The future of reserves

By Henry Munns @hgmunns

After reading some of the other posts on this webpage, I feel mine might be a little less moving. I was approached by Alison Seabeck MP to write a little bit for Labour Friends of the Forces. My first piece is on the future of reserves with in the military.

The current policy that will affect mine and many of my colleagues’ roles within
the military is Future Reserves 2020 (FR20). This was a report that looked
at the reservist structure and then made a range of policy targets. The main
recommendations which have been accepted by the government are:

  • An expansion of Reserve forces from 23,080 to 34,900 by 2015 (FR20, 2011)
  • An increase in the ease of transferring between regular and reserve forces
  • Also an improvement in the reservist proposition (eg. benefits for the individual, how an individual’s civilian life interacts with his military life)
  • A drive to increase the number of specialist tasks to be supported by reserve forces. Eg. Medical, Cyber, Conflict Prevention and Capacity Building.

The underlying principle of this policy document I agree with, that being, the increase in size of reserve forces and their role with in the UK military. However something continues to gnaw at the back of my head and that of other military personnel I have spoken to, my worry is that this is just a cover. A cover to allow major roles and pillars of the regular forces to be eroded, while maintaining the façade that all is well with a large force of reservists. A reserve force is only affective if it has an effective and fully functioning regular force to assimilate with. So there is a need for us all to carefully watch the changes that are foot and question every closure and role transfer with four questions; Why? What benefit does this yield? What implications will this have? What control measures are being put in place to deal with these implications?

Another area that some of my friends, who like me are looking at continuing our
service with in the TA, is the integration between our civilian job and our military. This a major issue which plays on my mind, is that when I apply to jobs, what will my future employer think? Here is an individual with a great set of leadership qualities that have been tested under great stress, or here is an individual who might not be fully committed to this job and could be deployed on tour. For this policy of reserve expansion to be successful and to attracted high calibre individuals we need more than just a kitemark as suggested in FR20.

There needs to be a major drive to show employers the benefits of having reservists with in their work force. What is needed is a team that attends business conferences and meets with companies to show business leaders how the reserves work and the benefits that they have to offer.

Overall I feel that with a more buoyant and integrated reservist force will greatly
improve the UK military, but we need to keep a close eye on the detail of any changes to ensure that the foundations of our military are not eroded.

Henry is a Ocdt in the University Officer Training Corps and is currently studying Economics at Plymouth University. Henry is also the son of a Naval officer, enjoys mountaineering and has ambitions of serving his country in either the forces or the civil service. Contact him @hgmunns

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