army being female by 2020, a 50% increase from where we area now. We will achieve this by introducing a more intelligent career management system, that will particularly support women's development in their careers, as well as looking at more flexible arrangements between Regular and Reserve employment.
The women in this country have incredible talent that is applicable across the spectrum of disciplines and trades that we have in the Army and we need to maximise their talent to deliver a far better organisation.
Finally, we want our women (and ethnic minority groups) to develop in our organisation without fear from bullying, discrimination or sexual harassment, and we have recently reiterated our zero tolerance to these, as enshrined in our new Army Leadership Code.
We currently we have 9% women (12% officers, 8% Other Ranks) and we are conducting a study into opening all the roles in the Army up to women (current exclusions are Infantry and Armoured roles) and this will report in 2016.
Why do you not have more ethnic minorities employed in the Army? What are you doing to recruit more?
The Army recognises and values difference. This is not just about race, but about gender, nationality, religion and sexual orientation. We seek to recruit and retain talented people from all walks of life. We are therefore actively recruiting from every corner of the UK, and to answer the specific question, we would like to have more representatives from ethnic groups.
The Army has been reduced in numbers and you seem to be more reliant on the Reserves; are you confident that this will work?
The current debt crisis is the greatest strategic threat to the UK's security and so it is only right that, along with other departments in the Public Sector, our budget should be reduced. This has forced the Army to look at how we can work more efficiently and maximising the effectiveness of our reserve forces is one of the ways of achieving this.
The Regular force is still big enough to deliver a Division into the field and it can adequately fulfill all the tasks that the Government has tasked us to do.
A properly resourced Reserve is essential no matter how big the Regular element of the Army is. It connects the Army with society, provides specialists that are most efficiently employed as Reservists, and gives the UK a strategic reserve if it is required for a particularly demanding operation in the future. So yes, we are very confident that the plan will work.
What is the commitment for the Reserves?
There is a training commitment for the majority. Up to 27 days a year, mostly in their spare time, less 10 days of consecutive training.
- Imminent national danger (Section 52 of the Reserve Forces Act).
- If warlike operations are in preparation or progress (Sect 54).
- Protection of life and property outside the UK (Sect 56), expanding to full range of tasks (eg media cultural specialists).
- 1 six month deployment in a 5 year period.40 days a year (maximum), 16 days maximum in one period (core event).
- For operations, aim for 28 days warning minimum, for training at least 3 months.
What is the (Army’s) legacy of Afghanistan?
The NATO campaign in Afghanistan has made huge progress and as a part of this collective effort the UK’s role in Helmand has been very significant. The prospect for stability in Afghanistan is better than it has ever been. We are the most operationally experienced Army in generations; we are ready for the next challenge.
I have heard that there is a recruiting crisis in the Reserves; how many have you recruited and what are you doing to improve the process?
We are turning the corner. Initial difficulties included a cultural undermanning of the Reserves, a period of underinvestment, changes to Army recruiting, the withdrawal from Germany, the withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Regular redundancy campaign.
The target for FY15/16 was 6000 recruits, we achieved a total of 6,100.
There is new policy on maximum age for entry (50) and reduction in the age when individuals can apply (17 years 9 months) has helped to attract more people and there have been changes with the Civil Service which allow those employees to join without seeking their employer’s consent.