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Defence Defence

Attract and retain the best men and women for our armed forces

Last updated: 12:31am 31 December 2018

We will attract and retain the best men and women for our armed forces, including by engaging them on a flexible basis.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.41

Our verdict

The armed forces face a significant recruitment challenge, as illustrated by a forthright National Audit Office (NAO) report in April 2018 which found:

  • a shortfall of 8,200 in the number of military personnel below the requirement
  • 102 trades (including pilots, engineers, intelligence analysts) where the Ministry of Defence (MOD) has insufficient numbers of skilled personnel to maintain defence tasks without placing additional demands on regulars
  • 94% of trades where the MOD does not expect to resolve shortfalls in personnel in the next five years

This policy promised to attract and retain the best personnel, including through the use of flexible working.

In February 2018, the Armed Forces (Flexible Working) Act became law, which will give personnel “more choice over the way they serve when their personal circumstances change”. Consequently, the armed forces Flexible Service programme comes into effect from April 2019. So the government has made some attempt to partly fulfil this policy pledge.

However, the UK Armed Forces Quarterly Service Personnel Statistics from January, April, July and October 2018 show a growing deficit against the planned number of personnel needed as compared to 2017. That fact, combined with the evidence in the NAO report, specifically the acknowledgement that the MOD does not expect to resolve shortfalls in personnel within the next five years, means we can only mark this as ‘broken’. Follow this policy for the latest developments.

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There's always room for debate

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