The British Army is reportedly looking overseas to boost diversity and inclusion as it seeks to relax security clearance vetting.
The UK’s armed forces want to boost ethnic minority representation as bosses have consistently failed to hit recruitment targets, according to The Sunday Telegraph.
A new document titled The British Army’s Race Action Plan describes security checks as “the primary barrier to non-UK personnel gaining a commission in the Army”.
The guidance reportedly vows to “challenge [security clearance] requirements” to increase representation in the intelligence and officer corps, roles which have access to “secret assets”.
Twelve former senior servicemen have written to Grant Shapps to complain about the plan.
The defence secretary said he was ordering a review of diversity and inclusion policy at the Ministry of Defence in response to the newspaper’s report, adding there would be no “lowering of security clearance requirements under my watch”.
Mr Shapps said: “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.”
Meanwhile, fellow Cabinet minister Michael Gove said political correctness should not “impair our ability to defend our borders”.
The Housing Secretary told Sky’s Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips: “[Shapps] has been looking at the specific policies we have in the Ministry of Defence in order to ensure that we strike the right balance, that we provide protection for individuals in our armed forces, that we make sure that we draw all the talent available in this country to ensure that we have a strong and diverse military.
“But also to make sure that these policies operate in such a way as to ensure that political correctness, or some of the more – what’s the word? – ‘out there’ approaches that people take towards diversity, equity and inclusion don’t impair our ability to defend our borders and to make sure that this country is secure.”
As the army struggles to recruit, chief of the general staff Patrick Saunders said last month that a “citizen army” would be needed to fight a future war with a country like Russia.
Saunders, who has long argued for more military spending and is due to leave his job this year, said that “within the next three years, it must be credible to talk of a British army of 120,000”.
An MoD spokesman said: “Our priority is protecting the national security of the United Kingdom and ensuring the operational effectiveness of our armed forces.
“We take security extremely seriously and ensure that all personnel have the appropriate security clearance, which is reviewed on a case-by-case basis.”