Armed Forces are understaffed and overstretched

The Armed Forces are understaffed, with rising numbers of personnel quitting early, the government has been warned.

A National Audit Office report warned that coping with simultaneous operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Balkans had left the forces 5,170 below strength.

The report said the Armed Forces were 2.8% short of full strength – total personnel is now 180,690.

The government agreed operating at this level meant “additional strains” on staff, but denied forces were overstretched. Worst hit are medical services, with reservists filling the 66% of vacant A&E and intensive therapy nurses posts.

Rising numbers were quitting – in the past year 9,200 had left before their period of engagement was up.

Defence minister Derek Twigg said the government “recognises that the Armed Forces currently face a particularly high level of operational commitment”.

“We do understand the impact that frequent operational tours have on serving personnel, their friends and families and we have recently announced improvements in pay and benefits for those who are deployed on operations,” he said.

On the issue of retention, Twigg said: “Our focus is to improve retention through polices that genuinely reflect the priorities of our people and their families while optimising their operational effectiveness.”


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