Telegraph at it again - "Territorial Army not fit for new role, warn Generals"

Discussion in 'Army Reserve' started by jrwlynch, Feb 12, 2012.

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  1. jrwlynch

    jrwlynch LE Book Reviewer

    Territorial Army not fit for new role, warn Generals - Telegraph

    Sad, but unsurprising...

    Article text below:-

    By Sean Rayment, Defence Correspondent
    9:00PM GMT 11 Feb 2012

    Senior Army sources have spoken of their increasing concern that the Territorial Army is "not fit for purpose" and will leave Britain's ability to defend itself hamstrung.

    The decision to slash the regular army from 100,000 to 82,000 troops - a plan known as "Future Force 2020" - is based on the TA taking an increasing role in frontline duties.

    The TA would be expected to expand in number to 36,000 part-timers, and fight in battle shoulder to shoulder with the regular army.

    Under the plan the British Army will be reduced in size from its current strength of around 100,00 to around 82,000, the smallest since the Boer War.

    It would be supported by a territorial force of around 36,000 part-time troops - meaning it would be more than a third of the size of the full-time army.

    But there is increasing concern about the basis of the plans.

    Critics say that the Government mistakenly bought into the idea that because the US military has successfully incorporated the use of part-time soldiers, marines and pilots into the regular forces, Britain could do the same.

    Ministry of Defence figures obtained by The Sunday Telegraph also raise questions over current fighting capability of the TA.

    They show that it has a current strength of around 30,200, of whom 20,000 are classed as "trained" and of those 16,272 are defined as "regular attendees".

    The MoD describes "regular attendees" as those who "have been deemed to be those personnel who have been paid for attending at least one drill night or annual camp within the last six months."

    Senior sources believe that of the so called 16,272 "regular attendees" only a third, around 5,400, would be suitable for frontline service in a future war.

    One senior officer described the definition of a regular attendee as "laughable", adding that the Army was being backed into a corner by "political orders based on reducing defence expenditure at the expense of state security".

    Since 2003 more than 27,000 members of the TA have been mobilised with the majority serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    TA volunteers tend to be drawn from the signals, medical, logistics and infantry units. To date 28 have died on operations and members of the TA and reservist units from the Royal Navy and RAF have won six Military Crosses.

    But have been tensions when they deploy to war zones with any full-time troops claim that reservists are a liability while TA soldiers who have served with the regulars often complain that they are treated as "second class citizens".

    The source added: "Iraq and Afghanistan demonstrated that there still remains a huge gulf between the capabilities the TA and the regular Army. The TA at the moment is not fit for purpose. "The training is often poor and the commitment from its members is weak. There is no point in trying to sugar coat the problem - the TA cannot be used as a substitute for regular troops."

    The new plans will be unveiled in the April by Lieutenant General Nick Carter, the current director general of Land Warfare and the architect of the future Army.

    Lt Gen Carter, who is set to become a future head of the Army, wants to create a highly adaptable but smaller force, capable of conducting both general war and counter-insurgency operations, such as those undertaken in Afghanistan.

    His team, known as Future Force 2020, based at HQ Land Forces in Andover, are attempting to shape the modern Army to meet that challenge on a reduced budget with fewer troops and resources.

    Ministers under both the previous Labour government and the Coalition have been keen on the expanded use of the TA, having seen the American military as a model.

    The United States National Guard, which has a strength of almost 500,000, has been deployed on a large scale in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. At one point in 2007 it made up more than a quarter of the US presence in Iraq, and its members are expected to train one weekend every month as well as two weeks a year and can expect to be deployed for up to a year abroad.

    But they are facing significant challenges matching the TA to that model.

    One source said: "Comparisons with the US are false because the National Guard and the US's territorial forces are much better resourced than they are in the UK."

    One territorial unit which has gained praise is the 4th Battalion The Parachute Regiment which routinely send around 100 soldiers to Afghanistan every year. But unlike all other TA infantry battalions, 4 Para has a special selection process and is composed of a large number of former regular soldiers.

    It is understood that Lt Gen Carter's team may also call for a review of the law governing how TA soldiers are treated by their employers if they are deployed for long periods.

    The 1996 Reserve Forces Act guarantees they will have jobs to return to, but there is concern that employers in the future would be reluctant to hire members of the TA who may be mobilised for up to a year.

    Small businesses would be particularly reluctant because of the legal difficulties which they would face if they take on a replacement for a deployed soldier, then have to dismiss them when the soldier returns and face potential compensation claims.

    The TA use is part of wider plans under Future Force 2020 which would slash the number of Challenger battle tanks by 40 per cent and drastically cut heavy artillery.

    Up to six infantry battalions will also face the axe, and the number of Army brigades will be reduced from eight to five or four.

    General Sir Nick Houghton, Vice Chief of the Defence Staff said: "Following the Reserves Review that was presented to the Prime Minister last year, the Government announced a very significant package of investment over 10 years to enhance the capability of the Reserves and to increase their usable strength in the future.

    "Our vision is for a better resourced Reserve that will be more integrated with its regular counterparts than before, with relevant generalist and specialist roles, trained and equipped to deploy on the wide range of operations that defence undertakes.

    "These resources will start to become available from April 2012, and in the meantime the three Services are each developing their plans to reinvigorate reserve service."
  2. And the fightback begins. Perhaps those Generals should make the TA 'fit for purpose' instead of whinging about it all.
    • Like Like x 13
  3. That would be a sensible solution
  4. That 'senior source' revealed:

    • Like Like x 5
  5. The article is substantially correct. Unfortunately the ability to enable the necessary changes to the TA lie outside the MOD's control (civilian employment law/culture and basic economic reality).

    Useful to note the definitions of a regular attendee. I tend to agreed that one training session in six months is indeed laughable.
    • Like Like x 3
  6. I often wonder whether these limply-argued articles are being placed deliberately in order to make it seem as though opponents of the expansion of the TA cannot rub two synapses together.

    The basis of this article's argument is that it is wrong to rely on the US example. In essence, the argument is:

    A. Flaws in that argument

    1. The article says nothing about the examples of our other peers, to which the UK can rightly have regard: Canada, New Zealand and Australia. All of them have substantially increased the degree of integration between their regular forces and the reserves, as well as enhancing the things that can enable more to be asked of the reserves (such as requiring employers to make reservists available for training and prohibiting discrimination against reservists by reason of their service).

    2. The reality is that the people looking at this stuff are very much alive to the perils of the US example.

    3. Better resourcing is just one aspect of the differences between the way the US generates, structures and uses its reserves and the way we do. There is no denying that they are better resourced than we are. But the argument does not quantify what amount of resources would be required to bring our much smaller TA up to that standard; and it doesn't investigate the other ways in which changes to the law, to training and to integration in line with our English-speaking peers could be implemented here to achieve the same (or a similar) outcome.

    B. Innuendo which Mr Rayment has wriggled into his article

    This statement suggests that other infantry battalions are not selective (not correct; RP578 will go nuts). It also gently wafts a hint across the eyes of those not reading closely, or who already have a Dad's Army conception of the TA, that there is no selection process for the rest of the TA at all.

    Furthermore, it suggests a key factor in 4 PARA's ability to deploy its soldiers is the fact that it is composed of a large number of former regs. In its context, that statement also suggests that former regulars in the TA are more committed to attend. Are these propositions true, or are they something that the "senior sources" wish were true, or is it simply a kind of "regular=better in every way" prejudice?

    This looks to me like an attack on the improved employee protection which is required and which exists in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

    It is utterly bogus. Dismissal of an employee employed as a temporary replacement for a mobilised soldier by reason of his return and the employer's obligation to re-employ him would be regarded by a tribunal as fair. In addition, the government is already looking at increasing the period of time an employee needs to be employed before they can bring an unfair dismissal claim, from one year to two.

    Two big problems with this. First, the TA provided 8,000 or so soldiers for the big surge of OP TELIC 1, and that did not require the mobilisation of anything like the entire TA. The deduction must be that the TA of 2003 as it was then established was able to provide when called upon.

    Secondly it does not compare like with like. The TA's current 30,000 includes those in basic training (the figure for the regular Army does not); those guys account for almost a third of the TA's strength. When the TA's ability to provide blokes is called into question, that one basic fact (ie, that the TA currently has less than 20,000 trained soldiers trained to basic standard, to say nothing of the number trained to Phase 2), is always conveniently forgotten.

    The plan is that the future TA's strength will be (a) increased and (b) calculated by reference to the number of Phase 2 trained soldiers in it, ie able to do their job. That will implication is that the TA of today would be the same beast as the future TA, which will be required to

    C. The bits Mr Rayment got right

    First, he is right that attendance is a key factor in the utility of the TA. Hence the drive to increase the compellability of TA soldiers to attend training, something which I believe must come - but if it comes, it must be accompanied by improved employee protection along the same lines as in New Zealand and Australia.*

    Second, the definition of a regular attendee is indeed a nonsense: it does not fit with the mandatory testing and reporting obligations which he and his chain of command must meet. It is also dangerous: someone coasting on such minimal training will become ineffective through skill fade.

    Third, this bit:

    This does accurately reflect what the aspiration is. The only bit of what Gen Sir Nick says with which I disagree is his use of the words "very significant".

    * Oh, and the US - but the minute you mention those guys everyone goes off on a sterile rant about resources and the culture of that country.
    • Like Like x 14
  7. But providing sufficient funds for training is entirely in the MOD's control, part of the problem has been the moratorium on training imposed by the MOD. Whilst relaxed in some respects it did enormous damage to the TA and many very good potential soldiers and officers were lost along with many trained ones.

    Still the ability of the MOD and inter-army empire building to really **** something up should never be underestimated.

    As to last part of your post I do wonder where they got that definition from as it has never been used within the TA. Indeed attendance of that order would result in visit from SQMS to collect kit and sign off.
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  8. TA soldiers down for deployment do have 18 months worth of build up training. mainly most weekends and a fair few battle camps. Plus then join a regular unit to do all of the big build up exercises.
  9. To a certain degree he is right but then the funding has been woefully lacking for many years.
  10. msr

    msr LE

    "The training is often poor and the commitment from its members is weak. There is no point in trying to sugar coat the problem - the TA cannot be used as a substitute for regular troops."

    As Oots rightly observes, you get the Reserve you deserve.

    "the Government announced a very significant package of investment over 10 years to enhance the capability of the Reserves and to increase their usable strength in the future."

    The government can announce whatever they like, it's what they actually deliver which counts...
    • Like Like x 2
  11. "Territorial Army not fit for new role" I agree, at the moment it isn't BUT two points 1) why would it be given the lack of resourcing over years and b) neither has the regular army at the outset of major changes/ramp ups been "fit for role".

    Was the standing army fit to win WWI in 1914, I would say no... it had to undergo a rapid expansion and resourcing
    Was the standing army fit to win WWII in 1939 AGAIN no... it had to undergo a rapid expansion and resourcing
    Was the regular army fit to "win" in Afghanistan when it originally deployed AGAIN no (that by the way is not to say those who went did not do a sterling job it refers to the fact there were too few to adequately cover the area they were tasked to control and that they had a woeful shortage of resources i.e. airframes, vehicles etc) BUT we have expanded our numbers in Afghan and resources have improved.

    If the reserves are given the resources and opportunity I think the narrative can change. Its like saying a pretreatment patiant isn't fit for discharge... well of course they are not, you haven't treated them yet!

    Oh and 4PARA are not the only unit with their own selection and training in the TA. I think units can learn a lot from 4PARA they have fought their corner well and are given the freedom to hone their pitch and training offering to attract the right indivudals through their doors.
    • Like Like x 3
  12. The TA is recruiting like mad, some RTCs are getting an 800%+ uptake for phase one training when compared to similar courses last year, for a TA structure which is at the moment unknown, (never mind the recruiter ADC contract shambles). The TA is being proactive with regards to FR20 but clearly there is part of the establishment which wants the TA to fail at this.
    • Like Like x 1
  13. Not in all cases, that's the DIE you're going on about isn't it? I was mobilised in May and deployed in June no build up training at all.
  14. I know just what you mean; but I think myself that these sentiments are genuine, symptomatic of a military culture that has lost touch with current political realities. Were you to add "... because the Regular Army cannot manage them properly" to the end of every statement criticising the TA then I think you get a feel for the view from above.

    The Reserves Review, after all, was pretty heavy handed in the way it blamed the Army for the current dire state of affairs - the subtext being that as senior levels are almost exclusively Regular then it was the Regular side of the house that was seen to be at fault. The instructions to make things better were also fairly blunt.

    So when a goverment organisation that cannot manage itelf properly refuses to improve things, what do you - as the Minister responsible - do ? I fear that if the Generals will look back on how things stand today nostalgically once we know the answer.
  15. I don't think you're wrong; but I do think that the establishment fails to realise that a failure by the TA in the near future will be seen as further proof that they have been mismanaged, and not as proof that are inherently flawed. I think that responsibility for the failure will be sen to fall outside the TA. Which is kind of an own goal really.