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Tuesday, 19 February, 2002, 11:20 GMT
Defence proposals: Should volunteers be used?
Territorial Army volunteers could guard key installations against terrorist attack under proposals being considered by the Ministry of Defence.

Defence officials recognise that if British soldiers are to be deployed abroad, pursuing the war on terror, radical thinking is needed about how to best organise and equip them.

Officials have also been considering the implications for "homeland defence" if increasingly more time is to be spent away from base.

Extra police patrols since 11 September have already stretched the Met's budgets, particularly in London where there are a large a number of potential targets.

Are Territorial Army volunteers the key to "homeland defence"? Who should protect our cities?

This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

The difference between the T.A and the regular army is just like the difference between a part-time secretary and a full-time secretary. What I'm saying is that both do the same things. The TA are trained the same as the regular army, the only difference is that the Army are trained on a more regular basis. I think these plans are a great idea.
Sam Millatt, England

We should be making use of them

Chris, UK
I see no reason why these soldiers should not be used. Doesn't professional mean being paid for services rendered? These men and women are actually paid and trained to do a job; we should be making use of them.
Chris, UK

The general public has no knowledge of the real skill level of the TA - You can tell by these comments - "Dads Army" is no more. The Lads and Lasses have to be able to do the same job as the regulars while keeping their full-time jobs. They go on tours to Bosnia and Kosovo, and junior TA leaders even find themselves in charge of regular soldiers. Can the TA provide an effective internal defence for this country? Undoubtedly yes. Should the TA provide defence for this country? That's a matter for the politicians. The TA never did take part in Northern Ireland - so should they really be used in this instance?
Will Mann, UK

The British armed forces are the best in the world and this includes the TA. I am quite comfortable that they have the knowledge, skill and dedication to perform any task given to them.
John Atkins, England

This was a very low cost operation that became a victim of service cuts

Tony Peck, Canada
About 5 years ago the Government the UK Government disbanded the Home Service Force which had been raised specifically to carry our protection of Key Points (nuclear power stations, seat of regional government etc) in the UK in times of hostility. As a former member I can vouch for the professionalism and depth of experience of this so called "Dad's Army" who came from all areas of the services. This was a very low cost operation that became a victim of service cuts. Is this a case of deja vu?
Tony Peck, Canada

While its true that the TA are not professionals, the fact that they are part of the army, one of the highest trained in the world assures me that there shall be nothing to worry about.
Brendan Savage, NI, UK

For too long cutting defence budgets has been seen as an easy way for the Government to get more money for other areas. This has led to the current shortages of soldiers and equipment. Using the TA is a short term solution to a long term problem If we need more troops then we should recruit more and pay for more with a defence increase. Tony, stop trying to do this on the cheap. The TA are great for their specific role but including them in the long term plans for the countries ongoing defence is ludicrous.
Ollie J, UK

Some countries have most of their armed forces run by volunteers

J Armfelt, Finland
Some countries have most of their armed forces run by volunteers, so there's nothing really new in this proposal. If these men are properly trained, as they should be, they will be as effective as regular troops.
J. Armfelt, Finland

I am a TA soldier who is married to a regular soldier. I have also served along side my regular counterparts in Bosnia. Whilst I quite agree that in a lot of aspects we don't match up to the regular soldiers in other aspects I believe we far outshine our regular counterparts. Not only do TA soldiers train on a regular basis but we also bring with us a wealth of other skills. I would also like to point out that the majority of doctors and nurses in the TA are doctors and nurses in their civilian lives, likewise the Royal Signals recruits a lot of people with telecommunications expertise etc not forgetting the amount of regular soldiers who leave and then join the TA. I fail to see how these people can be regarded as "amateurs". By utilising the TA more and more it will give regular soldiers more free time instead of the continuous back to back six month tours that they and their families have to endure.
Jo, UK

Is anyone taking account of the fact that a lot of the TA will have to be released by employers from full-time jobs and the effect that this will have on the employers and employees alike.
Paul Richardson, England

Firstly lets tackle this notion that the TA are amateurs. This may have been true some years ago, but not now and the members of this force should now be rightfully outraged by some of the comments here.

Having said that I feel that the government and the people of the UK should now realize what an important role the military forces play as an ongoing responsibility, not just during conflicts. As an ex-member of the Royal Navy I have seen the working conditions deteriorate, morale be chiselled away and with this recruitment has dropped dramatically. The forces in general are now doing far more, with less people and equipment than at any other time in recent history. Is it any wonder retention of some of the most valuable members of the forces, those with 5-7 years experience and training, is also at an all time low.

By all means use the resources that the TA can provide as a stopgap, but please please treat the regular forces right and make it a career to be proud of.
James Jeffrey, US, but English

The TA and the army are in completely different leagues

Gavin Male, London, UK
The TA are amateurs. I would not feel comfortable knowing that they are our backbone and the defence of our nation. The army needs to go on a proper full force recruitment drive to solve this problem. The TA and the army are in completely different leagues.
Gavin Male, London, UK

I take it that Gavin Male failed the selection for the TA then! Having served with both the TA and regular forces in a front line role I can tell you that the modern TA are not in a different league. It is most definitely not a walk in the park. As with most thing the TA does give them a role and they will shine at it. Remember the TA are also civilians and have the ability to see the wider picture. This is surely better for a role that will require a lot more thought than standard army work.

Why do we need the military to guard areas within the UK? It will be terrible to see soldiers running around all the time - that is what one expects in third world countries, not here. The idea that we should use the TA is crazy - Dad's Army guys around a nuclear installation would really worry me.
Tom Groves, England

It seems Johnny K in London is a little short on facts, calling the TA a "Good hobby for millitary groupies" is not just incorrect it is offensive to people like my self and my brother who between us have 30 odd years service to the Queen and our Country as well both having a full time jobs, are members of the RNLI sailing groupies? Are Special Constables Police groupies? We all put our spare time into the TA and are ready and willing to defend our country as and when called upon, part timers yes, amatures certainly not.
Michael, UK

I believe this is a way for the government to achieve something on the cheap using second class resources. I would not feel safe with the TA protecting me. Be honest, the TA is a good hobby for military groupies who are not good enough to meet the required standards of a modern day soldier. If the job is real, then use real soldiers.
Johnny K, London

Of course they are the key to our defence. Isn't that their job? Joining the TA should not be a walk in the park.
Chris Gower, London, England

As with so many aspects of British business and government, anything to avoid actually having to pay the correct price for the job. London has around half of the police officers that New York has, the government has tried to do it for free and failed. Now it wants to try to do it on the cheap with the TA. If this country really wants to not only feel safe but actually be safe it needs to spend more on defence and policing. The TA is reasonably well trained to back up the army in war, but I doubt that it is currently trained or motivated to guard fences.
Barry P, England

See also:

14 Feb 02 | UK Politics
TA could guard terror targets
25 Oct 01 | England
Met police 'close to bankruptcy'

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