THE army is to propose cutting up to 2,900 jobs in the latest round of redundancies, according to a leaked document said to expose tensions between defence chiefs and Downing Street.
The announcement is expected to be made in January – in line with the previous three years – and comes amid recent claims that the push to expand the new Army Reserve force to replace full-time soldiers is failing to hit recruitment targets.
The Armed Forces Redundancy Steering Group is reported to state that between 2,500 and 2,900 soldiers will lose their jobs, with a further 150 RAF staff and 17 medical and dental personnel from the navy being made redundant.
The Ministry of Defence has confirmed that another round of redundancies was being considered but insisted the document was an early draft.
The Westminster coalition government has demanded that troop numbers fall from 102,000 to 82,000 by 2020. About 11,000 from all three services have lost their jobs since 2011.
An army source told a newspaper that Prime Minister David Cameron is keen to avoid the bad publicity that would accompany the announcement of more job losses, and documents are said to show the army was concerned the government could intervene to prevent further job losses.
Downing Street is understood to prefer to see troop numbers falling through people retiring or leaving of their own accord, while military chiefs want to be able to choose how many redundancies to make.
Colonel Richard Kemp, a former army officer, said that the MoD should focus more on lobbying Mr Cameron for extra money to retain soldiers.
“We know there is a manning crisis,” he said. “The future structures of the reserves are going very wrong and are proving that they are not workable. More redundancies sends out the message that the armed forces is a declining trade.”
The latest cuts follow the announcement in June that the size of the Army Reserves – formerly the Territorial Army – will increase from 19,000 to 30,000 by 2018.
However, in the three months from April to June, only 367 soldiers enlisted, according to reports.
Colonel Stuart Crawford, a former tank commander and defence commentator, said there are serious concerns the reserves will not be able to make up the troop numbers or experience of those lost in the cuts.
He told The Scotsman: “I’m not surprised the MoD are having trouble attracting people to the reserves. Firstly, in the olden days you joined on the basis that unless there was a national emergency you wouldn’t have to be deployed.
“Now rules are being changed to allow them to be deployed at the whim of government. And instead of small detachments being attached to full-time regiments – as at present – whole regiments of reserves may be deployed abroad. And recruits are going to be asking if they should take the risk.”
A spokeswoman for the MoD confirmed that redundancies are being considered but that no decision had been made.
She said: “Following last year’s redundancies, which were 84 per cent voluntary, we were clear that a fourth tranche, affecting army personnel and a small number of medical and dental personnel from the navy and RAF, could be needed. Outflow and recruitment rates will be taken into account before any decisions are taken.”