Future Reserves 2020

This speech was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Speech by Philip Hammond, Secretary of State for Defence.


Thank you, Michael [Michael Prescott, BT Director of Corporate Affairs], for that introduction.

BT has been a prime mover in the ‘Partnering for talent’ initiative over the last 12 months and a proud track record of supporting the men and women who serve in our armed forces, both regular and reserve.

BT has recruited over 800 ex-service personnel in the last couple of years, and will be recruiting another 250 in the coming months; people who will serve the company well in the years to come, just as they have served the nation.

As part of their induction, BT is actively supporting the maintenance of military links through service in the reserves.

And it is the reserves that I’ve come here want to talk about today.

Today, I am publishing the MOD’s consultation on the future of the United Kingdom’s reserve forces, entitled ‘Future Reserves 2020: delivering the nation’s security together’.

Over the last 2 decades, our reserves have fought alongside their regular colleagues, in the Balkans, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, taking the same risks, making the same sacrifice, decorated with the same honours and deserving the same recognition.

Like our regular forces, they have been stretched, but have risen to the challenges they have been set.

But at the same time, the structure of our reserve forces has been allowed to wither.

Despite 6 reviews since the Cold War, their true potential remains unrealised, particularly that of the Territorial Army [now the Army Reserve].

Declining in number, starved of resources, with training cut, opportunities reduced, and morale suffering, they have had many years of a raw deal.

For too long, the reserves have been the forgotten part of our armed forces.

And today marks the beginning of a fresh start:

Fresh start

We’re setting out our commitment to a larger reserve, both absolutely and as a proportion of overall service manpower;

Better resourced, with an injection of £1.8 billion over the next 10 years;

That means better equipped and better trained, using the same kit as their regular counterparts and becoming the sole repository of some specialist skills.

Crucially, in the future they will be part of a fully integrated force of regulars and reserves, able to deploy as formed units and sub-units, as well as continuing to augment regular forces as individual reservists where required.

The changes I am proposing today, amount to a paradigm shift in the role of reservists’ in delivery of the nation’s security.

A shift which will see reservists routinely sharing responsibility for activities once the exclusive domain of regular forces.

To achieve this shift, wider society will need to play a larger part in the delivery of national security.

Our national security is everyone’s business.

A new relationship is required between the state and armed forces on the one hand and individual reservists, their families and their employers on the other.

An exciting new proposition bringing with it new opportunities, and new challenges for reservists, and for their employers.

For the reservist: more responsibility, bringing with it more support, more respect, and more reward;

For the employer: an open relationship based on mutual benefit, better exploiting the skills and motivation reservists offer as employees, with appropriate packages, for different types of employer, of accredited training, recognition and impact reduction.

And for employers, reservists and their families alike, greater predictability of liability for call-up.

The proposals in this green paper will affect all services:

  • the Maritime Reserve
  • the Royal Marine Reserve
  • the Royal Auxiliary Air Force
  • and the Territorial Army [now the Army Reserve].

But they will be most keenly felt by the army, who, on the basis of the plans set out this year for army 2020, will need to fully integrate their reservists into the very fibre of the force.

And I will concentrate most of my remarks today on the challenge facing them.

The very nature of the TA’s new role will require a step change in organisation and approach to force generation, as well as in the relationship with employers.

A change that, I believe, should be reflected in a change in name to the Army Reserve, and that is one of over 30 propositions that we will be consulting on over the next 2 months as part of a process leading to a white paper published in the spring.

So before I put some flesh on the bones of these proposals, let me set the transformation of our future reserves in the context of the wider changes taking place in the armed forces.


The 2010 ‘Strategic defence and security review’ called for redesign of our forces to meet the new security challenges which will face them post-Afghanistan.

In Future Force 2020, we are building an adaptable, integrated whole force fit for a more uncertain world:

  • No longer focussed on the Cold War model of mass territorial defence

  • Nor the predictable pattern of deployment to enduring operations in Iraq or Afghanistan

  • But configured instead to project power and respond to a diverse set of contingencies.

  • Agile, high-tech, structured to allow rapid reaction and expeditionary warfare

  • Capable of conducting the full spectrum of operations

  • Able to command as part of a coalition and more interoperable with our main allies

  • Smaller, but better equipped.

Because now that we’ve a balanced budget, with a sustainable equipment programme, our armed forces can be confident that they will receive the cutting edge equipment that has been promised as we build the formidable capability that Future Force 2020 represents.

This transformation is necessary to prepare our armed forces for the challenges of the future.

And to deal with the legacy of the past:

A multi-billion-pound black hole in the defence budget that had to be filled, before we started to make a contribution to reducing the overall fiscal deficit.

That meant some very tough decisions: relinquishing some capabilities, to invest in new ones.

Accepting smaller numbers, to ensure we can equip people properly for the job we ask them to do.

The reserve legacy

As part of the SDSR implementation process, the Prime Minister set up an independent commission to provide an authoritative picture of the state of our reserves and recommendations for optimising their use in the context of modern threats.

The report they published in July last year makes for sobering reading.

They found that individual reservists had made, and continue to make, an essential contribution to national security.

At their peak, reservists made up 20% of our forces in Iraq and 12% in Afghanistan.

The best trauma unit in the world, the Camp Bastion Hospital, has been staffed, on average, 40% by reservists and has nearly 50 reservist medics currently on its staff.

Some 25,000 reservists have deployed on operations overseas in the last 10 years.

29 have paid the ultimate price, with many more injured, sometimes seriously.

And, given that this is remembrance week, I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to all those who have sacrificed so much to preserve our national security and protect our national interests; serving and veteran; regular and reserve.

But despite the amazing efforts of individual reservists to make a difference, and the hard work of many unsung reserve units up and down the country from all the services, the commission found an organisation in institutional decline:

  • Getting smaller, getting older, less well trained, less motivated

  • Not matched to the new security environment, with major units of the TA still configured to provide mass reinforcements to counter the Soviet threat

  • Not able to be mobilised for routine deployments, with the legal position not supporting the use of reserves for standing tasks

  • Not matched to the new configuration of the regular armed forces

  • Forming too small a part of our overall military capability, both in comparison to our closest allies of similar tradition, and indeed by our own historic standards.

Even during the last decade of enduring operations, to which the TA made such a contribution, its nominal strength fell by almost a third, with the Reserves Commission reporting some estimates of genuine trained strength as low as 14,000.

For too long, the reserves were considered a soft target by the last administration as they desperately tried to find in-year savings measures to cover their failure to control the spiralling cost of the equipment programme:

  • restrictions on live round firing
  • use of equipment curtailed
  • training cut.

In 2009, the then government tried to cut the TA’s annual budget by 30% with a reduction in drill nights and weekend training, to balance the in year budget.

The result of all of this has been reserve forces failing to realise their potential; failing to recruit to requirement, with a proposition that is simply not attracting enough potential reservists.

A diminishing return on capability and a diminishing return to defence;

So change is not just desirable, it is essential for the future of our reserve forces and the contribution they make to the defence of our country.

And that change is required not only in the organisation, structure and role of reserve forces, and how they are integrated with regular forces, but it is required in the proposition we make to reservists and in the relationship we have with their employers.

So what will the Future Reserve of 2020 look like?

What will this mean for what we ask of our reservists, their families and their employees?

And what is the fresh start we are proposing today?

Future Reserves 2020

The government is fully committed to delivering the reserve forces the country needs.

We are investing an additional £1.8 billion in the reserves over the next 10 years.

This investment will support an increase in our reserve forces:

  • to a trained strength in the Army Reserve of 30,000

  • the Maritime Reserve of 3,100

  • and the Royal Auxiliary Air Force of 1,800

All by 2018.

For the first time in 20 years the planned trajectory is up, not down.

And the effect of this investment is already beginning to show.

We have already reversed the decline in the Army Reserve in terms of recruitment and total strength, with enlistments this year 3% up against the rolling average.

New training and new equipment is being rolled out progressively, with delivery of new uniforms, new vehicles and new radios, in line with those used by regulars, already underway.

Yesterday evening, I was at Fulham TA Centre visiting the Royal Yeomanry to see their new light reconnaissance vehicles and Bowman radios.

But more money, higher numbers and better equipment, however welcome, will not alone turn our reserves into the efficient, effective, and deployable force our national security requires.

The Whole Force concept of full integration between regular and reserves will require us to redefine the role that reserves will play.

And to restructure them to deliver it.

The reserve forces will continue to deliver specialist capabilities which cannot be cost effectively held in regular forces, particularly in the medical field.

But we intend to extend the range of specialities, drawing on skills from the civilian workforce, such as intelligence, information technology and cyber.

They will also provide functions that do not require complex unit-level training to maintain readiness, such as some aspects of logistics.

Reserves will fulfil a general role in homeland security, such as the support they provided to the Olympics, and to national resilience tasks, such as flood relief.

They will provide, as they do now, vital support to short term high impact operations.

And they will provide resilience to longer term stabilisation operations, like the Balkans and Afghanistan, providing a higher proportion of the committed force than is currently the case, increasing the longer the operation goes on.

Individual reservists will continue to be mobilised as augmentees for regular units as now.

They will also be deployed as formed units and sub units.

But reserve forces will be expected to fulfil new roles too, including contributing to standing commitments such as the Falklands and to defence engagement work abroad, such as conflict prevention and capacity building.

This financial year, over 20 new overseas training exercises will take place for the Army Reserve.

A hundred reservists from the 6th Battalion The Rifles recently spent 2 weeks in Germany training alongside their regular regimental colleagues from 5 RIFLES in Exercise Leopard Star.

The exercise centred on the Warrior armoured vehicle and was designed to develop the kind of integration between regular and reserve that will be necessary to meet the demands of Future Force 2020.

Such exercises were rare in the past; they will be more common in the future.

Reservists will routinely be part of deployments at home and abroad and will routinely train with the regulars.

This will require a change in legislation, redefining the circumstances in which reserves can be mobilised.

In short, they will be a fundamental part of how we provide military capability:

Part of a whole force, alongside their regular counterparts, the civilians who support them and the defence industry which supplies them.

A whole force, designed to ensure the nation’s security.

Now there are some who have questioned whether we can achieve the growth in reserve forces that we have set out.

But these new levels are well within historic norms:

In 1990, the TA was 72,500 strong.

The Army Reserve we are proposing is modest in comparison.

So while the new targets are ambitious, they are clearly achievable, and I am determined to deliver them.

But, of course, we will need the support of employers, as well as potential reservists and their families to deliver this ambition.

Proposition for reservists

In identifying respective reservists, we’re looking for people who are going to turn out when they’re required to turn out, who are going to do the training they need to do and who are available for deployment.

In the Army Reserve, they will be expected to undertake an extended training regime of around 40 days a year after basic training is completed.

That will be structured as one 16-day deployment and the balance at weekend and evenings, avoiding any added burdens on employers.

So the message to future Army reservists is clear: promise us you will make the commitment; turn up regularly to train and be prepared to deploy.

And in return, we promise to equip you, train you, fund you and use you as an integral part of the British Army.

And because you will be integrated with the regulars and deployed more routinely, there will be greater opportunities for promotion and command.

A balanced package of remuneration and support will be developed for reservists and their families and provided as part of the ‘New Employment Model’ the MOD is developing for our armed forces.

This will support an integrated approach to pay and allowances and enable a much closer alignment of regular and reservist careers.

And it will provide a much better deal for the families of reservists, with help to access the support and networks available to regulars.

Outwith a genuine national emergency, we will also provide predictability to deployment, which will help at home as well as at work.

Routine liability in the Army Reserve will be for no more than one 6-month deployment in 5 years, although the total period of mobilisation would be longer, in some cases up to a year, to encompass operation specific training and post-operation recuperation.

Although some mobilisations will be much shorter, for example the reserve element of the contribution to Olympics was only mobilised for a month.

And we will be able to indicate in advance when the potential period of deployment will occur for any individual.

Taking all these changes, this is an exciting proposition for reservists.

Challenging, yes.

But for the reserve forces of the future, we need people who genuinely want to serve their nation and are committed to deliver.

I hope this proposition will be appealing to those leaving the regulars, as well as to the volunteer reservists.

In an average year, over 18,000 people leave the regular forces.

In theory, they have a liability for reserve service for a time limited period after they leave the regulars.

Very few serve actively in this period.

We could make better use of this asset.

By making an attractive offer to departing regulars to remain voluntarily engaged in the reserve we will do 2 things.

We’ll help ourselves with numbers, just 10% of departing regulars taking up active reserve service would take us a significant part of the way to meeting our target.

But it will also strengthen the resilience of the reserves.

The more ex-regulars we have in the reserves, the easier it will be for the reserves to integrate with the regulars.

New relationships with employers

But this proposition for reservists themselves is only one part of the jigsaw.

Too often in the past we’ve recruited the reservist and then left him or her to worry about how to tell the employer.

This must change.

Even though our plans call for a reserve that will represent only 0.1% of the total UK workforce, I do not believe that we can achieve our ambitions without the active cooperation of employers.

So this fresh start for the reserves is also a fresh start for the relationship between the armed forces and the businesses who employ their reservists.

We want to work with employers, building partnerships that deliver mutual benefit from reserve service;

A joint approach to leadership and management training;

Collaboration on skills training;

Working together to develop potential in students before they graduate.

All will require a genuinely open relationship between employer, reservist and the military.

With the employer understanding the reservist’s liability and the reservist confident that his service will not prejudice employment or promotion prospects.

And underpinning this new relationship will be a tailored approach for different types of employer, reflecting the different benefits and impacts reserve service can have on companies in different sectors and of different sizes.

I understand that reserve service will affect small employers differently from large ones.

But the truth, of course, is that with the growth of statutory leave entitlements, and other flexible working practices, employers of all sizes are becoming much more used to managing periods of absence.

Nonetheless, it is likely that public sector and large private sector organisations will be best placed to manage reservists in their workforce.

And I see a real opportunity to work with major employers, like BT.

Employers who are already engaging through the Partnering for Talent Scheme.

Many companies take great pride in supporting our reservists.

They see it as part of their corporate social responsibility; a great way of showing commitment to society at large

They are leading the way and helping us shape an adaptable and flexible defence force with an increased role for the reserves.

It is only right that we recognise these companies and the green paper suggests a new Kitemark-type award for reserve-friendly employers.

But this is not just about corporate docial responsibility: it must also be about mutual benefit.

And many employers see very clearly the benefit that reserve training and experience brings to them:

  • Delivering motivated, skilled, talented employees representing the values of the wider armed forces: integrity, application and commitment

  • Leadership training that is different from its civilian counterpart, adding a dimension to the skills of the work force.

We will consult on expanding the accreditation of skills and experience gained in reserve service through recognised civilian qualifications.

Bringing direct benefit to employers through reduced training costs.

And we will consult, too, on the scope for linking apprenticeships and reserve service in a package.

To enable this open relationship we are proposing to introduce a voluntary charter for employers of reservists, recognising the contribution that good employers make.

But we will also consider anti-discrimination legislation if we see evidence of systematic disadvantage to the reservist in the workplace.


So this is the shape of the fresh start for our reserve forces and our proposition to employers.

For the reservist: an exciting opportunity to be an integrated and respected part of the defence of the nation, at the centre, not sidelined, with greater opportunities and better rewards, but with more responsibilities and commitments.

For the employer: a new relationship of mutual benefit, with packages designed for specific types of business, helping them to make better use of the skills, talents and training of reservists, as well as an opportunity to support our armed forces and be recognised for doing so.

And for reservists, their families and employers alike, greater certainty and greater predictability to reserve service.

With the investment we are making, the reserves are no longer the forgotten part of defence.

As we go forward, they will be at its very heart.