British armed forces lack IT professionals, report MPs

Army tank

The UK parliament's Public Accounts Committee has said that the armed forces need to take on more cyber specialists to plug a growing skills gap.

The report, titled "Skill shortages in the Armed Forces", said that not only was there a shortfall in IT specialists but in general there were shortages in 102 trades across the three armed forces as well as an annual turnover of personnel nearing 15% in five important trades.

It said that while the Ministry of Defence has introduced a range of initiatives to help address the shortfalls, and developed a new career structure for cyber specialists, these initiatives have been small-scale or are still under development. It noted that the MoD has "recruited only 50 people through its lateral entry' (direct recruitment into more senior roles) schemes".

"The Department has not developed a coherent plan for closing the existing skill gaps and securing the new skills that it will need. It has relied too much on long-established and conservative approaches and has been slow to respond to the changing external environment," the report warned.

The report questioned whether the MoD's approach to recruitment was radical enough to fill the skill shortages in a rapidly changing external environment; for example, for cyber skills professionals.

"The Department is developing a new long-term career structure specifically in this field, reviewing the entry requirements and considering whether these posts need to be military roles. It is also seeking to ensure that its IT business is properly organised and is working with the Cabinet Office on its digital, data and technology (DDaT) initiative, which provides some flexibilities on levels of pay it can offer," it said.

Rene Millman

Rene Millman is a freelance writer and broadcaster who covers cybersecurity, AI, IoT, and the cloud. He also works as a contributing analyst at GigaOm and has previously worked as an analyst for Gartner covering the infrastructure market. He has made numerous television appearances to give his views and expertise on technology trends and companies that affect and shape our lives. You can follow Rene Millman on Twitter.