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Reserves Roadmap

Volume 738: debated on Thursday 26 October 2023

I would like to inform the House of the approach the Ministry of Defence is taking to modernise and transform the reserve forces.

Earlier this summer, the Ministry of Defence published the defence Command Paper refresh, “Defence’s response to a more contested and volatile world”. It made clear how the war in Ukraine has underscored the importance of reserves on and off the battlefield. It is has become plain that reserve forces will be an increasingly vital component of the UK armed forces. They make defence more capable and resilient while providing greater mass and access to specialist civilian capabilities that the regular forces cannot easily generate or sustain.

Defence reserve transformation will synergise the recommendations made in the Reserve Forces 2030 (RF30) and Haythornthwaite (HRAFI) reviews to ensure that activity is aligned and maximum impact can be achieved. This will move the implementation of RF30 recommendations into the area of transformation and take account of the strategic context within which the reserve forces operate, and the direction set in the integrated review refresh, the defence command plan refresh and future input to the national defence plan, in which they will undoubtedly feature.

To enhance the way reserves are utilised and supported, defence will take a more strategic top-down approach, to address policy and process frustrations, and tackle the cultural and resource issues reservists face. This will also improve the structures and mobilisation processes needed to generate second and third-echelon forces to reinforce and sustain warfighting capabilities, protect the homeland, and strengthen national resilience.

The Ministry of Defence has been considering reserves, in the context of the defence Command Paper refresh, and how to mainstream them in military capability and planning. These key activities include:

Specialists. A1* led study of specialist reserves was undertaken in summer 2023 that will provide clarity around the term specialist reserves, defining what makes a specialist, understanding how they are used, identifying barriers to their employment, and recommending solutions and mitigations.

Reserves Research. An academic report which determined ways to identify and measure utilisation, productivity, and efficiency, understand what influences perceptions of these, the positive and negative factors that affect the use of reservists, their relative importance and how their use can be increased.

Mobilisation. Defence is taking incremental steps to drive greater efficiency into the mobilisation process. A key part of this has been reviewing and suggesting amendments to mobilisation correspondence, in collaboration with MODLA and FLCs, to improve and standardise, where possible, the mobilisation process across defence.

Work on a reserves roadmap, updating RF30 in the light of MOD sponsored reviews and activity since 2021 and ongoing geopolitical events, will proceed at pace and I will update the House in due course.