​​​​​​​PAC: MoD must address skills shortages

12 Sep 18

The Ministry of Defence must rethink its recruitment process and address a growing skills gap, MPs have said.

The Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force failed to use £261m of their workforce budgets in 2017-18 to plug skills shortages, the Public Accounts Committee has said. This was despite having skills gaps in 100 “critical trades”. 

A PAC report, published today, said that in January 2018 the armed forces had the largest shortfall of regulars for many years and this shortfall - of 8,200 people - is not expected to close until 2022 at the earliest.

The committee also found that the MoD did not know where the £261m unspent budget had gone.

“This lack of visibility limits [MoD] head office’s ability to understand the impact of underspends on longer-term skill development” the report said.

According to the PAC, the nature of warfare is “evolving rapidly”, and this requires the MoD to recruit more specialist technical and digital skills.

PAC chair Meg Hillier said: “The government’s ‘make do and mend’ approach to staffing its defence commitments cannot continue.

“The MoD must ensure the armed forces have the skilled personnel they need to tackle established and emerging threats to national security.

“A creative, effective workforce strategy is long overdue but will be vital if the stresses of today are not to become the crises of tomorrow.”

The PAC recommended that the MoD should have bi-annual reviews to look at how workforce funding is being used and develop a strategy to close the existing skills gap.

The government should also ensure the armed forces are making informed investment decisions, the MPs said.

Asked if it had sufficient funding to close the shortfall of staff, the MoD told the PAC it faces a “tight financial position and must make trade-offs within the £36bn a year defence budget to deliver the operational capability that it requires”.

In 2016-17 the MoD spent £9.6bn (27%) of its defence budget on military personnel and it estimates that this will rise to £10.3bn by 2020-21.

An MoD spokesperson said: “Recruiting and retaining talent is one of our top priorities and we have a range of schemes to make sure we attract and keep the skilled personnel we need.

“The military has enough personnel to meet all its operational requirements, including being active on 25 operations in 30 countries throughout the world.”  

In July, the PAC criticised an MoD property deal and said it cost taxpayers “billions”.

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