back to article British Army down thousands of soldiers after outsourcing recruitment IT to Capita

The British Armed Forces have shrunk 1 per cent over the past quarter, with the Army more than 8 per cent below its manpower target for 2020. The statistics paint a grim picture of how Capita's disastrous Recruiting Partnership Project, underpinned by a bespoke IT system for recruiters, is affecting the Army. Newly released …

  1. Alister

    So are they trying to suggest that people are not able to join up simply because the Capita recruitment system was crappy?

    Have they considered that fewer people might be interested in joining the Armed Services anyway?

    1. James Anderson

      The process is so slow and broken that would be recruits make other career choices while waiting for Excrtica to process thier applications.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        From a previous ElReg article

        "For its part, Capita told The Register that it is "looking at ways to speed the process up" of getting civilians into the military, which currently takes more than three months."

        I believe the army is still seeing the number of applications it expects, candidates are finding other jobs in the 3+ months it takes for Capita to respond to their application leading to significantly lower recruitment numbers.

        While their may also be a decline in the number or quality of candidates, it's not the primary issue.

        1. thames

          Re: From a previous ElReg article

          Three months! That would be record fast for the new system under Capita. I have regularly been talking to people in the UK whose sons have been waiting over a year just to get a reply back.

          All too often the potential recruit has moved away or is too deep into an alternate career to be interested any more by the time Capita get back to them. It takes an unusual degree of persistence and drive to fight your way past Capita and join the army.

          Everyone who has had any contact with it thinks the new system is an unmitigated disaster.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: From a previous ElReg article

            It took me almost a year to get from submitting my application to attending the selection centre. During that period they changed the medical (twice) which was part of the reason for such a long delay. It is better now (I joined in 2016), but it's still not great.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: From a previous ElReg article

          I know people who have gotten through the process in as little as 5 months. But I also know one who has been in the process for 2 years! 10-12 months seems about average. Anon for obvious reasons.

          I also know people who tell me in their day, it took 2 weeks... sign here, right here’s your rail warrant to the depot and £5, job done.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: From a previous ElReg article

            I signed up mid August 1968, reported for Basic training first week of September 1968.

          2. skuba*steve

            Re: From a previous ElReg article

            I can confirm, that in 1992 I went from civilian to squaddie in a matter of weeks. Once you had sworn in and accepted the Queens £25 it was off to Basic before you changed your mind.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: From a previous ElReg article

              Were you surprised to learn it wasn’t a signing bonus but an advance on your pay?

              They never get tired of that “joke”!

    2. Alister

      I stand corrected.

      Thanks for the info.

  2. James Anderson

    I blame decimalisation

    Getting someone to take the Queens 5p just isn't as effective.

    On a darker note, while they still have the equipment and manpower the generals should gather together Crapitas management against a suitable wall.....

    1. macjules

      Re: I blame decimalisation

      Personally I blame the lack of pressgangs and the ban on flogging round the fleet, not that we have much of a fleet mind.

      Things just have not been the same since Nelson died.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I blame decimalisation

        The RN has just removed the Captain of QE. So will she be sailing in the next year while they find a replacement?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I blame decimalisation

          >Captain of QE. So will she be sailing in the next year

          Probably. The RN (like most services) is somewhat top-heavy. Mind you, there'll probably be some shuffling so that a post-captain can be assigned while a commander somewhere will be shuffled from counting paperclips to actually commanding a ship.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I blame decimalisation

        You do know Nelson liked neither pressgangs nor flogging? Nor did Collingwood.

        There's also a memo from him to St. Vincent making it clear that (a) there were a lot of women in RN ships and (b) Nelson was quite happy about it. He had his faults, but rum, sodomy and the lash weren't really on his to-do list. That and winning battles was what made him popular.

        It was St, Vincent, and the sons of the aristocracy who got commands despite poor management skills, that were the problem.

        Speaking of which, it would be interesting to know, in organisations like Capita, what the socioeconomic makeup of the management is. Because its competence seems of a piece with the government, currently run by the party of privilege.

  3. Daniel von Asmuth

    Don't mention the war

    "The British Armed Forces have shrunk 1 per cent over the past quarter".

    The Bundeswehr denies any involvement. This is no part of our Brexit deal. Put the blame on IS perhaps.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Don't mention the war

      It's remarkable to consider that during a war more than this could be lost in a single day.

  4. grumbler

    In the interest of fair and balanced reporting, can anyone cite a single project that Capita has not monumentally fucked up?

    I won't hold my breath.

    1. a_yank_lurker

      "I won't hold my breath." - That's good because otherwise you be pushing daisies.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Yes but I'd have to strangle you with my NDA. Seriously, I was on a couple (as sub-contractor to a sub-contractor) that delivered on time and working. I don't, however, have any idea about being on budget as the only financial concern I had was my company getting paid. Having said that, they were over a decade ago and I've retired since so that might have affected their performance.

      1. MonkeyCee


        Same here, I've actually only had good experiences "working" for Crapita (sub-sub-sub-sub contractor), my understanding being that it's actually a whole stable of companies that do broadly similar things, purchased on the idea that mergers and less competition in the sector is good. So some parts are good, some are awful, and no-one made the front page for "government project delivers on time and slightly over budget", so you don't hear a lot about the parts it does competently. Nothing delivered to civil servants is good, the best you hope for is does what it says on the tin.

    3. Wapiya

      specialist vultures

      Capita and a few other companies have made their business niche going as general contractors for multi-million contracts that are highly toxic.

      Must of them have vague specs, are abolutely underfunded for the pie in the sky sold to the MPs. Most of them started as a valid and doable proposal, just to be bloated beyond recognition by various stakeholders.

      Capita has a very capable legal/tender department. They sift those impossible tenders and enter a contract that will give them a healthy margin on a incoming train wreck.

      They are the ones, where the devil uses a very long spoon.

      There a a few more of them around Europe. Some are IT specialists, some construction.

      If you get only these carrion eaters in a tender, you should abandon or at least reconsider the scope of the project at once. It is so flawed that it will either never work or need much more money for a minimum viable product.

      In our part of the continent, Atos / Worldline is living in the same niche. In Germany there was a proposal and then a law for a special digital lawyer system to send and receive secure (end to end) and binding legal documents. Atos got the bid (only real contender because of the size of that thing).

      The original spec were doable and Atos was on the brink of on time and on budget delivery (a money loosing contract till this point).

      Then someone realized that the specs did not allow for a attorney suddenly dropping dead / being on vacation. The system was so secure (to spec) that no one, but the original receiver with his smartcard and his passphrase could read the document. No vacation stand in, no secretaries.

      After that Atos had to do heavy kludges to get his in. And that was off spec and off the original contract, so they were paid by the hour (ka-ching). After a emergency stop days before deployment there were many further delays. And the system is still not working as envisioned, but working to spec as entered in the contract.

      Same in contruction: The new Berlin airport (BER) was designed and the construcion firm gave a bid for about 3.5 billion euro all inclusive to build this airport till 2009.

      The states wanted to spent less mony and said, they would plan an build it without a general contractor (they estimated 2 billion).

      We are now at 7 billion euro and still have no BER. The companies that were bidding to be general contractors are getting more money now.

      This is the reason, no one ever blocklists crapita. They would loose in court, because the original contract was crap, leaky and the project was already sinking before it was signed.

  5. Pen-y-gors

    Waht could possibly...

    "Hey guys, got a great idea - why don't we outsource a critical part of the national defence strategy to someone useless like Crapita? They and their friends will be able to make loadsa money out of the government. What could possibly go wrong?"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Waht could possibly...

      You are Chris Grayling and I demand either my £5 or a share in however you're doing it.

  6. Chris G

    I find it remarkable that a civilian contractor would be considered able to recruit effectively for the armed forces. Who would know better what makes a suitable recruit and would have the experience to describe and sell the experience of being in the forces,a low paid Crapita clerk or an ex serviceman/woman?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      When I joined (it could be different now) a lot of the process was automated, then you attend the selection centre (in my case at Pirbright) where they decide whether you're a good enough recruit (after the tickbox qualification part).

      The people at ADSC when I was there were all ex forces themselves and indeed I knew a few of them from a brief stint in the regulars several years before when they were working for the army, also at Pirbright in basically the same capacity.

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      >I find it remarkable that a civilian contractor would be considered able to recruit effectively for the armed forces.

      They don't do the choosing they do the admin.

      Would you find it remarkable that you take somebody train them to the peak of physical fitness, teach them to use a variety of cutting edge weapons, obey orders without question and kill on demand - and then have them work on Crystal Reports and Oracle Whatsit Generator while paying for their food and housing ?

      Here the army admin stuff is all done by soldiers. However the admin depts doesn't seem to demand exactly SAS levels of fitness. So the local donut shop has a queue of 50+ year old 'soldiers' in uniform with machine guns wearing what are probably 48inch waist camo fatigues

      I assume this reassures the ordinary citizens that our way of life is being guarded from the Russians/Chinese/Belgians

    3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      low paid Crapita clerk or an ex serviceman/woman

      Depends on whether the low-paid clerk was ex-military or not.

  7. RichardB



    What's important about 82?

    Pretty good year as far as the armed forces went I guess?

    1. Steve K

      Ooh 1982!

      While we're on about 1982 (this one has not seen daylight since then...):

      "My friend's got Hermes"

      "Don't you mean Herpes?"

      "No - they're a carrier"

      (I'm here all week - is that your chicken , madam?)

  8. Securitymoose

    What next? Outsource the nuclear deterrent?

    I can imagine the situation...

    "Sorry, we can't fire the missiles; it's a national holiday in Elbonia, and Microsoft are running one of their interminable updates, and we aren't allowed to reboot."

    The circus is being run from the monkey cage.

    1. Dr Scrum Master

      Re: What next? Outsource the nuclear deterrent?

      Not too far from the truth given Trident's reliance on US systems for targeting.

      WE177 was at least able to be delivered independently

  9. Pete4000uk


    How are we going to take part in America's next war?

  10. Mark 15

    Snowflakes wanted

    With adverts like 'snowflakes wanted' who can blame potential recruits from wanting to join. The RAF and Navy have far more appealing advertising output.

    And if anyone can get in within 3 months of applying, I'll give them their first promotion! 12 months wait for a 17 year old is a lifetime and that is how long it generally takes. There needs to be a far better solution.

    1. Ragarath

      Re: Snowflakes wanted

      Just start a war and begin using conscription again surely that would work faster.

      NOTE: no idea even if conscription took very long, there must have been some administration.

      1. Dal90

        Re: Snowflakes wanted

        >NOTE: no idea even if conscription took very long, there must have been some administration.

        Little historical tidbit:

        In the U.S. voluntary enlistment halted on 15 December 1942 and all military personnel through 1946 went through the draft. At the same time all civilian hiring for war industries was mandated to go through the U.S. Employment Service -- so that people with critical skills (or simply required manpower) couldn't be hired away from one job to another. Both actions were meant to streamline the process and reduce churn.

        The "American Steel" part of British Intelligence, American Steel, and Soviet Blood depended in no small part to very complex waterfall plans to build up and coordinate supply chains. Organic and lots of agile stuff going on -- it wasn't central planning, but there was central coordination. I've seen some amazingly complex hand-drawn wall size diagrams but my Google-fu is failing me at the moment.

        The sum result could be amusing at times -- once the war was won, the system that was built up to deliver troops and material to the front lines was suddenly stressed that they couldn't just reverse it and it became an enormous "System D" to muddle through and figure out how to bring troops home...whilst at the same time *after* VJ day my dad was still inducted, went through basic training, through an abbreviated vocational school...and then discharged after about four months. They didn't need him, but at the same time they weren't able to hard stop the giant machine put in motion to draft/induct/train/deploy folks on dime.

  11. Steve K

    Simple explanation

    A much simpler explanation for Crapita's poor performance - maybe a simple typo as evidenced in this early 1970s documentary

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is Capita a WMD ?

    At this rate the Army will be unable to engage with an enemy very soon.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And you think this is an error because..?

    HMG would dearly love to get rid of ALL the armed forces - no chance of the military supporting a populist uprising if you have no military,

    As for Crapita being responsible for losing a significant percentage of our capability, what about the way successive governments have savaged the defence budget since the Tories' "Options For Small Change" just after the Falklands War - how many Army regiments, how many Royal Air Force squadrons, how many Royal Navy fleets have been lost in an effort to produce a smaller, leaner fighting force that now has so few tanks, aircraft and ships that any losses at all represent a major blow in terms of warfighting capability and defence budget?

    Roll on 2020, when we can have German and French European Defence Force Troopers guarding us rather than whatever is left of our own once-proud forces...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      German and French European Defence Force

      It’s no better in their forces. In fact basically no one has usable armed forces right now. The Germans have only 4 flyable Typhoons for example. Peace in Europe has come about not through NATO or the EU but through sheer mutually assured bureaucratic incompetence on all fronts.

      1. hplasm
        Big Brother

        Re: German and French European Defence Force

        "Peace in Europe has come about not through NATO or the EU but through sheer mutually assured bureaucratic incompetence on all fronts."

        'This piece of paper I hold in my hand...means peace in our time'.

        i.e Bureaucracy will prevail!

      2. Dave Bell

        Re: German and French European Defence Force

        That "4 Typhoons" story was a bit bogus. It was the number of aircraft on QRA, ready to fly at a moment's notice. It's definitely a low number, but if they sent off a plane to intercept a suspicious aircraft, the ground crews would be getting another ready, things such as fuel and weapons and having the pilot ready.

        Still, it made a neat story for a certain sort of newspaper, that the RAF had more Spitfires able to fly than the Luftwaffe had Typhoons ready to fly.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Crapita again

    I think it’s very unfair of El Reg and it’s readers to keep bad mouthing Capita, they must have done something right once or they wouldn’t keep getting contracts :)

    Why not outsource the whole of the military to Capita? That could save millions

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    What is the problem with fewer soldiers?

    Can we afford more nurses and doctors now instead?

  16. MAF

    Go traditional

    They could just go traditional and set up shop in dark alleyways in places like Leith (Insert city here).

    Rated PG for Press-gang...

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