The UK Ministry of Defence's (MoD) plans to reduce the size of the regular army and increase reservists will significantly affect the service's ability to achieve its objectives, the country's National Audit Office (NAO) has warned.
In a report, which examines the Army 2020 development and the progress achieved in its implementation, the spending watchdog said the MoD's decision to adopt a fundamentally different structure was taken without 'appropriate testing of feasibility or evaluation of risk'.
Under the Army 2020 programme, the number of trained regular soldiers is to be reduced from 102,000 to 82,000 in 2018, while the number of reservists will be increased from 19,000 to approximately 30,000.
National Audit Office head Amyas Morse said: "The department and army must get a better understanding of significant risks to Army 2020, notably the extent to which it is dependent on other major programmes and the risk that the shortfall in recruitment of new reserves will up the pressure on regular units."
UK Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said the ministry is currently addressing well publicised IT issues in the Army Recruiting Centre, and is running a high profile recruitment campaign, simplifying the application process and streamlining medical clearance procedures.
"While there is much still to do, we are confident of achieving the target of a 35,000 trained reserve [across all three services] by the end of [the] financial year 2018," Hammond said.
UK Chief of the General Staff general Sir Peter Wall said: "The NAO report fails to capture the nature of the national austerity we faced at the time these decisions were made. The army has designed a novel and imaginative structure which best meets the challenges we are likely to face within the resources made available.
"We are recruiting regular and reserve soldiers for this new army avidly. I am confident that, having made such significant changes, the Army 2020 model will endure."
Launched in response to the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) published by the government in October 2010, the new army structure is expected to bring savings of £10.6bn between 2021-2022.
Image: A UK Army reservist on a training exercise on Salisbury Plain, UK. Photo: MoD, Crown copyright.