General Flashbottom: 'I say, Jonners old chap, this Mess wine is excellent - and so cheap' Major Johnstone: 'Indeed General, one of the TA Officers is a wine merchant - supplies the Mess now at half price with some jolly good stuff!' Flashbottom: 'Excellent - good chaps these TA Officers, always able to bring their civilian jobs to bear in useful ways - or so I read recently' Johnstone: 'True General, but they may not be around for much longer' Flash: 'How so, Jonners?' Johnstone: 'Well, it's like this General....we had to change the training to reflect the increasing threat of the operational environment and so at the same time as the number of Officers was on the wane, we had to increase the training course - more difficult, longer, and more intense. Initially, we thought it would be good enough for their first operational deployment but it soon became obvious that it wouldn't wash, so we just added the word 'Non' into the mission - even so, it's a labour of love for a chap with a civvy job to worry about and they're becoming rarer than a rare thing that's becoming rare. There's now a huge void in the middle - Lieutenants and Captains - such that our modelling suggests that there won't be a sufficient cohort of Majors to fill the TA Commands by 2017.' Bottom: 'Lord Jonners - is it that bad? Why don't we change the course?' Johnstone: 'Sadly so Sir. Unless you are a regular of course - more commands to go 'round. Oh, another thing is that the FTRS officers will also start to dissapear - we have three in the HQ right now Sir, without who we'd have gapped posts and to be honest, they're all better than the regular SO2s we had in before....concern is that it's so bad, we may never recover. Can't change the course now - looks bad form - better to recruit more at the front end. In any case, how can a few weekends and 3 weeks at Sandhurst be equal to the regular course? It has to be hard to maintain the brand' Flashy: 'Oh come on Jonners, it can't be that bad..the TA is huge - Um, how big is it? Johnstone: 'just over 30,000 Sir, but 18,000 have deployed already and with a 30% annual turnover, limits within RFA, and 30% in training, the barrel is pretty dry. The problem is that we've made it more demanding - probably for the right reasons - but nevertheless, doesn't appeal to the full breadth of Society as it once did - and of course, there's the economy stupid.... Um, not you Sir, just an expression, ....which is making it easier to recruit regulars and harder to recruit TA - expecially the Officers.' Flashing: 'Do we need 'em?' Johnstone: 'Of course we do Sir - Herrick will be around for years and we simply don't have enough people in the Regular Army...surely?' Bottomflash: 'Hmmm Jonners, not sure you know old boy. Heard a rumour the other day that the regulars might take a slap in the next SDR - thought it was going to be after the next election but looks like the one eyed highlander might steal a march and get one in early. Bit of a bugger if you ask me - pension not due for a couple of years yet.. Anyway, Herrick might be scaled down - leave it to the Yanks they said - and what if we don't need the TA to backfill. What then? Johnstone: 'Well sir, we could save a fortune by reducing the size of the TA, stop worrying about Officers as we won't need them, cut the training back to just enough to keep them ticking over, cut back on the MTDs other than those about to deploy, restructure the TA Estate and make a few bob, cut back on the Civil service and perhaps make the training more interesting and maybe not even paid - just expenses. The 'Specials' in the police force have worked like that for years.' General: 'Make it so Jonners, could be my parting gift to the system - due posting in a couple of months you know. Any chance of another glass? Johnstone: 'Have a bottle Sir - enjoy it while you can.'