The National Audit Office has released their report highlighting the shortage of military personnel. They say the British Armed Forces is short of over 8000 military personnel, the largest deficit in a decade. The large shortage of personnel has been blamed on both recruitment and retention.
Recruitment for 2016/17 was 24% below the recruitment target. Even after the MOD spending £664million on recruitment in the past 5years. The report identified areas of the military short of personnel included intelligence, pilots and engineering.
The armed forces, particularly the British Army have been struggling with recruitment and retention for quite some time, even with large budget recruitment adverts and the targeting of minority groups.
War is a good recruitment tool, but back in the 1990’s, where operational commitment for personnel mainly evolved around the Balkan wars and Northern Ireland, recruitment did not struggle as much. Back in the 1990’s, units would go on what was called Cape Tours, recruiting face to face with the public in shopping centres within the units respective recruiting areas. It was a time for the serving soldiers to show the public face of the armed forces, show a human face, and engage directly with the public. Something that seems to have dropped off over the years with civilian contractors also taking over recruitment offices and the recruitment process.
Other issues that have had direct cause on personnel shortage across the military, is the historical cuts to numbers, particularly senior Non-Commissioned ranks such as Sgt. The loss of senior soldiers in the ranks left a whole in our military of middle management, leaders, motivators within units. Something going back to the early 1990’s, after the first Gulf War.
Figures released in 2017 showed that 58% of military personnel were either ‘neutral’ or ‘unsatisfied’ with service life in general, with many personnel choosing to look outside of the military for work. Harassment has also been blamed for the lack of retention within the military. In 2015 research showed that 4 out of 10 women in the military had experienced sexual harassment.
The military has also seen a 90% rise in medical discharges between 2012 and 2017 due to mental health which has left military charities and the NHS struggling to support veterans coming out of the services with various mental health issues such as PTSD. So its not surprising that this has not only had an effect on retention, but also recruitment, with potential recruits are being put off with the idea of joining the military.
Finally the private sector has been an enticing draw to particularly combat experienced and specialist trained personnel who have looked at the private sector and seen better pay and benefits.