Army to relax security checks for recruits in diversity drive

Britain’s armed forces have consistently failed to hit recruitment targets
Britain’s armed forces have consistently failed to hit recruitment targets - Sgt Rupert Frere RLC
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The British Army wants to relax security checks for recruits from overseas to boost diversity and inclusion, The Telegraph can reveal.

Britain’s armed forces have consistently failed to hit recruitment targets and are looking overseas to boost ethnic minority representation, which currently stands at 14 per cent of the regular army.

A document leaked to this paper, titled The British Army’s Race Action Plan, notes that the Army “struggles to attract talent from ethnic minority backgrounds into the officer corps”.

Published in March 2023 and understood to be the latest guidance, it outlines a series of “actions” to boost representation and describes security clearance vetting as being “the primary barrier to non-UK personnel gaining a commission in the Army”.

It vows to “challenge SC [security clearance] requirements” to boost representation in the intelligence and officer corps, positions which have “uncontrolled access to secret assets”.

People from Commonwealth countries can serve in the British Army, however, the race plan notes that “There are only 131 [serving] non-UK regular officers” of which “28 were recorded as an ethnic minority” with the rest being white Irish or white Commonwealth.

Sir Richard Dearlove, who served as the head of MI6 between 1999 and 2004, said: “The evidence published today in The Telegraph, which apparently prioritises diversity, equality, and inclusion in matters of national security, is very worrying indeed. Effective security policies at whatever level they are applied simply do not allow for ‘politically correct’ soft edges.

“The fighting capability of our armed forces, already hollowed out as the Defence Select Committee recently documented, must not be further compromised by the over-application of DEI ideology. We are living in a world where the threat of war is getting closer.

“We give succour to our enemies if the concentration on the creation of an effective warrior mentality is not the primary objective of our navy, army and airforce.”

Mr Shapps is understood to be 'furious' about the findings
Mr Shapps is understood to be 'furious' about the findings - Rosie Hallam

In response to The Telegraph’s findings, Grant Shapps, the Defence Secretary, has ordered a root and branch review of diversity and inclusion policies in the Armed Forces.

Vetting processes required to become an officer in the Army include undergoing a baseline personnel security standard, counter-terrorism checks and security clearance vetting.

Security clearance is described as being “the most common type of vetting process and determines that a person’s character and personal circumstances are such that they can be trusted to work in a position that involves long-term, frequent, and uncontrolled access to secret assets.”

To gain security clearance, applicants “normally need to have been a UK resident for a minimum of 5 years”.

This requirement is described as “prohibitive to overseas recruits” who are looking to become officers because “failure to have the correct residency requirements for vetting processes omits personnel” from serving in a series of roles across the Intelligence Corps, Royal Military Police and Army Legal Services.

To combat the lack of non-UK representation in officer and intelligence ranks, the plan says: “Action: Challenge SC [security clearance] requirements in trades, identifying under which circumstances the rules and SC accreditation should be updated”.

The relaxed vetting policy for applicants from overseas has been criticised as “wicked” in an open letter to Mr Shapps, published in full in the Telegraph on Sunday, from 12 former senior military officers. “With Islamism and other extremism rampant, this [policy] is nothing short of dangerous madness,” they warn.

They add: “The Russians, Iranians and Chinese will be observing our descent into self-hatred and obsessing over diversity and inclusion with glee” and that “woke” defence policies are leading to a “moral disarmament” in the Armed Forces.

“Nothing could be better calculated to destroy the esprit de corps of our armed forces than this poisonous farrago of nonsense or to deter from serving the Crown precisely the type of people most motivated and apt to our high calling. Ours is a tolerant country and this obsessive racialising of everything is both disgusting and reprehensible,” they add.

The letter comes as General Sir Patrick Sanders, Chief of the General Staff and Head of the British Army, warned last month the Government must prepare to deploy a “citizen army” due to increasing threats to peace.

The Army’s Race Action Plan plan is part of a wider Ministry of Defence diversity push that has caused alarm among former defence chiefs.

Edward Stringer, a retired Air Marshal, said that while serving in the Royal Air Force, he raised concerns “at the highest levels”.

He told The Telegraph: “Good commanders have always valued diversity of thought, and that tends to come from a diversity of background.

“Making sure all voices can be confidently heard is a duty of military leadership: to create a genuinely meritocratic, inclusive environment where people can think critically, often under pressure.

“Identity politics can subvert this, inserting segregation into the team, and replacing critical thinking with critical theory.

“These concerns were raised at the highest level.”

Mr Shapps is understood to be “furious” about the findings and “ready to go to battle” on the matter.

“There are personnel issues that need addressing in the Armed Services but some of these policies are about a woke agenda and extreme critical race theories.

“These are leftist ideas that have leaked into the civil service and they are at best a distraction and at worst poisoning the wider discussion,” an MoD source said.

Responding to The Telegraph’s investigation, Admiral Lord West, a former First Sea Lord, said: “It is absolutely extraordinary, the self-inflicted damage that impacts on our Armed Forces from these deranged ideas.

“Our job is to protect our nation and our people from those who wish us harm. Anything else is a distraction.”

The Telegraph investigation has found that servicemen are told that they must complete mandatory unconscious bias training, are warned against “microaggressions” such as misusing people’s pronouns, and are encouraged to introduce their own pronouns.

Mr Shapps said: “I am ordering a review of diversity and inclusivity policy at the MoD.

“We want people from all backgrounds to serve in our military but some policies appear to be more about a political agenda than practically improving the lives of our dedicated soldiers and military personnel.

“There will certainly not be any lowering of security clearance requirements on my watch.

“And no one should be offended by having religion as part of remembrance services. You don’t have to be Christian to appreciate and respect the history and traditions of the United Kingdom.”

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