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Defence Defence

Maintain the overall size of the armed forces

Last updated: 09:03am 31 December 2018

We will maintain the overall size of the armed forces, including an army that is capable of fielding a war-fighting division.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.41

Our verdict

The armed forces face a significant recruitment and retention 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 maintain the overall size of the armed forces.

As we pointed out in a related policy (“Attract and retain the best men and women for our armed forces“), 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 make employment in the armed services a more attractive prospect, with the aim of improving retention of those serving.

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.

And the NAO report found that:

“The number of people leaving the Armed Forces (outflow) has exceeded the number of new recruits (inflow) each year since 2010-11”

These facts, combined with the damning finding that the MOD does not expect to resolve shortfalls in personnel within the next five years, means we have to mark this pledge as ‘broken’. Follow this policy for the latest developments.

Attract and retain the all the details

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