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Diversity drive hinders British Army recruitment

The British Army is currently 7,500 short of its manpower requirements. Credit: Getty

February 26, 2024 - 4:25pm

At the weekend it was reported that the head of the British Army, General Sir Patrick Sanders, has suggested that the military is at risk of becoming a “static land force”. In a leaked letter Gen. Sir Patrick, the Chief of the General Staff, admitted that the Army’s “strategic resilience” is under threat, and that its capacity for overseas campaigns is now severely diminished. The reasons for this decline are largely self-inflicted.

It is bleak but not at all surprising that, in today’s climate, the Armed Forces appear unable to make even potentially sensible decisions except for trivial reasons — and in a way that fails to address the military’s real problems. 

Consider the recent furore over proposals, contained in another leaked document entitled “The British Army’s Race Action Plan”, to lower security vetting for overseas recruits in order to “attract talent from ethnic-minority backgrounds”.

This has rightly provoked huge concern among senior officers and intelligence chiefs, especially because the plan explicitly aims to reduce clearance requirements for roles with “uncontrolled access to secret assets” (i.e. intelligence).

Even more remarkable is that the generals are happy to lower standards in the name of diversifying the military — but not in the more pressing cause of making sure it can actually recruit enough soldiers.

This month, shortly after that story broke, we learned that the Armed Forces have rejected 24,000 applications from Commonwealth nationals in just five years, despite the Army being 7,500 troops short even of its current, inadequate manpower requirements.

While there is a huge range of potential reasons for an application to be rejected, one of the biggest barriers to recruiting Commonwealth nationals is security vetting. Because it is difficult to investigate potential recruits overseas, many roles require up to five-years’ residence in the United Kingdom before application.

In services such as the Royal Navy, this means in practice that very few roles (such as medical or catering) are actually open to Commonwealth nationals. Meanwhile the Army, which appears to receive the overwhelming share of applications, is hobbled by the imposition of a cap, across the Armed Forces, of 1,350 Commonwealth recruits per year.

One might expect Gen. Sir Patrick to see this as a golden opportunity — especially in light of his recent comments about the need for a mass “citizen army” to combat the threat posed by Russia. There would surely be sensible ways to adjust security vetting procedures to take advantage of this huge pool of willing recruits.

We might, for example, negotiate with our Five Eyes partners Australia, Canada and New Zealand to facilitate vetting in those countries. There are presumably such arrangements with the Republic of Ireland, whose citizens can serve in the Armed Forces and are not subject to the Commonwealth cap.

Given the sheer number of potential recruits, the Army could also look into setting up a specific formation, such as a Commonwealth regiment, which could be exempt from the cap and have extra safeguards in place to restrict access to sensitive intelligence and materials until soldiers have been properly assessed.

If the French can make a success of the Foreign Legion — whose equivalent requirement is “to be NOT wanted by Interpol (murders, drug trafficking, or other really serious crimes are NOT tolerated)” — then a mere regiment for Commonwealth soldiers ought to be perfectly manageable. 

Instead, Britain seems to be getting the worst of both worlds: lower standards for access to highly sensitive positions within the Armed Forces, but none of the potential advantages in terms of overall recruitment. 

Gen. Sir Patrick won’t bend the rules to enhance the fighting effectiveness of the Armed Forces and meet the challenge to British security he sees in Russia — but will sign off on such a move purely to diversify the ranks we already have. By now, it should be clear where his priorities lie.


Henry Hill is Deputy Editor of ConservativeHome.

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Roddy Campbell
Roddy Campbell
4 months ago

Currently it looks as though the Army is being run by people whose mission is to weaken Britain’s military capability to defend our country.

That is certainly the most reasonable explanation of what’s going on.

Arthur King
Arthur King
4 months ago
Reply to  Roddy Campbell

Who knows how many are getting money from China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, etc. Right across The West do many decisions are made which run contrary to the national interests of western nations. During The Cold War the Soviets had their hooks into so many places that it is not a stretch to speculate that Russia and others have bought people in places of influence.

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
4 months ago
Reply to  Roddy Campbell

According to Robert Conquets’s three laws of politics, you could be correct:

Everyone is conservative about what he knows best.Any organization not explicitly right-wing sooner or later becomes left-wing.The simplest way to explain the behavior of any bureaucratic organization is to assume that it is controlled by a cabal of its enemies.

Matt M
Matt M
4 months ago

Mr Hill: I would love for you to investigate the story of “Christian Craighead”, the SAS soldier who killed the terrorists freed all those hostages in the DusitD2 complex in Nairobi. He was refused permission to publish the story of his actions by the Sec State for Defence on the grounds that it would ‘that publication would harm morale and would damage relations between the UKSF and other states’.
This is despite the story being very well known by now and Craighead being willing to obscure any operational details that might be classified.
What seems very strange to me, and why I post this here, is that Craighead’s story is so dramatic and heroic that it would be the best recruiting tool the British Army could possibly hope for. It would almost certainly be made into a blockbuster film and young men would be queuing around the block to sign up to join the infantry.
So why the reluctance? Surely they could have vetted anything sensitive and then leaned into the process. It is a mystery to me. I can’t help but wonder whether there is some sensitivity to the idea of a white man saving hundreds of black civilians and shooting black terrorists. Surely that can’t be it but then what is the reason?

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
4 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

Make a wild guess.

Matt M
Matt M
4 months ago
Reply to  Jerry Carroll

It would be very depressing if it was MoD wokery at the heart of this.

R Wright
R Wright
4 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

“I can’t help but wonder whether there is some sensitivity to the idea of a white man saving hundreds of black civilians and shooting black terrorists. Surely that can’t be it”
That is it. To a diverse army recruiter he may as well have been wearing a pith helmet.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
4 months ago

We are being led by the least capable among us, people who are captured to a color-coded system at the expense of merit. A mediocrasy, if you will, that is completely ignorant of the military’s function.
Meanwhile, the less trusting side of me sees the Race Action Plan and its plan to “attract talent from ethnic-minority backgrounds” as a means of govt assembling a private army with no affinity or connection to either the citizenry or the country it ostensibly represents. It’s like hiring mercenaries. Imagine that as our burgeoning police states become more and more entrenched.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
4 months ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Meanwhile, the less trusting side of me sees the Race Action Plan and its plan to “attract talent from ethnic-minority backgrounds

Yeah, no way ethnic minorities can be loyal to the UK. That’s impossible, right?

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
4 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

I believe Alex is referring to the ages-old practice of employing foreign mercenaries to quell domestic uprisings.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
4 months ago

It seems to me to be fascist in the most basic sense of the term to simultaneously want to make exceptions to immigration/recruitment policies to staff the military and blame wider tolerance/adaptation for immigration for its underperformance.

Peter B
Peter B
4 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Please give your definition of “fascist”. It’s a term that’s casually thrown around without any clear definition.
Isn’t the word you’re really looking for here “hypocritical” ?

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
4 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

It’s simple. Anti-liberal, natural social hierarchy but with exceptions made due to supremacy of military needs. It obviously isn’t the whole creed but ticks a few of the boxes.
We’re told endlessly on this site that limiting immigration is the will of the people etc. but the article advocates subverting that for the purposes of the military.

Peter B
Peter B
4 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

That’s a very broad definition ! Anyone who’s not “liberal” then ?
I’m just remembering that Lenin and co were viciously anti-liberal in their day. So they are too ?
Did Adolf and Benito come from some natural social hierarchy ?

R Wright
R Wright
4 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Orwell used to mock people like you

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
4 months ago
Reply to  R Wright

I know but I’m at peace with being a sandal-wearing secret teetotaller with vegetarian leanings.

Albert McGloan
Albert McGloan
4 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Oi, not all of us sandal-wearing, sober, animal-&-tree huggers are poncy leftists.

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
4 months ago

“There are presumably such arrangements with the Republic of Ireland, whose citizens can serve in the Armed Forces and are not subject to the Commonwealth cap.“

I had a look at this and numbers of ROI recruits to all UK forces is below 100 per annum. Why would a country which contains a large proportion of people still hostile to what they see as former colonial overlords be the solution to the UK’s recruitment problems. Cloud cuckoo land.

Gerry Quinn
Gerry Quinn
4 months ago

The author was just suggesting that a similar arrangement would be useful for citizens of Commonwealth countries.

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
4 months ago
Reply to  Gerry Quinn

Yes, fair point and in fact I agree. Does seem odd that the UK has such an arrangement with ROI.

Gerry Quinn
Gerry Quinn
4 months ago

The author was just suggesting that a similar arrangement would be useful for citizens of Commonwealth countries.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
4 months ago

The wave of explicit anti-whiteness in the Anglosphere just now will have long-term consequences for military fitness. The US is lowering its physical and mental standards because of the shortfall in recruitments in the southern states, where white males have traditionally been the backbone of all the services. These want nothing to do with a military where men who occupy high rank wear skirts to work and pronoun enforcement in drilled into heads..

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
4 months ago

The Royal Marines are putting out excellent videos.
Royal Marines | Forging the Arctic Commando (youtube.com)
11min17- go heavy on fight phase
11min 50 causing absolut mayhem
13 min 20 as a commando cause damage an exciting propect.
Counter Piracy and Pilot Rescue | Royal Marines (youtube.com)
The RMC do not have a problem attracting people who wish to join : I wonder why ?

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
4 months ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

Quite – but are they not suffering a shortage of bandsmen?

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
4 months ago

I don’t see the problem. All those millions who are pouring into Britain should be drafted into the armed forces to fight Britain’s wars.

Three cheers for diversity! 😉 😉 😉

Hip hip …..
HOORAY!

Hip hip …..
HOORAY!

Hip hip …..
HOORAY!

Steve Farrell
Steve Farrell
4 months ago

Why are british institutions unable to act logically?

Charlie Two
Charlie Two
4 months ago

Patrick Sanders is an imbecile. he was the author of all this wokist tripe and was an LGBTQTSF+++&*&8spirit ally i.e a careerist b&stard that put his own wellbeing before his country.