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Regular v Reserve Costs


Slipped out without a great deal of fanfare in March.

From the MoD;

The cost comparison analysis looked at 5 types of army regular and reserve sub-units. It identified the cost of ownership and use of these sub-units which enabled the different costs between the regulars and reserves to be better understood. The reports purpose was not to investigate their relative effectiveness on operations with regards to training standards and readiness states.

Click the image to read in full

FireShot Capture - Cost comparison analysis of army regula_ -


An excellent read

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18 Responses

  1. Very interesting. I think there is a challenge when it comes to reserve recruitment. You might recruit, especially in London, some very well salaried and heeled chaps and chapettes from good jobs who fill your nominal roll nicely in peacetime, but suddenly become effectively undeployable during mobilisation as they cost an enormous amount of money via their Reservist Award.

  2. Phil: I must admit I’m not aware of anyone who was on the way to mobilisation only to be told “sorry, we’ve decided not to send you because it would cost too much to pay your Reservist Award” but maybe this has happened?
    The award is capped, in any case, at £548 a day. It’s not like they’re mobilising bond traders and paying them £1.5 million a year or something. (And note that it costs about £1 million to sustain a single soldier for a year in Afghan anyway, just in fuel and food and transport and so on. If it costs £1 million for a normal Tom, and £1.05 million for Rupert the mobilised bank executive, I can’t see it making much strategic difference.)

  3. The “effectively undeployable” reservists IME are not undeployable because it would cost too much to pay their RAs. They’re undeployable because their parent units have been cuffing them through their MATTs for the last ten years and concealing the fact that they are grossly unfit and under-skilled, in order that their trained strength should look merely poor, rather than disastrous, right up to the point where they turn up at Chilwell and fail the eight-miler.

  4. I have never seen such a self serving collection of assumptions and conclusions. For example on the “training” and “readiness” of reserves. It is assumed that reservists with the same 6mth pre deployment training will be as trained and effective as full time solidiers in the same role. The report specificaly states that it is not drafted or considered the “effectiveness” and “deployability” of reserve forces.
    Yet to get to the costings that show the savings they allege they allow the Army to get away with reservists only getting about 25 to 15% of training budget of full time equivalents. The report itself states “no effort has been made to investigate their relative effectiveness on operations as a function of differant training standards and rediness states”.
    It also makes the assumption that each reserve unit will be able to deploy it’s complete contigient when it is known that getting a 33% deployment rate from reservists when needed is going well. To compare the cost of 2 Reservist Sub Units to 1 Regular is completely incorrect, as it should be nearer to a 1 Regular to 6 reservist units to deply in a 10year period to have the same number of troops available.
    I have heard enough mumblings from good old squaddies about the fact that the reservists who are supposed to back fill units either don’t turn up for overseas training deployments and when they do they are not certified or trained on half the equipement.
    The fact is yes a 7.5 tonne box van is cheaper to run than a 44tonne artic, but the 7.5t is pretty useless when you need to shift a 25 tonne lump of machinery.
    Reports like this proliferate in the MOD to justify what senior military personel have talked politicians in to. When tested it suprising how quickly the system falls apart. The reserve system being used in Army 2020 is unworkable and dangerous, unfortunately two common problems are occuring here, 1. there are lies, damn lies and then statistics and 2. The emporour has got no closes on.
    Anybody who takes the time to read these types of reports and more imprtantly the appendices and caveats that frame there conclusions as do other military leaders in the US and France come to conclusion that British Armed forces are no longer worth the paper they are written on. Which is why the US is screaming at British Generals to start telling the truth rather than taking cover behind reports such as this one.
    In the end it is the bloody soldiers who will pay the price, with the trust between Senior MOD/Army personel and their political masters being broken for a generation.
    The first step in correcting a problem is admitting you have a problem in the first place, at 82,000 strong the Army can not do what is asked of it, yet nobody will tell Politicians the truth until they retire. Some honesty and truth to the public, that nope we can’t do Gulf War 1 or Gulf War 2 anymore, we’d struggle to do a Falklands now would go a long way to reinstating some belief in the Generals rather than the complete appethy the General Public hold the armed forces in now.

  5. “The Ginge” makes some very valid points, and having quickly read through it, I agree that it is not worth the paper it is written on. Why does a Regular need 4 months pre-deployment training, when a Reservist only needs 3. Paragraph 6 on Page 1 should be in “bold, underlined” and in a font about 4 times the rest of the document: “Whilst this paper highlights the relative cost difference between Regular and Reserve Sub-Units, no effort has been made to investigate their relative effectiveness on operations as a function of both different training standards and readiness states.”
    It pretty much sums it up, yes it is cheaper to use Reservists, but don’t expect them to be as good. Isn’t that the same through life, you don’t buy a “spanner” from the pound shop if you want it to be used every day for the next 5 years. You get it from “Snap-On” kn owing that it will still be as good in 5 years time even if you do use it every day !
    Similarly whilst they take into account the costs of “infrastructure”, no mention is made for the cost of the “physical” assets that come with “Part Numbers”, ie guns, vehicles, etc. You still need to buy them, maintain them, and they do depreciate over a period of time.
    I would love to read the brief that DSTL were given before they wrote the paper. Perhaps it was along the lines of :- Do me a study that shows Regulars are expensive, and that we can get away with Reservists. Note, that if it looks to be the other way round, just say you did bother to look at it, as figures were not available for a like for like comparison. Complete white-wash.

  6. @a

    I know a couple of people who were told as such toward the end of HERRICK when the Army could be more picky. There were more who were de-selected and suspected this might be the case. I think it still stands tho that if you join an infantry company as a private and you’re a solicitor on £100K+ a year then don’t hold out your hopes of getting sent when there’s other cheaper blokes – it’s common sense. If you have Tom A and Tom B with in-theory the same skillset as a rifleman and Tom A costs £78K in wages and Tom B costs you the same as their rank in the regular Army then you’re going to mobilise the cheaper chap. Admittedly I doubt there’s that many but in London I suspect a large proportion of reservists will get more than their Army pay as this study seems to show.

    The fat and useless old and bold TA centre door shaggers is a whole other story…

  7. @The Ginge

    If its so unworkable why has it been the model for every other serious Army in the world for over 100 years?

  8. Umm…just thinking out loud and being prepared to be screamed at….but as an outsider looking in….hasn’t the DSTL paper delivered exactly what the Senior Brass want. I say that in terms of costs vs manpower…..hence why not simply fill the reserves with cheaper ‘logistics functions’ and keep more of the ‘real cash’ for the front line Army.

    I don’t wish to sound overly cynical but I wonder if the post-Afghan model is the one the Brass really want followed – a large(ish) core of well trained, well equipped, combat-ready troops with the ‘Bits of the Army (Other Units and Reserves)’ to fill in as required (managing on the resources available) once the ‘Well Trained etc’ Army have had their fill.

  9. Thinking v much on the same lines as @gunnerbear.

    Let’s say we will have 5 bdes: 2 out of the 3 in RF, 16X beefed up with a Commando or two, plus one put together according to what happens the be the rotation within the AF.

    We can give engineer support to 3, ratio with loggies is even worse? Filling up CSS with a high proportion of reservists sounds to me like money well spent.

  10. The paper is a paper. I think it very clearly acknowledges its own limitations and is a decent piece of research as a result. It’s open about methodology and is reflexive in nature. It’s very much worth the paper it is written on. How else would anyone be able to argue anything about the relative costs without research similar to this?

  11. Phil,
    Whilst the paper is “well written” and clearly lays out the methodology and assumptions, the issue will be that the thing will not be shown as a whole. It will be either poorly précised or cherry picked. Some-one will state that a paper, prepared by DSTL, the respected government backed research agency, concluded that it was cheaper to have an army made up of reservists rather than regulars.

  12. If the paper found that reserves were more expensive, would you agree with it?

  13. @Phil
    Most major Armies for the last 100 years have had conscription. Conscripts are not only cheap ,they are normally paid a pittance, but also provide a large more or less trained reserve. Volunteer Reserves are a completely different matter. First you have little control over numbers or even which units they join. How long they remain and it takes time to get them up to a reasonable state of training.
    As a matter of interest what’s happened to the Regular Reserve? At one time, (the Cold War), they were considered an important source of reinforcements.

  14. Dear all

    Although I am completely an outsider, I read this report and found:

    – The existence of document itself: Brilliant. : Very impressive document, with clarified limitation and quantitative results combined with uncertainties also clearly documented.

    – My impression reading the document (1): Reserve units is “very expensive” : They need more than 2/3 cost of a regular unit to provide “the same number of troops on theater”, with “significantly less training and skills, as is clearly noted”. (For example, average training cost of Armoured Sqn is less than half of a single regular unit for two reserve units, which means short of 1/4 per each unit in the latter case)

    – My impression 2: Only light roll, such as PKO of UN or logistics supports shall be good for reserve units: Even with less training skill, if the theater has less risk, only showing the flag = number of personnel is important, reserves can do it “a little” efficiently (= ~30% less cost) than regulars. If skills are needed, of course NOT. It will just risk your personels and it will “cost” Britain a lot, which is also clearly noted in the document that it is NOT estimated here.

    P.S. We don’t have these report public in Japan. I think this is very good of British military atmosphere (or heritage).

  15. @Whitelancer

    Why are they different? I’d argue they are very similar. You’re talking about integrating part time soldiers instead of ex-soldiers who have done effectively no training. It’s no different from the Reserve battalions in 1914. And it is what the US military has done for decades with very little difference.

    Fact is you only have to be at a basic standard before going to PDT to build up. Nobody is expecting these reservists to leap from their jobs into the front line except in the case of selected HRR reservists.

    I’ve yet to see any compelling and realistic arguments about why integrating reserves with regular forces is a flawed idea. I just read reactionary knee-jerks.

  16. A great deal of the cost argument rests on the assumption that a regular unit can give you twelve months’ deployed service every five years, while a reserve unit can give you only six months’ deployed service every five years.
    This doesn’t seem to be based on recent operational experience or the plan for Army 2020 as described in the press. The Reaction Force brigades are supposed to be able to provide a year of operational service every three years, for example, and the Reserves have been warned off that one mobilisation (six months deployed) every three years should be something that they plan for.
    On the other hand, for the Regulars to spend twelve months every five years deployed would I think represent an increase even from the pace in the mid-2000s, which was widely thought not to be sustainable. The Coldstreams, for example, did two HERRICK tours and one TELIC tour between 2003 and 2013. That’s a lot of operations! But it still only makes up a year and a half in ten years. This paper reckons they could have squeezed in another tour somewhere along the way.
    The three Fusiliers battalions between them did six battalion-scale deployments over the same period in Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s only one year per battalion per decade. (There were three other company-level deployments over that period too, but still – that’s still the equivalent of just seven battalion-tours over ten years, when according to this maths they should have been generating twelve.)
    And so on.

  17. “If you have Tom A and Tom B with in-theory the same skillset as a rifleman and Tom A costs £78K in wages and Tom B costs you the same as their rank in the regular Army then you’re going to mobilise the cheaper chap.”

    Yes, I can believe that happens. But that doesn’t make the more expensive Tom “effectively undeployable”, though. It makes him “likely to be deployed only as a second choice if the cheaper Tom can’t go or if you need both of them” which is a very different thing. Every reserve unit will have some soldiers it would less soon deploy than others, for all sorts of reasons: they’re needed as instructors or something in the home unit, or they’ve got a small child, or their skill level isn’t great, or their civi job might make trouble or whatever. Doesn’t make them “effectively undeployable”.

  18. Dear All
    Having read all the comments, the fundamental difference as I understand it between the Army2020 model and previous reserve units used by us and other countries is the fact that the paired reserve battalion provides sub units that become part of the parent battalion. So as an example 1st Battalion Royal Anglians has 3rd PWRR Reserve Unit paired with it. If 1 RAng have to deploy into a high-end War fighting Scenario they depend on 3rd PWRR to supply key man power and combat units to make the Battalion effective and deployable. We are asking the reserves of 3rd PWRR to click into a unit with less training, less long term fitness and minimal inter battalion training.

    Now I don’t doubt that any Reserve Unit will try it’s best, but the fact remains you can not ask somebody to walk out at Wembley and play for England whilst you have give them the practice and training of Colchester United of League 1.

    It just doesn’t happen, that person may have the ability if trained and the will to play at Wembley but as he/she has not been given the level of training needed it isn’t going to happen. Thus, a number of key skills are not provided the Battalion is not truly raised from about 450 in the light Infantry Role to 650 to deploy because you can not rely on

    1) having all of the extra 200 being available,

    2) Being qualified and trained on the kit they need to use,

    3) The right 200 extra staff available

    4) Even being able to commit to the peacetime training regime, especialy overseas training in Kenya/Canada. This leads to inefectual Regular Battalions, Resentment from Regular Troops who rely on people who just can’t do the job.

    The point of my earlier comment was to point out that whilst Reservists do a hell of a job, they can not as is being experianced right across the Army slot in next to full-time soldiers, especially in areas such as Infantry and Armoured Arena without a lot more training,

    The ultimate point being would it not make much more sense for the Army to admit with 82,000 full time regulars we can generate and support x number of fully staffed Infantry Battalions, X Armoured Cav/Tank etc, put them in Regiments of 3 Battalions then form Reserve Units that are the carry on after the initial 18mth of deployments troops to provide long term numbers, hence giving them at least 6 to 12mths to train and prepare. Rather than at the moment where we have guys expected to be deployable whilst still working full time. Just can’t see how it can work.

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