The head of the infantry has warned that the SAS, often regarded as the best special forces unit in the world, is suffering from a lack of new recruits.
The warning, in a letter leaked to the Telegraph newspaper, comes as the resources of the military are stretched by the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan, the potential ongoing situation in Libya, and harsh cuts under the austerity programme.
The high “operational tempo” of the Armed Forces and the “unrelentingly demanding” operations in Afghanistan are combining to “mitigate against Special Forces recruitment”, Brigadier Richard Dennis warned.
In a letter to General Sir Peter Wall, the head of the Army, the head of the infantry said he was deeply concerned about the “challenge of fully manning the SAS”.
He also said that the SAS was losing its shine with “interesting operations are no longer seen as the preserve of Special Forces”.
One of the reasons for the drop in applicants, according to the brigadier, was the fear of failure among the soldiers, with only one in ten completing the notorious SAS selection course.
With the infantry deployed at full stretch in Afghanistan, potential recruits to the SAS were not being allowed the best preparation for selection, said Brigadier Dennis, adding that there were differing views among commanding officers about allowing soldiers time off for training.
According to the Telegraph, the letter quoted the commanding officer of 22 SAS speaking at the annual infantry conference.
“He emphasised the understandable need for more youthful, quality volunteers, whilst accepting that opportunities for exacting service existed within most aspects of current RD [regimental duty] operational deployments.”
Brigadier Dennis then wrote: “I am content, notwithstanding the need to avoid any complacency, that the infantry community delivers sufficient officer and soldier volunteers to Selection. I am less confident about how we guarantee better depth of quality to increase selection pass rates.”