Future director of Army Reserves speaks about the Reserve Forces in House of Lords debate

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In a debate in the House of Commons on 7th September 2023, The Rt Hon. the Lord Lancaster of Kimbolton TD gave these remarks on the subject of the Reserve Forces:

“On paper, the Army Reserve is 32,000, with no plans to increase its size. In reality, it is smaller and declining in number every month. It was not always the case; following the Future Reserves 2020 review we saw major investment in our reserve, and, between 2015 and 2019, numbers of the Army Reserve grew substantially. It probably helped that the Minister for the Armed Forces at the time was particularly interested in reserves.

Lord Lancaster of Kimbolton

“The Reserve Forces Review 2030 that I chaired tried to build on this “down and in” success by looking “up and out”, recognising that Reserve Forces are the ideal medium to access skills and talent that the regular force simply cannot hold. This, too, has been a success.

“Today’s Reserve is no longer just a contingent capability to be held at low readiness; it is also a pool of talented individuals, many of whom act as auxiliaries, bringing their skills to support defence on a daily basis. One of our proposals in the review was to adopt the concept of a spectrum of service for individuals, recognising that, throughout their working career, they should be able to move in and out of uniformed service—be that regular, Reserve or civilian life—gaining skills and experience without necessarily being penalised. Remarkably, sometimes it can be quite difficult for an ex-regular to join the Reserve.

“I am delighted that this concept has been picked up by the recent Haythornthwaite review in terms of service with our Armed Forces, but if there is just one message that I hope noble Lords take away from my contribution, it is that today’s Army Reserve is a very different beast from the Territorial Army of the past, and contributes to defence outputs on a daily basis. I have every confidence that the current decline in Army Reserve numbers can be reversed, but the Reserve needs to be invested in both financially and conceptually.

“I sensed at times that the Army was never quite sure what it wanted from its Reserve. The new NATO force model of graduated readiness is a building block for that clarity. However, there remain challenges to it. I will name but two. First, the MoD financial model always puts Reserves at risk. Reserves, unlike regulars, are a variable cost and Reserve service days are always at risk of being cut. Who would want to stay in the Reserves and not be able to train? Secondly, we always seek to mirror the Reserve to the regular force in both training and structure. I am delighted that the Army proposes to end that direct equivalence, and regulars and Reserves should integrate at the point of use in one Army, but have the flexibility to be organised and trained in different ways to suit the institutions.

“I end by simply saying that, after 35 years of Army Reserve service, it will be my pleasure in October to enter what will be my last job in the Army, as director of Army Reserves—effectively the head of the institution—so this will probably be my last contribution on the Reserves in this forum, for a while at least. But I am clear what needs to be done and relish the challenge.”

Major General Simon Graham, VR is the current Director of Reserves at Army Headquarters. Appointed in 2020, Maj Gen Graham was made a Companion of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (CB) in the New Year’s Honours list 2023 for his contribution to transforming the Army’s Reserve Forces and bringing together the Integrated Review with Reserves Forces 2030. The British Army Director of Reserves is responsible for ensuring that the Army adopts optimal policies and strategies for developing and employing Reserves, represents the Army strategic view on Reserves both to Defence and externally, is a member of the Army Board and, as the Army’s senior reservist officer, provides the Army Executive Committee with the Army Reserve perspective.

The full transcript of the debate is published in the Hansard here.

RFCA members remain informed about Reserves and Cadet matters so that the RFCA preserves its reputation as the most knowledgeable body on Reserve and Cadet matters in the regions. Our members encourage support for reserves, cadets, cadet force adult volunteers and the wider military family through our enduring relationships within local communities. Each of our association members contributes specialist knowledge and networks that strengthen and guide our connections in the region. Our members themselves are one of the mechanisms by which the Ministry of Defence fulfils its community engagement goals. East Anglia RFCA members include the Commanding Officers of Reserve and Cadet units in the region, serving or retired Reserve and Regular personnel and representatives from local government, employers, employees and education.

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