I would like to know what Forum members think in relation to the Reserves (in particular Army Reserves): about their role, structure and readiness specifically. The background reading on the topic is troubling and disconcerting even if not entirely unexpected.
Strictly speaking the views on the reserves may vary widely depending on the time-frame analysed. My query relates more to the approaches adopted in more modern times - say the last 20 years. As recently as 2000, the Defence Sub-Committee of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade (Jfadt) considered issues pertaining to the Australian Army and the Army Reserves in its Inquiry entitled "From Phantom to Force: Towards a More Efficient and Effective Army" . Overall, it made for some depressing, but not entirely unexpected, reading. However conclusions reached as part of that analysis have not been adopted as part of the Defence White Papers of 2000 and 2009.
To provide some context - at the time of the report, the ARA had around 23’906 personnel and the Reserve 21’486. Recruitment for the forces was, as a percentage of targets, around 80 for the ARA and 51 for the GRes. ARA personnel were 34% more expensive than the personnel of the RR Scheme and 72% more than GRes personnel. In December 1999 Reserves were leaving Army at a rate of 23.45%.
(Department of Defence, Defence Annual Report 1998–99, Defence Publishing Service, Canberra,
19 October 1999, p. 162)
Also, at the time of the Inquiry:
1) 1st Brigade was staffed at 70%
2) 3rd Brigade was staffed at 85%
3) 7th Brigade (Integrated) was staffed at 73% (6 RAR’s Timor Tour was to include 300 Reserves on VS)
4) 5th, 8th, 9th, 11th & 13th Brigades averaged 31% staffing.
5) 4th Brigade, trialling new structures, had a staffing of 40%
Ultimately the Inquiry concluded that Army needed 3-4 brigades in the Ready Deployment Force with the capacity to generate up to 8 brigades within two years. The was based on a perceived need for Army to maintain a both a brigade and a battliongroup on operations.
Intriguingly, in the Defence White Paper of 2000the government dismissed such a force structure but still recognised the requirement for Army to maintain a Brigade on extended operations whilst simultaneously maintaining a battalion group ready for contingencies. (http://www.defence.gov.au/publications/wpaper2000.PDF)
In the lead up to the May 2009 DWP, Neil James (Executive Director of the Australia Defence Association), in a September 30 2008 speech to the Royal United Services Institute of New South Wales, stated:
(can be found here: http://www.rusinsw.org.au/Papers/20080930.pdf )I see no future, however, for the Army Reserve (five brigades nominally) as a manoeuvre force above company level because of irreversible decline in the size of the reserve and the huge expense required to maintain it as a separate force. As an integrated part of the total force it still has a very bright future.
These words appear to have been prophetic. The Defence White Paper 2009 had this to say about Reserves. You’ll note the emphasis on individuals for unit round-out and High Readiness and Reserve Response forces limited to no more than Company (or Combat Team) size.
The Use of Reserves
10.12 In some circumstances, Defence may be required to surge its capabilities to rapidly increase force levels, enhance preparedness or broaden our military response options. The balance and structure of the ADF's full-time and part-time forces can be a force multiplier in such circumstances, and could be managed more strategically.
10.13 Over recent years, Defence has employed part-time units in several operational deployments and large scale 'national security' activities such as the Olympics, the Commonwealth Games, APEC meetings and visits by international dignitaries. Critical specialists, such as surgeons and other professionals, provide invaluable service to Defence operations on a part-time basis.Part-time personnel also routinely undertake extended operational deployments in the near region, such as the infantry company group currently deployed on rotation to Solomon Islands. Part-time units can also undertake very short notice aid to the civil community tasks, such as assistance during and after bushfires and floods. Individual part-time personnel from all Services have also contributed to multinational peacekeeping tasks in a number of theatres, and have served in multinational headquarters and coalitions.
10.14 However, a number of factors have constrained the ability of part-time personnel to play a larger role in the delivery of trained and ready capability. These factors include:
the complexity of the tasks performed by the ADF (and the sophisticated and intensive mission preparation required);
the availability of part-time personnel for extended duty;
the complexity, cost and availability of some equipment (and the higher training load required to maintain competencies);
the significant annual wastage rate among part-time personnel, which can be a brake on the delivery of capability; and
the dispersion of part-time units and facilities.
10.15 The Government is committed to a better integration between part-time and full-time service in the ADF, and removing the factors which can impede the contribution that part-time forces can make to ADF capability. Chapter 9 describes how this will be done in relation to the Army, which contains the largest number of part-time personnel.
10.16 The Government also intends to further enhance the High Readiness Reserves (HRR), a category of part-time service that allows for some part-time personnel in the Army and the Royal Australian Air Force to be held at much higher readiness for deployment than most reservists. By January 2010, six company-sized Army combat teams, made up of HRR personnel, will be available for operational tasking such as protecting points of entry (for instance ports or airfields), and guarding headquarters and vital installations. Defence will grow this capability, to provide a total of more than 1,000 troops in deployable combat teams, and more than 1,700 additional individuals and small teams to round-out other elements of the Army, including Special Forces. Additionally, the Army's Reserve Response Forces (RRF) provide six teams, each of company-size, for the purpose of Defence Assistance to the Civil Community, in the case of natural disasters, and Defence Force Assistance to the Civil Authority tasks. As discussed in Chapter 9, Defence will also investigate a new form of part-time service based on workforce sponsorship, with the current HRR scheme possibly being adapted to support such an initiative.
What do you all think? Is the debate over? Are Reserves to be confined to willing individuals for small tasks or is there a real need for a much larger force? Even if there is a potential need for a larger force, is there likely to be the political will to establish and maintain it? Can we make the reserves a useful and rewarding experience for its members?