James Forsyth

Is the army funded to its target level?

Is the army funded to its target level?
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During the TA debate yesterday, Bob Ainsworth tried to explain why the government had ended up making the cut in the first place. One of the reasons Ainsworth advanced was that recruitment for the regular army had been stronger than expected.

But the army remains below its target strength. The exchange between Fox and Ainsworth suggests that the army isn’t actually funded to what is meant to be its full strength:

“Dr. Fox: For the sake of clarity, we know that more recruits have come forward than expected, but the Army is still below the target level set by the Government. Is the Secretary of State telling us that the Army is not funded for its establishment figure?

Mr. Ainsworth: We have—I make no apologies for this—agreed not just with the Chief of the General Staff, but with all the single service chiefs, that we will ensure that Afghanistan is the main effort. In order to do that, nobody was prepared to say anything other than that when the opportunity to recruit to the Army was there, it should be taken, and it should be taken in full. There is no doubt that that, in part, caused the in-year problems, along with the other issues that I have spoken about.”

Having read Ainsworth’s answer a couple of times, I’m still not totally sure what it means. But he does seem to be saying that the army isn’t funded for the number of men that the government says it wants it to have.