TAKE PAY CUT TO DUCK WAR, LADS
Soldiers offered three day week and pay deal to dodge fighting on the front line, in a bid to make Army more ‘family friendly’ – and even SAS can sign up...
BRITISH troops have been offered the chance to duck out of fighting on the front line and work a three-day week, The Mail on Sunday can reveal. Thousands of soldiers, sailors and airmen have been told they can avoid battlefield action under an astonishing scheme the Ministry of Defence admitted last night is intended to make the Armed Forces ‘more family friendly’.
Even elite Special Air Service troops and RAF pilots currently involved in the campaign to defeat Islamic State will in future be entitled to opt out of going to war.
Soldiers who choose to do so will lose out on tax-free bonuses of up to £50 per day on top of their regular wages – potentially saving the MoD millions.
Last night, defence experts warned that letting troops avoid going to war threatened to undermine the fundamental principles upon which Britain’s Armed Forces have been built.
Colonel Richard Kemp, who led British troops into war in Afghanistan, said: ‘This is absolutely incredible. How can it do anything but undermine our national defence?
‘Our Armed Forces are already tiny yet we’re going to give people exemptions from frontline operations. The MoD has got its priorities completely wrong. We should be focusing on those troops who are fully committed to service, not those looking for a part-time job.’
Details of the Flexible Duties Trial are contained in a high-level MoD document obtained by The Mail on Sunday. The dossier reveals that troops will be able to ‘reduce their liability to deploy’ to war zones for up to two years.
It says: ‘All types of flexible duty will be subject to a 24-month trial involving applicants in order to test the arrangements and the processes necessary to deliver them. It is open to all personnel serving in the Army, RAF, Royal Navy and Royal Marine personnel. Service personnel will be allowed to reduce their liability to be deployed.’
Last night, the MoD said that troops who signed up to the deal could still be forced to fight in extreme circumstances.
The bombshell document also reveals troops will be able to take up to 93 days unpaid leave over the course of a year – effectively allowing them to work just a three-day week and seek employment outside the military on their days off.
It says: ‘This results in an individual being able to work less than five days a week, although still liable for evening and weekend duties on paid days. This also limits an individual’s liability to deploy, on the basis that a requirement to deploy would require fulltime working.’
No cap has been put on the numbers of Service personnel across the Armed Forces who can take up these options. Instead, senior officers may approve as many requests from troops for flexible duties as they wish, so long as their units retain ‘operational effectiveness’. Even Special Forces officers and commanders of key units across the British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force could be granted approval to avoid war-zone service and adopt flexi-time working arrangements.
Last night, the MoD insisted measures will be put in place to maintain the fighting capability of these key units. Suitable replacements for those seeking flexible duties would be found. Only then would the troops on the controversial scheme be moved to less important jobs, such the administration department of regimental headquarters.
The trial has started at a time when Britain’s Armed Forces are shrinking by the day, raising fears that operational effectiveness and readiness to deploy to war zones will be adversely affected.
The regular Army is at its smallest size since the Napoleonic Wars – just 76,260 fully trained soldiers, according to official figures – while the Royal Navy does not have enough sailors to man its fleet, including its new £6.2billion aircraft carriers. More people also left the Armed Forces last year than signed up to start military training.
While the trial will save the MoD money in wages and bonuses to troops on the frontline, defence insiders insist it is intended to solve family issues such as troops spending too much time apart from their partners and children.
Last night, one serving officer argued that such radical changes to
‘This will undermine our national defence’
the working practices of the Armed Forces were required to stem the tide of experienced and skilled personnel who are leaving the Services every year. He said: ‘If this scheme works, it will be immeasurably beneficial to the Armed Forces. We’re losing so many good people who would stay in if a bit of leeway and common sense was applied to their working arrangements. The tempo of operations and readiness targets are lower today than during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
‘So commanders can look ahead over the next 24 months and see who they really need to keep on the permanent staff and who can take a back seat for a while. If giving somebody a couple of years off operational commitments means they stay in the Armed Forces and are refreshed and fully charged again, that can only be good.
‘I just hope it is offered to the people who really need it most.’
The plan has been signed off by Defence Secretary Michael Fallon and Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Nick Carter.
They hope the trial will appeal to female personnel who consider military life with its rigid hours and lengthy overseas commitments to be entirely incompatible with raising a family.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said last night: ‘This pilot is part of a modern offer to help Britain’s world-class Armed Forces keep the broadest range of people and give them and their families the broadest service opportunities.’
AT FIRST sight the Ministry of Defence’s plan to allow the men and women of our Armed Forces to opt out of fighting duties looks like a satire on the modern world.
Even in this mealy mouthed age, the Armed Forces are paid to fight.
Think how such an arrangement will be viewed by the less relaxed nations who might one day be our foes on the battlefield. They will regard this as a sign that we have gone soft. It will encourage them to take aggressive risks.
There is also the issue of how those who cannot afford to opt out – and are wounded in combat – might view those who have taken a holiday from the battlefield and dodged danger. It can hardly be good for morale.
There is no doubt that the forces face a severe recruitment crisis. The opt-out is largely aimed at persuading good people to stay rather than quitting altogether.
But the roots of this go deep. British politicians like to boast about – and pose with – the military. They enjoy the prestige and glamour this gives to them.
Yet since the Cold War ended they have not been prepared to pay the high price for maintaining a modern and effective military. Relentless cuts have led to growing pressure and stress on long-serving officers and NCOs, the indispensable core of all three services.
And that in turn has led more of them to leave, making the problem worse.
This resort to a desperate measure is a clear sign these cuts have gone too far. Yet there is still time to rebuild the armed services before they are urgently needed.
When it comes to national defence, false economy, as we have learned often enough, is no economy at all.
SHORT HANDED? illustration showing HMs Queen Elizabeth sailing with an escort destroyer