Armed Forces 2020: Reserves in Transformation

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In announcing the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review, the Prime Minister has directed a review to determine whether the UK‘s Reserve Forces - Royal Navy Reserve, the Royal Marines Reserve, the Territorial Army and the Royal Auxiliary Air Force – are ‘properly structured for the type of conflict we envisage undertaking in future so that we make best use of the skills, experience and capabilities of our Reservists while at the same time moving towards a more efficient structure’. 

RUSImotif 2The 6-month review, led by the Vice Chief of Defence Staff General Sir Nicholas Houghton KCB CBE, is presently getting under way and will submit its findings and recommendations to the Prime Minister in early May 2011.

RUSI’s conference, by examining the context, framework and drivers for change, was a timely opportunity to inform this debate by seeking to identify and explore key questions that Government will need to address, including:

  • What progress has been made since the 2009 Strategic Review of Reserves, and understand if the findings of the Review still hold?
  • What is the future strategic context that implies and directs change for Defence, and what does this mean for the Reserve Forces as part of a Whole Force approach?
  • Does the SDSR 2010 and the emerging debate around Whole Force represent an opportunity to redefine the relationship between the regular and reserve forces, to reduce Defence’s manpower costs, and what outputs for Defence can the reserve forces deliver in future?
  • What can be learnt from the recent experience of change to the reserve forces of other countries?
  • What factors should be taken into account when developing new models of manpower for Defence, and how does this inform recruitment, retention and relations with industry and with society?


  • Andrew Robathan MP, Minister for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans
  • General Sir Nick Parker KCB CBE, Commander in Chief Land Forces
  • Major General Greg Smith QVRM TD DL, Assistant Chief of Defence Staff (Reserves and Cadets)
  • Lieutenant General Jack C. Stultz, Chief Army Reserve and Commanding General US Army Reserve Command
  • Major General Raymond Carpenter, Acting Director US Army National Guard
  • Brigadier General Gary O’Brien OMM MSC CD, Director General Land Reserve and Chief of Staff Land Reserve, Canada
  • Colonel Dominique Batani, Chef du bureau Reserve de la Direction des Resources Humaines de l’Armée de Terre, France
  • Major General Richard Barrons CBE, Assistant Chief of the General Staff
  • Commodore Chris Steel ADC, Commander Maritime Reserves
  • Group Captain Martin Routledge CB RAFR, DACOS Reserves, Headquarters Air Command
  • Brigadier Jolyon Jackson, Commander Army Recruiting Group
  • Richard Boggis-Rolfe, Chairman National Employer Advisory Board

The conference focused on three key areas

The strategic context and its implications for service personnel
The MoD’s previous Strategic Review of Reserves (April 2009) defined three roles for the reserve forces: supporting regular units which are committed at maximum, large-scale effort; augmenting regular units deployed on smaller but longer-lasting, complex operations and supporting national resilience; and acting as ambassadors to the community. 

  • Do these roles (and the priority attached to them) still hold?
  • What effect will the National Security Tasks, revised Military Tasks and Defence Planning Assumptions have on the role of the reserves, their size, shape and relationship to regular forces and other departments? How do these relate to the future operating context defined by the Future Character of Conflict?
  • What are the requirements for the defence contribution to UK resilience, and how should this be reflected in defence debates and manpower models?
  • What level of cross-government co-operation is required to meet emerging threats to UK resilience?
  • What demands will the future character of conflict place on people and force structures?

Different approaches to manpower
The Strategic Defence and Security Review 2010 presents Defence with the significant challenge of reducing regular force numbers for the UK armed forces and transforming the force to deliver capabilities into the 2020s, while still delivering operational success in Afghanistan.  In the recent past, the Ministry of Defence has been criticised for failing to consider alternative legitimate reserve force models adopted by other countries as part of a Whole Force approach. 

  • Do the approaches of key international partners provide a useful example for the UK as it sets about developing its reserve forces as part of the Whole Force approach?
  • What new approaches and mixes of manpower can achieve defence outputs and value for money?
  • Using reserves to provide niche/specialist capabilities, in addition to mass, and harnessing the potential of industry to deliver manpower (e.g. through Sponsored Reserves) has been hugely beneficial: are there potential lessons for the future from these approaches?
  • Is more fundamental change required? What functions can and should be transferred to the reserves?
  • What opportunities are available from industry?
  • What are the models that allow integration of different manpower types to promote the Whole Force concept, and what implications do these have for Defence?

Society, industry, recruitment and retention
In developing new manpower models, what factors should government and industry take into account?

  • What is the place of reserves in society?  How can the reserves contribute to the government’s idea of a ‘Big Society’?
  • Do reserves provide value for money?
  • How can we overcome challenges with recruiting and retaining Reservists?
  • What opportunities are available from industry?
  • What do employers think?  How is the civilian employment of Reserves changing, and how does this affect the utility of SaBRE and value companies get from employing Reservists? 


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