A devastating new report has highlighted skill shortages in 102 critical areas across the armed forces. Commanders have reportedly had to cancel leave as a result in an effort to maintain operations.
The report from the Committee of Public Accounts (found here) referenced a shortfall of 8,200 regular personnel, and stated that the Ministry of Defence doesn’t expect to resolve this until 2022 at the earliest. The number of regular personnel was 18% below requirement in the 102 critical areas with skill shortages.
The news comes amid serious political questions as to whether the UK will remain a ‘tier-one military power’. Indeed the Defence Select Committee recently criticised the government for defence cuts and called for defence spending to return to 3% of GDP.
‘The Armed Forces need sufficient skilled personnel to meet the Government’s defence objectives and respond to the rapidly changing threats to the UK’
Committee of Public Accounts
The Ministry of Defence faces a 23% shortfall in pilots, a 26% shortfall in intelligence analysts, and a 17% shortfall in engineers. It was criticised for not developing a ‘coherent plan for closing the existing skill gaps and securing the new skills that it will need’.
One of the official recommendations began with the line ‘Following publication of the Modernising Defence Programme (MDP) in Summer 2018….’. The report was evidently written prior to the parliamentary summer recess – it has since become clear that the MDP may not be published for several months yet.
An MoD Spokesperson said:
“Recruiting and retaining talent is one of our top priorities and we have a range of schemes, including retention pay for and direct entry into specialist trades and flexible working to make sure we attract and keep the skilled personnel we need.
The military has enough personnel to meet all its operational requirements, including being active on 25 operations in 30 countries throughout the world.”
Whilst the MoD is currently able to meet its operational requirements, doing so is having a negative impact elsewhere. Due to the shortage in pilots, qualified RAF personnel are being transferred away from staff jobs in the UK to operational flying roles abroad. This has led to an insufficient number of staff in headquarters across the country.
Commanders have had to cancel leave and training in order to maintain the current pace of operations. Cancelling leave has led to a doubling in the number of personnel describing morale as ‘low’, up to 67% in 2018 compared to 33% in 2010.
More worryingly, the report also highlighted the potential problem if the MoD ever needed to ‘scale-up’ the Armed Forces at pace during a time of conflict.