The SAS And 82,000 Strong Army – The rumour just won’t go away.

This blog has noted before that the indications are that come 2015, with the withdrawal from Afghanistan, a new SDSR will look to reduce the army from its current planned weight of 95,000 to a lower figure closer to 80,000, and while it is impossible to confirm the rumour it just keeps on popping up. This time it is an article in the telegraph discussing manpower problems within the SAS, and how this would be exacerbated by a still further reduced army.

Maybe there is an element of truth within all this rampant speculation?

The article states:

The staffing crisis that has gripped the SAS is said to have led to urgent discussions between the Director of Special Forces and senior Army commanders.

SAS officers, both serving and retired, have made it clear that the manpower situation could become “irretrievable” if the Army is reduced to a predicted 82,000 men in the 2015 defence review, further shrinking the pool of troops available.

There are also strategic issues, since the SAS is seen as the biggest asset that Britain has to offer in the alliance with America alongside the nuclear deterrent.

Despite the SDSR supplementary documents stating that future troop level projections of 95,000 were based on the 2015 time frame, in both the Future Force 2020 fact sheet and the British Army fact sheet, the main SDSR merely states that it assumes the Army will be 94,000 strong by this point.

The natural assumption is for the reader to slide from the 2015 figure of 95,000 to the 2020 figure of 94,000 and sigh to oneself; “well, after what we’ve just been through another 1,000 is of no real significance given that we are talking about ten years time!”. At our most forgiving we might brand this as obtuse language easy therefore to misinterpret, at worst we might call it disingenuous.

How long until they come clean?

8 responses to “The SAS And 82,000 Strong Army – The rumour just won’t go away.

  1. Um. As long as it can still deploy 6000 into the field and mount a guard at the royal residences would anybody notice any change?

    I am going to commit a sin and agree with Lewis Page. We would have no retention or recruitment problems if the squaddie, AB, and aircraft-person received the same basic pay as the police.

    • Pay and conditions adjusted to meet the level of the police could have a significant effect recruitment and retention. However, in the current operational climate – I would caution against it being a panacea to current retention (and SF recruiting) issues.

      The stress on Infantry retention in particular is acute, due to the intensity and frequency of operational tours – which has a bearing on young families (ie; the partners willingness to ‘put-up’ with a soldiers rather ‘selfish’ lifestyle/career choice) and on a young soldier’s need to ‘see some action’.

      The better troops in the infantry battalions, which the SF naturally draw from, tend to be those who have proven themselves in the formation recce elements. These troops have the desire to be the ‘line’ elite and, traditionally, aspired to SF, but now these troops routinely see intense action on ops, whilst also sustaining a higher casualty rate. You have to have a certain attitude to want to stay in high-end infanteering for too long.

      DJ

      • hey Dieter,

        it is only to be hoped that the end of afghanistan likewise sees the of this punishing operational tempo, but I’d like to hope that pay achieves parity to that received by the police.

    • hi X,

      i think we need to aim higher than that post 2020.

      by all means provide a persistent ability to sustain a brigade in the field.

      but we must also provide a permanent ability to surge an additional brigade into theatre for a limited period of time.

  2. A shrinking army does not help the SAS find good human material, of course… But i believe that, traditionally, SAS personnel tends to come from a few units in particular. I can think of the PARA battalions and Royal Marines and perhaps the RAF Regiment too.

    Comparatively, the reduction of 500 RM might hurt the SAS more than, say, the closure of 3 infantry battalions of the regular army.
    Also, it is not unlikely that the shortage of SAS personnel resembles the Army’s own shortages. Signalers, for example, are in high demand, and probably other specialists are what’s truly hard to recruit.

    And not so much because of the latest cuts, which remain demented in many, too many ways.

    • do we have any idea where those 500 marines are coming from?

      i agree with matters of specilaists, perhaps what this is what is meant by the army reductions, because it will be the support elements from engineering, artillary and signals that get hit hardest?

      • Most will come from the Fleet Protection Group, i believe. The three Commando battalions won’t be downsized… don’t know about the support branch, the new 30 Commando. Someone might be dropped from the Air Defence component, or some of the other units. Not too clear yet.

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