UK & World News

  • 11 June 2014, 18:21

Army Cuts A 'Significant Risk' Govt Warned

Army cuts mean there is a "significant risk" the force will not be able to do its job properly, a damning report has warned.

The Government's plan to cut 20,000 full-time soldiers and replace them with reservists is six years behind schedule, according to the National Audit Office.

While it is on schedule to slash regular forces from 102,000 to 82,000 by 2018, it has failed to recruit the reservists, formerly known as the Territorial Army, to replace them.

The report by the Government's spending watchdog points out the shortfall in new reserves "will put pressure on regular units".

It warns the cuts will "significantly affect the Army's ability to achieve its objectives and value for money".

Defence Minister Philip Hammond has been under significant pressure over the Army 2020 project and managed to fight off rebellion in the Commons over the plans.

Under the restructuring programme, which will see the Army reduced to its lowest levels since the Napoleonic Wars, the reservist force must grow from 19,000 to 30,000 by 2018 to make up for the cut in the full-time force.

However, in the year to April just 170 more reservists had been recruited - far short of the 2,750 a year the Government must recruit to hit the target.

The project has now been put on the Government's list of troubled projects and only days ago it was disclosed the head of Major Projects Authority John Manzoni wrote to Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander and Cabinet Minister Francis Maude to warn Army 2020 was at risk of failing.

The NAO report said the programme of cutting regular forces and replacing them with reservists had been authorised without any feasibility tests being carried out.

The recruitment process has been plagued by IT problems, most notably with the websitethrough which people could sign up to be in the reserves.

Margaret Hodge, chairwoman of the Commons public accounts committee, said the 1 million a month being spent to cover "incompetence" in the reservist recruitment process was "scandalous".

She said: "The Ministry of Defence focused heavily on cutting costs rather than on recruiting, training and integrating a substantially increased number of reserves, something the Army is already failing to do.

"The MoD went ahead with plans to reduce the number of regular soldiers and increase the number of reservists from 19,000 to 30,000 by 2019, without even investigating whether it was possible to do this by that time, or even whether it had 19,000 trained reservists to start with.

"Given this, it comes as no surprise to me that just one third of the reservists have been recruited in 2013-14 and the size of the Army Reserve has not increased since 2012."

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