UK Armed Forces facing biggest shortfall in decade as global tensions rise
Additional 8,200 full-time military personnel urgently needed to plug gap, warns National Audit Office
British Armed Forces are suffering their biggest staffing shortfall for a decade, according to Whitehall’s spending watchdog.
A National Audit Office (NAO) report found the number of full-time military personnel, known as regulars, was 5.7% short of the required level - which equates to more than 8,200 people.
As a result, there are now 102 specialist areas in which there are not enough full-time staff to meet current needs unless leave or training is cancelled.
Around 2,400 more engineers are needed, most of them as weapons engineers in the Royal Navy, while 800 pilots are required, principally for the Royal Air Force, reports Sky News.
"The findings come as the Ministry of Defence lobbies the Treasury for more funding in a context of growing threats to Britain from Russia and other sources," says the Financial Times.
There is also a 26% shortfall in the number of intelligence analysts in the Armed Forces, according to the NAO. Its report was published just a day after US and UK intelligence publicly accused Russia of targeting “millions” of home and business internet routers in the West, as well as attacking government infrastructure.
NAO chief Amyas Morse said: “Ensuring the Armed Forces have the right number of skilled personnel in place is not a new challenge, but given the complexity and development of new, modern world threats, it is a challenge that will only continue to grow.
“The department needs to fundamentally change its approach to develop skilled personnel and address the long established shortfalls that persist.”
Labour MP Meg Hillier, the chair of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, said it was critical that Britain had well-staffed Armed Forces with the technical know-how to handle threats to national security, The Guardian reports.
“The Ministry of Defence needs to take a long hard look at its current approach,” she said.