Philip Hammond aims to give TA greater stature and considers incentives for 'patriotic' companies that employ reservists
Thousands of former soldiers, including those who have just been made redundant, are to be targeted to join the Territorial Army (TA) as part of controversial plans to reduce the size of the UK's full-time force in favour of the reserves, the government will announce on Thursday.
Ministers are also considering giving kitemarks to reward "patriotic" companies that employ reservists and make it easy for them to be deployed, a green paper will say.
The proposals are all part of the restructuring of the British army, which is being cut in numbers by a fifth to 82,000.
To help offset the reduction, the Ministry of Defence intends to boost the number of reserves from 18,000 to 30,000 by 2020 – it is spending £1.8bn over the next decade providing new equipment, training and uniforms for the part-timers. Ministers are keen to rebrand the reserves to give them more stature.
To ensure the recruits are high quality, the army wants to encourage some of the 18,000 soldiers who leave the service every year to come back into the military fold with the TA.
"At the moment we do not know where they go or what they do after they leave the army," said a source. "So we need to look at providing incentives for them to become reservists."
In a speech on Thursday, Philip Hammond, the defence secretary, will say the reserves have "for too long been the forgotten part of our armed forces" and there needs to be a radical shift in the way they are treated and used.
"Over the last two decades, our reserves have fought alongside their regular colleagues, in the Balkans, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, taking the same risks, making the same sacrifice, decorated with the same honours and deserving the same recognition … they have been stretched, but have risen to the challenges they have been set."
Hammond, who hopes to rename the TA the "Army Reserve", will say the military is "looking for people who are going to turn out when they're required to turn out, who are going to do the training they need to do and who are available for deployment.
"So the message to future reservists is clear, promise us you will make the commitment, turn up regularly to train and be prepared to deploy. And in return, we promise to equip you, train you, fund you and use you as an integral part of the British army."
The green paper will set out ideas to overhaul the reserves and encourage companies to employ them.
The government wants to "reward supportive employers by creating a league of patriotic employers". It has also promised to give companies more notice before reservists are deployed. However, the army will also need to increase the number of training days for reservists from 35 to 40 a year.
Companies that have already pledged to support the reserves include Deloitte, the AA, BAE Systems, BT, Capita, Carillion and Rolls-Royce.
Jim Murphy, the shadow defence secretary, said: "We support action to enhance the role of the reserves, but the government can go further to protect our reservists' patriotism. Anti-discrimination legislation, improved pre-deployment training and better mental healthcare are vital. At a difficult time for many companies, employers must be given the support they need when their workers serve on reserve duty."
Earlier this year, Hammond announced plans to scrap 17 units and up to 20,000 posts from the army. The cuts were one of the major consequences of a budget squeeze which forced the army into a root-and-branch review, and has left it trying to recruit an enormous number of reserves while pushing full-time soldiers to the door.