TA faces big cuts to save a regiment By Michael Smith, Defence Correspondent (Filed: 13/12/2004) The Territorial Army is to be cut by 40 per cent in a move that could save one of the four infantry regiments due to be axed this week. The cuts to the TA will be part of a major revamp demanded by ministers after too few of its soldiers declared themselves available for operations in Iraq. TA soldiers training The Army Board has targeted the TA for cost-cutting More than 9,000 of its 41,000 soldiers have been called up for service in Afghanistan and Iraq in the past two years. But they cannot be used on operations for more than 12 months in any three-year period, making most of those who have already served there ineligible for more operations for two years. Ministers are angry that the majority of the 32,000 who have not served in Iraq or Afghanistan have not made themselves available for operations and have demanded that they be thrown out. On Wednesday Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, is expected to announce a major Army reorganisation, with all the single-battalion famous-name regiments amalgamated into super regiments. Gen Sir Mike Jackson, the Chief of the General Staff, is said to have staked his future on a change that would turn every infantry regiment into a multi-battalion unit. He believes that large regiments will be much more flexible and efficient, effectively making 4,000 more soldiers immediately available for front-line duty. While most serving officers agreed that the reorganisation was needed, they were determined that their own regiments were not going to be among those to fall under the axe. Most believe that, with continued commitments in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Balkans, now is not the time to cut the size of the Army. Lord Guthrie, the former chief of the defence staff, issued a warning at the weekend that axing regiments would leave the Army "dangerously small for what it is being asked to do". But the defence budget is under continued strain and Mr Hoon insists that the Army must be cut as part of a peace dividend from Northern Ireland. He dismissed Lord Guthrie's concerns as "those of a previous generation". The regiments to be axed were to include two famous-name Scottish regiments. But ministers backed down when they realised that that would inflict serious damage on Labour's election chances in Scotland. The English divisions that were made up of single-battalion regiments then rebelled, refusing to name more than one regiment from their division for the axe. They insisted that the Queen's Division, which is made up entirely of multi-battalion regiments and is the model for Gen Jackson's new Army, should give up one of its battalions as well. The row led to a series of heated meetings at the Ministry of Defence last week when the executive committee of the Army Board negotiated a way out of the impasse by seizing on the Territorial Army as the target for cost-cutting.