The military is raising its targets for recruiting more people from ethnically diverse backgrounds, according to an official Ministry of Defence race action plan seen by The Telegraph.
The document, signed off by the Chief of Defence Staff, calls for “more ambitious targets … to tackle under-representation” by next March.
It has provoked a row within the Government, and one source in the Armed Forces accused the MoD of pursuing a diversity “obsession” at a time when Britain faced its gravest threat since the Second World War.
The race action plan’s aim is to “build defence into an institutionally inclusive organisation for the whole force” and “to drive significant change by ensuring that race equality is a driving principle in defence and one on which we act”, according to a foreword.
The 12-page document was co-written by Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, the head of the military, and David Williams, the MoD’s Permanent Secretary.
‘More ambitious internal targets’
Published on the Ministry of Defence’s intranet, it has caused dissent within the military and comes amid a row over recruitment to the RAF.
It has been reported that the head of the RAF’s recruiting team resigned over claims that the Air Force had had to pause the recruitment of white men in order to hit existing diversity targets. The MoD has denied the claim.
It is unclear what the new targets for the Armed Forces will be, but the race action plan warns that black, Asian and minority ethnic representation among MoD civilians is just 6.4 per cent – less than half the 13.2 per cent in the wider Civil Service.
Phase one of the plan, targeting the civilian workforce, includes initiatives such as “launching a platform for colleagues to share their lived experiences” in September as part of the strategy to make the MoD “more equitable and inclusive”.
Work on phase two began last month, according to the document, and will look at “initiatives focused on our military workforce and the lived experience in the Armed Forces”.
Under the plan, the MoD will publish an ethnicity pay gap report and publish “more ambitious internal targets” for recruitment by March.
One Armed Forces source who has studied the document said: “Despite Britain facing its most extreme security threats since the Second World War, significant chunks of the MoD are more interested in prioritising diversity over operational effectiveness.”
Referring to claims of an effective freeze on recruiting white males to the RAF, the source added: “The equality obsession is even more galling when you consider that it gives Left-wing extremists a license to push anti-white racist hiring practices in the Armed Forces.”
‘Surrendered to the Left’s equality agenda’
A second senior Whitehall source said: “This is a dereliction of duty from a Conservative government that seems to have surrendered to the Left’s equality agenda.”
Andrew Bridgen, a backbench Conservative MP, said the MoD was introducing “quotas” when the British military relied on volunteers willing to serve and fight for their country.
An MoD spokesman said: “We maintain a laser focus in our response to Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and our operations globally and around the UK are always top priority.
“While we tackle threats to our security, we also work hard to broaden the diversity of our Armed Forces to better reflect the society they serve and to create an inclusive work environment that retains top talent.
“The race action plan will not compromise any of our standards. It is there to ensure equality in recruitment by improving the day-to-day experiences of personnel from under-represented ethnic groups.”