TA fighting strength will fall to 25,000 after Treasury cuts
BRITAIN'S reserve armed forces are to be radically cut, under plans to be announced by the Government today.
The effective fighting strength of the Territorial Army is to be slashed to around 25,000 and tailored to specific operations such as the campaign in Afghanistan.
The move has raised fears among army chiefs that the Government will use the recession to impose a ceiling on recruiting for the forces.
As unemployment grows more people are applying to join, but the Treasury wants to limit the number of new recruits.
One senior officer said: "We're getting a better quality of recruit now. To impose a cap on numbers now would be a disaster - you cannot turn recruiting on and off like a tap."
According to MoD manning targets, the TA should have 38,500 members overall, but the most recent figures show it has only 28,920 people.
Among the units to go under the new proposals, which come after a year-long review, will be specialist ones such as signals detachments attached to the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps HQ, currently being transferred from Rheindahlen in Germany to Gloucester.
However, Army chiefs believe numbers will need to expand by up to 10,000 if the present high tempo of operations continues.
They would like the standing strength of the Army to come up from the present limit of 102,000 to 110,000, with an active reserve, whereby reserve volunteers serve up to a year on operations, taking the total figure to around 140,000.
The chiefs insist this number is needed to provide adequate forces for the Afghan conflict and humanitarian operations.
More troops are required to provide a reserve of manpower for emergencies such as terrorist attacks and natural disasters, and to augment public services during pandemics like the one threatened by the swine flu outbreak.
A cap on recruiting was imposed after John Major's government introduced a severe round of cuts in the Options For Change programme of 1991, causing lasting damage to many infantry regiments.
In 1998, the Labour Government's Strategic Defence Review hit the territorials hard with 87 companies in 33 battalions reduced to 67 companies in 15 battalions.
But in recent years, the TA has assumed a higher profile as the regular army became increasingly engaged in operations overseas.
Around 6,900 personnel from the territorials were mobilised for the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and 1,200 troops each year support the regular army in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Balkans.
Officially created after Parliament passed legislation in 1907 which saw the yeomanry and volunteers consolidated into the Territorial Force, the first TA units stood up for action on 1April 1908 and it was first mobilised in August 1914.
What I love most about this, is that the chain of command didn't get a chance to brief those their respective Sqn OC's etc. So whoosh... 1:30pm on a Tuesday (that's a drill night for many of us Mr Brown), we have to get a salient act together so when our guys ask us what's the deal? What's the future? Who's next and all those pertinent questions, we can actually put an answer together which is a bit more than "Wait out".
I mean for Chr$st sake this review's been going on for a year nigh, couldn't CGS let the smegging chain of command know in the R Signals units, instead of my CO having to get something out damn quick today and then us having to disseminate? Concept of warning order? You know intent, main effort? Maybe?