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& Bullets

Musings on the worlds of aviation, military and international affairs.


With reviews of books that cover these topics


A document closes for consultation at the end of this week: “Future Reserves 2020.” It considers the place (alongside the rebranding) of the TA and all the other reserve forces, after the latest defence review, and in the context of the Future Reserves report published in 2011 by a commission comprising one MP and two senior officers.

Morale in the reserves has been battered; numbers have fallen from 69,100 in 1980 to 29,291 currently. The consultation document suggests rebuilding to 44,450 by 2020 of which the ‘trained strength’ would be 34,900.


The 2011 report noted that:

the Territorial Army is still structured for large scale intervention operations. We have not fully re-assessed the utility of Reserves in the context of Homeland Security, UK Resilience, wider specialist capabilities such as stabilisation and cyber, and as a formal mechanism for regeneration.


By 2015, the trained strength of the Reserves should be: Royal Navy Reserves/Royal Marine Reserves 3,100; Territorial Army 30,000 and Royal Auxiliary Air Force 1,800. Thereafter the size of the Reservist component should increase further to maximise the cost effectiveness of having a larger Reserve component within the Whole Force. The Commission’s view is that, in the future, the trained strength of the Army – Regular and Reserve – should be about 120,000. [this target would not appear to be met by the aspirations of the latest document]


First, the overall size of the Reserve component has been steadily reducing – both in

absolute terms and as a proportion of the overall force structure. For example, the TA

was 76,0006 strong in 1990, yet some estimates put its trained and active strength as

low as 14,000 today.


b. Second, the Reserve component is getting older. The Regular Army is a predominantly

young force, under the age of 30; not so the TA. This is particularly true of the officer

ranks, the majority of whom are over 40. The ability to attract and retain young officers

is one of the greatest concerns of all our Reserve Forces.


c. Third, the overall Reservist Proposition has markedly declined. This is manifest in many

ways: a failure to resource recruiting and good training, especially collective training;

to offer career progression; to update operational roles; to permit deployment in

formed sub-units and therefore offer command opportunities. Such factors have been

compounded by the imposition of recruiting ceilings and greatly reduced activity and

marketing budgets. The net result is a Reserve of declining morale, uncertain as to its

role and the fairness of the Proposition it is offered.



Against an establishment of some 37,000, recent work indicates a TA trained strength of

about 20,000, but the active trained strength may be as low as 14,000. Current forecasts

see the TA ageing and reducing to potentially unsustainable levels by 2015.

31. The shortfalls in Junior Officer (ie Captain and below) manning are particularly acute,

hampered by under-resourced recruiting and lack of clarity over the TA’s purpose.

Satisfaction has been affected by failures to deliver the Reservist Proposition for officers.”



In the Autumn 2012 issue of the British Army Review,  Maj Gen KD Abraham asserts, regarding the  Reserves Commission’s target of a  30,000 headcount:


"what is new though, and constitutes an important challenge in consequence for the Army 2020 project, is the structural reliance of the future army on collective contributions from the Reserve and the associated demands of generating time and resource to train them collectively ".

Reserves 2020

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