Armed Forces chiefs have been accused by MPs of complacency over critical staff shortages.
The Commons Defence Committee today published a report calling on the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to do more to address shortfalls in the services.
In particular, it called for the formation of an Armed Forces Federation to represent rank-and-file staff in the same way as the Police Federation.
The strain of the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has led to an increase in Forces staff quitting, the report warned. There are now 86 ‘pinchpoint trades’ – where there are insufficient numbers to give staff proper rest breaks – up from 54 in 2004.
“Ministers, officials and senior officers acknowledge these pressures and have introduced a number of measures both to attract more people to the Armed Forces and to ease the pressure on existing personnel,” said the Fourteenth Report.
“We welcome these initiatives, but note that the manning situation is not improving. We are concerned that the MoD has become used to declining numbers of Armed Forces personnel, and is not doing enough to redress manning shortfalls.”
The MoD should develop better mechanisms for identifying and addressing service staff concerns, said the committee.
“An independent Armed Forces Federation might assist in this,” it added. “We recommend that the MoD consider an independent Armed Forces Federation more constructively.”
The MoD insisted it was working hard to address the problems raised in the report.
Defence minister Derek Twigg said: “I accept there is more to do. The MoD and the Armed Forces will continue to do our utmost to ensure that the hard-working, brave service personnel, and their families, have the support they deserve and need to do the dangerous and demanding things we ask of them.”