The UK wants to make better use of private reserves

GAli Sullivan Is Chairman of Wilson James, a security and logistics company. But when covid-19 struck England last year, he took off his suit, put on his uniform, and helped build a hospital at a convention center in eastern London. In addition to his day-to-day operations, Sullivan is also the commander of the British Army’s Corps of Engineers and Logistics Staff, a group of senior managers who volunteer to provide time to the military. Straddling his civilian and military worlds may be a model for the future.

Last month, the government released an independent review of military reserves conducted by fellow conservative and former military minister Mark Lancaster. He says his recommendations constitute “the largest shake-up of reserves since 1914.”

The British Army Reserve has somehow existed for over a century. As a territorial army used until 2014, its reputation was that of enthusiastic amateurs playing soldiers on weekends. The reserve army was a warm body used to bring together a dramatically reduced army after the Cold War, sporadically trained, but used only to the extreme. In recent years, the reserve has developed a more “professional spirit,” said Patrick Bury of the University of Bath, abandoning his old (and unfair) reputation as a “drinking club.” Reserves accounted for 15% of the troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Now, the idea is that they should play a larger and more routine role in military operations. One spur to change was a pandemic, during which the military drove oxygen tankers, built hospitals and provided vaccines. Recently, it has been fighting a local outbreak in northern England. The response was only possible because the booker brought the skills from the private world. Sullivan’s staff responded to the 2017 Caribbean Hurricane Irma, the collapse of the Toddbrook Reservoir Dam in the Peak District in 2019, and the Beirut explosion last summer.

Mobilizing private sector expertise is nothing new. A corps of staff was established in 1865 to ensure that private railroads served the state during the war. Surgeons have long worked at the National Health Service to keep their skills sharp. But the new focus on reserves also stems from the broader changes in the nature of war: the shift from human resources to technology and information. During the Cold War, the cutting edge of technology was at the National Institute for Defense Studies. Today, many advanced military capabilities (cyber security, space, artificial intelligence, robotics) are primarily in the private sector.

On the other hand, the increasing importance of the battle between propaganda and narrative helps with the skills found in the creative industries. “If you need a good TV cameraman to compete with Russian media activities, BBC Rather than taking them into the army and expecting them to maintain their skill levels, “become a reserve force,” said a former Defense Ministry head of “People’s Strategy,” now at the Royal United Services Institute. Paul O’Neill said. think tank.

That’s exactly what the 77 brigades did. The Army’s intelligence operations specialists (mostly psychological warfare) have more reserves than regular troops. They include journalists, psychologists, and executives of social media companies. Many people have the opportunity to use skills such as hacking in ways that are otherwise illegal.

Attracting such talent requires greater flexibility in the military than usual. Contribution to the new aggressive National Cyber ​​Force Already cyber reserves do not have to meet the same age and fitness standards as binding other reserves. Sullivan’s Terms of Service allow him to continue to grow a beard. Sir Lancaster’s own preliminary career includes working two days a week as Brigadier General at the British Strategic Command, which coordinates cyber and special forces, among other cross-service functions. Such part-time involvement now requires special permission, but the military bill introduced in May will put it in a normal position. “Being a booker fits into the gig economy,” says Sullivan. “Now more and more people have portfolio careers.”

It is also being considered to allow experienced civilians to enter the country at a higher rank rather than going up. The rank system itself may also need to be adapted. O’Neill gives an example of a fictitious barrister who wants to “run around the Salisbury Plains as an infantryman.” He or she may be hired as a junior officer and bounce back to the lieutenant colonel when the military needs legal expertise and resign to the lieutenant colonel when it is no longer needed.

It still leaves a bigger question about reserves Raison Dettle.. Today, regular units are very slim by historical standards and need to be augmented during large-scale wars. However, it would be difficult to use a spare for this purpose. Ben Barry of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, another think tank that once commanded a heavy brigade of reserves in Bosnia, said that the Army reserves are the epitome of a normal army, while the Navy and Air Force-equivalent forces. Focuses on niche abilities. They could not be called as a complete squadron like the US Air National Guard.

However, raw numbers are also an issue. In March, as part of a radical defense review, the government announced that the regular army would shrink to the smallest of 72,500 soldiers in the centuries. Sir Lancaster’s review assumes a “mostly dormant” pool of former regulars who may provide “rapid growth” in the event of a crisis, as well as more actively involved bookers. doing. However, the government has shown no signs of increased reserves. Patriotic hackers and boring lawyers aren’t enough to make up for the numbers. ■■

This article was published in the printed UK section under the heading “Not Dad’s Army”.

The UK wants to make better use of private reserves

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