Like all government departments in the UK, the Ministry of Defense (MOD) has had its share of budget cuts. In order to reduce costs, the MOD has resorted to reduction in front line staff, delaying in development of its weapons, and mass redundancies with its so called softer areas – its civilian staff.
MOD's target for reduction in its civilian staff over the next 3 years is 25,000 employees. As part of this staff reduction program, MOD was hoping to make about 4,000 staff redundant this year. The MOD was pleasantly surprised when it received 8,000 voluntary applications for redundancies. Combination of a generous redundancy package and the fact that many of the civil servants are now beginning to accept the reality and want to move on, has doubled the expected take up. The MOD has now decided not to slow down and make 8,000 jobs redundant instead of the original budgeted 4,000 redundancies this year. While this inevitably helps the MOD to meet its targeted number of 25,000 in the next three years, a sudden surge in the number of redundancies and staff losses puts MOD in a tricky situation.
As majority of the job losses are in the back-offices, front line officers and heads of battalions in the armed services worry that some of the critical back-office functions may become understaffed. The unions have similar claims. They insist that it was only in May 2011, that the MOD assured that they would not increase redundancies from their target of 4,000 as it can impact their capability to support the front line forces. The latest u-turn by the MOD accepting 8,000 redundancy applications has taken front line forces and the unions by surprise.
To be fair to the MOD, it has insisted that the job losses would be carefully managed to ensure that none of the critical areas of support would be under-resourced. However, several union members have criticized the department saying that it lost its ability to cope with the financial pressures it is facing. They label is as "short-termism gone mad".
The MOD will always continue to be under close scrutiny by the general public. Criticism in the past such as inadequate support leading to deaths and injuries of front line staff has not helped the MOD. While the war in Iraq is over, dangers of escalation in Afghanistan and Libya remains a genuine concern for the MOD.
It will always be nice to have well-oiled defense machinery and removal of extra fat and overheads is always a welcome move. With 25,000 redundancies in the support staff – has MOD pushed this a bit too far? – Only time will tell.
Many people working in the civil services have secured their income by investing in short term income protection insurance policies or payment protection covers. Vast majority have also re-skilled themselves and are happy to take their redundancy packages and find themselves a new life.