MoD wants IT experts to take on cyber threat

IT specialists: your country needs you. That also goes for doctors, linguists and engineers, who are being expected to volunteer to prop up the UK’s regular armed forces.

IT specialists: your country needs you. That also goes for doctors, linguists and engineers, who are being expected to volunteer to prop up the UK’s regular armed forces.

The Ministry of Defence is planning a talent grab on the public and private sectors as it looks to bolster its reservist battalions as part of defence cuts to the full-time army.

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And military chiefs want to acquire a range of skilled personnel to tackle the threats of the future. Top of that list are information technology specialists to deal with threats such as cyber attack, which can damage weapons and communications systems. But medical staff, linguists and 
engineers are also in demand.

An MoD-funded organisation has written to more than 4,000 Scottish companies to say the MoD is holding a consultation exercise later this year on the best ways to partner with employers to create a mutually beneficial arrangement for defence, the employer and the individual reservist.

The Future Reserves 2020 campaign aims to increase its number of trained reservists from 20,000 to 30,000 UK-wide by 2020. The UK government also wants to avoid having to 
legislate to force employers to release staff for national duty.

The proposed changes have been communicated to employers by Supporting Britain’s Reservists and Employers (Sabre), an organisation sponsored by the MoD. Tim Corry, director of Sabre, said: “There are some skills that are not trained for. For example, the military does not teach cyber skills per se. So we are talking about recruiting IT professionals. I would think a lot of them work for large banking companies, which have big security issues protecting their data. Similarly, a large proportion of medics are reservists, and we also want linguists and engineers, where if you could bring them in you would not have to spend a lot of time and money training them.”

During the consultation, the MoD hope to work out how to convince employers – and individuals – that being in the Territorial Army is worthwhile. They believe the opportunity for workers to hone their skills in the high-pressure environment of a conflict will prove attractive.

But there is also the possibility of an improved financial package for companies. At present they can receive up 
to £110 a day, in addition to the saving made by the MoD picking up the employee’s 
salary while on secondment. Another option is to present new awards, similar to the Queen’s honours for businesses, to companies willing to help in the country’s defence.

One problem is the training needed by reservists. At present, a member of the TA might spend 30 days a year training, including one two-week period and a number of weekends. However, a more highly trained reservist could require twice as much time 
on exercises.

Clive Fairweather, a former SAS commander, believes the plans are “hopelessly optimistic”. He said: “This does worry me. I’ve trained reservists and served with them and see what they are capable of doing and what they are not.”

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He predicted that increasing employers’ commitment to the reserves would be a “hard sell” during the economic downturn. “The fact that a reservist is away for six months is no good for employers unless 
they are getting something 
out of it. Just appealing to the nobility of helping the country is unlikely to work.

“In my view, the idea of 
relying on reservists is hopelessly optimistic. They [the MoD] are hoping to spend less money, because the thing about reservists is they don’t get a pension. But you’ve got to spend more money on training and welfare, so it is not necessarily a cheap option.”

Under the Strategic Defence and Security Review, the MoD is set to make £36 billion of cuts over the next four years. As a result, the army is being slashed from 102,000 to 82,000 personnel. TA numbers are being increased, resulting in a combined force of 112,000.