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Army's Cyber Skills Shortfall Alarms MPs

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) does not fully understand the causes or impact of skills gaps in critical areas like cybersecurity and has no clear vision on how to reduce these gaps in the future, a damning Commons report has concluded.

The Public Accounts Committee’s Skills shortages in the Armed Forces report revealed that last year the MoD had 102 “trades” where there were insufficient numbers of skilled personnel available. This included a 26% shortfall in intelligence analysts.

What’s more, the number of forces regulars describing morale as “low” has increased from a third in 2010 to 67%.

“The Department has not developed a coherent plan to close the shortfalls and respond to new requirements, or undertaken a strategic analysis of its ability to attract and keep the skilled personnel it needs,” the report claimed.

“A challenging external environment, including national skill shortages in areas such as engineering, means that the Department faces strong competition from other government bodies and the private sector to recruit specialist skills. There could also be an impact on the Armed Forces should Brexit further increase demand for scarce skills in the UK.”

The PAC said the MoD is currently developing “a new long-term career structure” for those in cyber-related positions, which involves “reviewing the entry requirements and considering whether these posts need to be military roles.”

However, it has still not thought radically enough about how to recruit people with specialist skills, and should think about using financial incentives, flexing entry requirements and re-designating roles as well as overcoming procedural barriers to accelerate the process, it claimed.

The committee also urged the MoD to modernize its recruitment process, having failed to meet targets for the past three years.

“The Department should ensure that its skills strategy sets out a credible approach to increasing interest in a career in the Armed Forces from among a broader base of society,” it said. “This should also include a communications plan—based on research—to generate interest from more diverse groups in society and from among those who have previously served in the Armed Forces.”

In January, the head of the British army called for more cash to help counter the cyber-threat from Russia.

Meanwhile, a new tech non-profit launched earlier this year to encourage Armed Forces vets to take up positions in the IT industry, to help reduce skills shortages in the private sector. 

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