By Steven Swinford
Daily Telegraph – 29 April 2017
Army plans for a 40,000-strong division capable of deploying rapidly to respond to Russian aggression risk being “fatally undermined” because of a recruitment crisis and lack of funding, MPs have warned. The Ministry of Defence wants to create two armoured infantry brigades and a strike brigade capable of countering military threats from other states such as Russia. However, the Defence Select Committee warned that the successful completion of the planned restructuring “cannot be taken for granted” due to manning shortfalls and “unacceptably low” levels of financial resourcing.
Julian Lewis, chairman of the committee, suggested that the Government must consider increasing spending on defence from the NATO minimum target of 2 per cent of national income to the levels of 3 per cent or more seen until the Nineties. The creation of the new division relies on the Army maintaining manning levels of 82,000 regulars and 30,000 reservists, a committee report said. But it found that the MoD had failed to hit the “historically low” manpower target for the standing Army, while there were “serious doubts” about it recruiting the necessary reservists.
The report continued:
“Its ability to achieve the target of 30,000 trained Reservists by March 2019 has been met with scepticism. Inadequate funding of these programmes would seriously impair, if not fatally undermine, the Army's ability to deploy either the division or the new strike brigades.”
It was “deeply concerning” that the National Audit Office had identified an additional £24.4billion worth of spending commitments in the MoD's equipment plans and that a programme for new infantry vehicles is “uncosted”.
Dr Lewis added:
“To be a credible force, the division must be fully manned and fully equipped. The MoD's future equipment plans are heavily dependent on identifying and achieving billions of pounds in so-called ‘efficiency savings’ over the decade ahead.”
An MoD spokesman said:
“Our troops are amongst the most capable in the world. In the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review, the Ministry of Defence committed to providing adequate funding to ensure a fully effective fighting force.”