On 3 November, the National Audit Office released its report about “Recruitment and Retention in the Armed Forces”. While most of the mainstream media used one finding of the report for the headlines – i.e. The Guardian's “Two-thirds of teenagers too fat to be soldiers” (3 November 2006), or the Daily Mail's “Army forced to admit clinically obese because of recruiting crisis” (2 November 2006) – peace activists should read this report very critically. The report gives us an idea to what length the Armed Forces will go in the future to fill their ranks – and what we need to respond to.
A new strategic focus for the peace movement? Let's start with the good news: presently, the Armed Forces are under-staffed: 5,170 soldiers short, which is 2.7%. However, this isn't much, and the report also states that all three services – army, navy, and air force – “have recruited 98 per cent of their targets for intake from civilian life” (page 2). My question is: why is this so, and what can we do to change that?