Britain's National Audit Office (NAO) has revealed that the United Kingdom's armed forces are facing both a shortage of personnel and members skilled in crucial areas that are likely to persist for years. The UK military can currently field 137,300 trained personnel which is 8,200 below the requirements based on its 2015 Strategic Defense and Security Review, representing the largest such gap for a decade.
The NAO's report further added that more critical shortages exist in the levels of highly skilled personnel such as engineers, intelligence experts and pilots. The skills shortage is forcing the military to place greater pressure on regular recruits to fulfil vital functions which, NAO stipulates, will not be viable in the long-term.
"Ensuring the Armed Forces have the right number of skilled personnel in place is not a new challenge, but given the complexity and development of new, modern-world threats, it is a challenge that will only continue to grow. The Department needs to fundamentally change its approach to develop skilled personnel and address the long-established shortfalls that persist," said NAO head Amyas Morse in a statement accompanying the report's release.
Britain's military has undergone deep budget cuts in recent years which have raised the ire of key defense sector voices warning they may prevent the UK to properly project hard power abroad, especially in relation to the use of its naval forces.
Any reversal of budget cuts may also be compounded by the need to spend greater amounts after Britain exits the European Union in 2019 as it will no longer be a party to the bloc's common defense and foreign policy architecture.