Recommendations from the latest review into the state and capability assessment of the Reserve Forces

The RFCA’s External Scrutiny team’s latest report into the state of the Reserve Forces, and an assessment of capability, was presented to parliament by Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace on 26th May 2022.

The Reserves Forces’ and Cadets’ Association (RFCA) has held a statutory duty to report annually to Parliament on the state, and an assessment of the capabilities of the United Kingdom’s Reserve Forces since 2014. This latest report is the 2021 report, the publication of which was delayed by the pandemic.

The External Scrutiny Team’s work to produce this review was overshadowed by covid-19 and the publication of two reports from Armed Forces reviews.

Firstly, the effective use of the Reserve Forces on Operation RESCRIPT and other operations in support of the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic features prominently in this report. Second, much consideration was given to the recommendations coming out of the Integrated Review (IR) and Reserve Forces 2030 Review (RF30).

Reserves-centred recruiting and widely recognised accreditations for reservists stand out amongst the recommendations.

The EST picked up on the Army’s missed Reserves recruiting target, compounded by reservists’ Phase 1 training being de-prioritised and some Phase 2 courses extended from two weeks to three weeks. This is the insight behind their first recommendation, around successful Reserves recruitment, particularly in light of the planned reduction of Regular Army numbers.

The second recommendation that RFCA members, particularly those members linked to our Employer Engagement workstreams, will fully anticipate, is that Defence should be more forward leaning in making use of appropriate civilian courses and the recognition and accreditation of civilian qualifications, in lieu of military courses. The report gives examples where reservists are hitting barriers from their civilian qualifications not being recognised inside the military.

The Reserve Forces and Cadet Estate is still too large and under-utilised, according to the latest assessment.

The report summarises the Reserve and Cadet Estate in this way on page 17: “The Reserve and Cadet Estate (Volunteer Estate (VE)) consists of some 5,000 buildings spread over 2,147 sites across the UK (1,790 of these locations are Cadet sites). The VE comprises some 68% of the total Defence sites by number, but occupies only 5% in area and 3% of its running costs.” Although the the Reserve Forces’ and Cadets’ Association Estate Review report was delivered to the Secretary of State at the end of January 2021 and was taken into account by the External Scrutiny Team for this assessment, the Volunteer Estate Review report itself has not yet been made public yet. The purpose of the review of the Volunteer Estate was to deliver a common understanding of the Estate; identify opportunities to rationalise and optimise in order to unlock long term value, and offer challenge to go further in this rationalisation and optimisation.

The External Scrutiny Team Annual Report 2021 cautions: “As the regular Defence estate reduces, in many areas especially in the devolved administrations, the Reserve (and Cadets) are the only representatives of Defence.” And that the opportunity to generate additional societal engagement in areas without Regular Armed Forces presence should be a recognised factor in optimising the footprint of the Reserves and Cadet Estate.

The report notes that contractors are reporting a shortage of staff and rising costs and long delivery times for steel and timber. This item will no doubt be expanded on in the next report by the External Scrutiny Team, the publication date for which has not yet been announced.

How different are these recommendations to those from previous years?

Take a look back at previous years’ EST reports so see how much progress has ben made since 2014.

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