Saturday, 2 August 2008

Defence Committee report on Recruiting and Retaining Armed Forces personnel

The House of Commons Defence Committee has published its report on Recruiting and Retaining Armed Forces personnel. The report contained few surprises - well-known concerns were re-iterated and in the main the MoD was encouraged to expand on and improve their exisiting initiatives. The Committee found:

  • There are serious skill shortages in certain trades and these “pinch points” continue to increase. These trades should be targeted in recruitment campaigns.
  • The Armed Forces are overstretched given the resources currently available. The Committee found that the MoD was being complacent and that there is likely to be a “serious weakness in the future capability of the Armed Forces”.
  • Failure to meet Harmony Guides is having a negative impact on retention. The current level of operations continues to put Service personnel and their families under considerable strain – need for greater stability and more advance warning of deployments.
  • The MoD could do more to raise the general public’s perceptions of the Armed Forces and to counter negative media coverage. The suggestions emanating from the National Recognition Study should be implemented. Engaging with civilian society is “central to ensuring the future success of the Armed Forces”.
  • The good work the MoD has been doing working with schools should be expanded particularly with regard to school visits, outreach and promotion of cadet forces. The school recruitment programme needs to be reviewed and further education incentives should be offered to improve recruitment.
  • The “recruiting environment” needs to adapt to the changes in the socio-economic environment - the targeting of ethnic minorities, women, older people and EU migrants and the provision of more flexible career structures together with embracing the challenges of diversity (here we go again!) to ensure the “long term credibility and legitimacy” of the Armed Forces.
  • More information is wanted on the success or otherwise of the “One Army Recruiting” strategy (integrated Regular and Territorial Army recruiting).
  • Initial training programmes need to be reviewed to ensure fewer recruits drop out and that more pass - i.e. standards need to be lowered.
  • The improvements the MoD has already made in the operational welfare package need to be expanded. The valuable work carried out by the voluntary sector needs to be better coordinated and given coherence. MoD needs to develop a welfare package that responds to the unique circumstances of Volunteer and Regular Reservists.
  • The £5billion (I thought it was £8billion) planned refurbishment and upgrading of service accommodation needs to be pushed forward. The standard of maintenance repairs and level of customer service continues to fall below expectations – a customer-centric approach needed.
  • The overall basic pay package does not appear to be a major cause of Armed Forces personnel leaving the Services. Financial Retention Incentives may be expedient in the short-term but may divert investment away from addressing the underlying causes of worsening retention.
  • Formalizing the Military Covenant would be counter-productive as it would become a political instrument rather than an instrument to protect the interests of men and women in our Armed Forces. As such, it would divert attention from what is important: ensuring Armed Forces personnel receive what they are entitled to.
  • The MoD should consider more constructively the possible benefits which may be gained from an independent Armed Forces Federation.

Interestingly at the top of list of conclusions and recommendations is:
"The use of web fora provide us with an opportunity to hear the experiences of a wide range of current and former Service personnel and their families. We value this interaction. We welcome the Minister’s support for our ability to communicate freely with the Service community. However, this is the second time we have had concerns that the MoD has attempted to undermine a web forum that we have hosted. We look to the MoD to demonstrate its support for our interaction with the Service community by actively promoting web fora we set up for future inquiries." This doesn't sound very politically sensitive of the MoD.

Link> Defence Committee
Link> Defence Committee Report: Recruiting and retaining Armed Forces personnel
Link> The Guardian: Pressure on armed forces unprecedented, say MPs
Link> The Independent: Constant tours of duty leading to exodus of officers
Link> Whitehall Pages: MoD responds to House of Commons Defence Committee