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The UK’s Reserve Forces are changing. Found to be neglected, under-exploited and in decline by an Independent Commission, the Armed Forces are being restructured to make the Reserves an integral element of ‘Future Force 2020’. Reservists will be mobilised and deployed on a far wider range of operations than now and will be more closely aligned with Regulars, particularly in the Army. A major recruitment drive is underway to reach a trained Reserve strength of 35,000 by 2018.

The Ministry of Defence laid out its plans in a White Paper in July 2013 entitled Reserves in the Future Force 2020: Valuable and Valued promising a new relationship with Reservists, Reservists’ families, employers and society. These changes were enacted in the Defence Reform Act 2014. The changes are significant and concerns about the plans have focused on whether the MOD can achieve its recruitment targets; the impact on employers; and whether the Army in particular will be able to fulfil all of its military tasks with a reduced Regular force and greater reliance on Reservists.

The Defence Reform Act 2014 placed a statutory requirement on the Reserve Forces’ and Cadets’ Associations to report annually on the well-being of the United Kingdom’s Reserve Forces. The team notes in its 2015 annual report that the Services appear to have “turned the corner” on recruiting reserves but worries that “systemic problems” with the recruitment process, particularly medically screenings, still need to be rooted out. It also calls for attention to be given to the recruitment of young volunteer Reserve officers and also on retention of officers and soldiers. Overall, the assessment is that the programme “remains on or near track for delivery.”

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