MPs Pass Bill To Abolish Regiment Conscription

June 23, 2018

The Defence Amendment Act 2018 — which seeks to abolish conscription — passed in the House of Assembly last night.

In delivering a brief in advance of the debate, Minister of National Security Wayne Caines said, “This Government promised to end conscription in the Royal Bermuda Regiment within its first legislative session. This Bill represents this Government’s commitment to that promise by finally ending conscription.

Back in 1965, the Bermuda Volunteer Rifle Corps and the Bermuda Militia Artillery amalgamated, to form the Bermuda Regiment, which is now the Royal Bermuda Regiment, or RBR. The RBR has a rich history and has served this country well for 53 years.

“In 1960 the United Kingdom ended conscription. Ironically, in this same year, Bermuda reinstated conscription to the Bermuda Militia Artillery, having previously reintroduced conscription to the Bermuda Volunteer Rifle Corps 3 years prior. Until the introduction of the Bill before this Honourable House today, Bermuda remained the only British Overseas Territory to practice conscription.

“Conscription has served Bermuda well over the years, having begun with the onset of World War II and seeing us safely through international conflicts and several natural disasters. That said, the modern era dictates that the time has come for conscription into the Royal Bermuda Regiment to end, as is the case in each of the other Overseas Territories.

“One of the key concerns of the former government of completely abolishing conscription was the RBR’s ability to continuously recruit volunteers at high enough rates so as not to disrupt operations. However, the Royal Bermuda Regiment has developed a comprehensive strategic plan that will help it to evolve into a modern defence force.

“I am pleased to confirm that the Government and the Ministry of National Security have worked with the RBR, to ensure that when this Bill comes into operation the Regiment will be able to sustain the strength in volunteer numbers. The RBR will continue its extensive public relations campaigns and incentive programmes in order to attract men and women to serve.

“Honourable Members and the public will be aware of the success the Regiment has had in recent years in boosting volunteer numbers. The Regiment has gone from 10 volunteers in Recruit Camp 2013, to 42 volunteers in 2014, and 61 volunteers in 2015. Members opposite will recall the success of Recruit Camp 2016 – the first all-volunteer Recruit Camp, with some 50 volunteers. This past January, the first Recruit Camp of 2018, saw 37 privates – all-volunteers – pass out.

“This number stands to be bolstered by the addition of 25 soldiers who are scheduled to begin Recruit Camp in July. This will be the first time that the Regiment has run two recruit camps in a calendar year. One of the merits of an all-volunteer Regiment is that the men and women who volunteer to serve are well aware of the commitment and dedication required, yet are still willing and honoured to serve their country in this capacity. Many of these volunteers will serve well beyond the 3 years that was required by compulsory service, thereby reducing the number of new recruits necessary for each intake.

“Over the past six months, the Royal Bermuda Regiment has been conducting a Strategic Review, aimed at providing progressive recommendations on how the Regiment can best fulfil its role in the 21st Century. The associated analysis has been conducted by a Steering Group, which is comprised of a representation of both full-time and part-time officers and soldiers. The aforementioned analysis has realized a number of observations and key recommendations.

“The Strategic Review is currently on final desk level circulation, prior to being presented to His Excellency the Governor, for his consideration. However, I am in position to apprise this Honourable House of some notable headlines with regard to a revised offer, structure and modus operandi, which will help define the Regiment’s post conscription focus, in support of the defence and security of Bermuda.

“The first headline relates to the size of the Royal Bermuda Regiment. Four years ago, the National Security & Defense Review of 2014 recommended that “…a minimum of 400 personnel is now considered the lowest acceptable level of manpower” for the Regiment to fulfil its role – broken down into 31 officers and 369 soldiers.

“Mr. Speaker, the 2018 Strategic Review has proposed a more coherent Mission, Tasks and Concept of Operations, which are aligned to delivering operational effect. The result is three Courses of Action in relation to size and structure of the Regiment. The proposed Course of Action is based on 28 officers and 299 soldiers – 327 in total.

“Mr. Speaker, this is 3 less officers and 70 less soldiers than recommended in 2014. This structure will support two main operational outputs: Military Aid to the Civil Authority [MACA] and Humanitarian Aid & Disaster Relief [HADR]; and will be efficient and balanced, with an integrated reserve. This Course of Action also offers a greater return on investment and a dedicated career path for full time and part time employees.

“Mr. Speaker, the RBR and the Ministry of National Security have been working closely with Government House and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, to fund training for RBR soldiers to become experts in MACA and HADR. There is an opportunity for the RBR to become the quick reaction force in this region, with the ability to lead restorative efforts in other countries that are affected by disasters.

“Mr. Speaker, the creation of a Royal Bermuda Regiment Coast Guard has also been addressed in the Review, with the Regiment conducting preparations to assume a greater maritime role. While the Government develops the necessary legislation and ensures funding is in place, the Regiment will concentrate their efforts on delivering training and conducting effective operations in the domain of Military Aid to the Civil Authority and Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Relief, while also preparing for the proposed maritime role in cooperation with the Bermuda Police Service.

“Mr. Speaker, the plan for the RBR Coast Guard is for the RBR to commence training now, and perform the role alongside the Bermuda Police Service until the RBR Coast Guard is fully trained and can completely take over the function. Simultaneously, the legislative amendments required will be drafted and brought before this Honourable House. It is anticipated that the entire process will take approximately 18 months; with the goal being that on April 1, 2020, the Bermuda Police Service will hand over the responsibility for policing Bermuda’s waters to the Royal Bermuda Regiment Coast Guard.

“Mr. Speaker, the modus operandi of the modernized Royal Bermuda Regiment will rely on an Economy of Effort, which is borne out of the need for increased interoperability with partners on and off the island. Defense Engagement & Collaboration opportunities will also assist the Regiment to continue punching above its weight, especially in the international arena – Operation RUMAN being a recent example.

“Operation RUMAN was the British government’s combined military and humanitarian operations in September 2017 to provide relief to the British Overseas Territories in the Caribbean affected by Hurricane Irma. The Royal Bermuda Regiment joined the British Army operational framework, in order to support the operation with HADR specialists. The RBR was praised and is now respected by the British Army for having a distinctive competence in the area of disaster recovery.

“Underpinning the Regiment’s operational capability and output, either individually or collectively, is the need for a revised Statement of Requirement and Training Needs Analysis. This has prompted the creation of a Training & Validation Centre of Excellence, which will deliver the pipeline of training, in a cost-effective and focused manner.

“Mr. Speaker, with the current strength of the Regiment at 340, it is important to understand that the Regiment will no longer require an annual recruiting target of 100+. However, the Regiment must continue to attract the very best future officers and soldiers from across the island in sufficient numbers to allow the Regiment to carry out its key tasks.

“Mr. Speaker, in order to provide added resilience to the proposed manning target, the Regiment will seek to rejuvenate the Regimental Auxiliary Unit. The Regimental Auxiliary Unit is a holding unit for officers and soldiers who have specialist skills that are not required for routine active service. This voluntary organization may be called up individually or en masse, as the situation dictates. Recruiting for this voluntary organization will start with a Veterans weekend at the end of the year. This will also be a chance to recognize the sacrifice made by our Veterans, whilst informing them of developments in the Regiment and how they may wish to assist. The Regimental Auxiliary Unit is a Veteran’s programme ripe for development.

“Mr. Speaker, I have discussed this concept with many former soldiers of various ranks with whom I served during my time in the Regiment; and am delighted to inform this Honourable House that we are all willing to serve in the Regimental Auxiliary Unit as the programme currently exists; to help Bermuda in time of need.

“Mr. Speaker, the second headline of the Strategic Review relates to The Offer. The Regiment seeks to recruit from across Bermuda and the diverse demographic therein. At the heart of The Offer, will be a promise to invest in those officers and soldiers, who volunteer to serve Bermuda. Through training partners in Bermuda and overseas, the Regiment will deliver a pathway of education and training that is second to none. This in turn will directly benefit those companies, big or small, who employ regimental personnel. In short, this is a very exciting time to be a member of the Royal Bermuda Regiment.

“Mr. Speaker, the Royal Bermuda Regiment has a rich history which we should continue to celebrate. This is a once in a generation chance to transform the RBR into a bespoke hybrid organization, which is more efficient, effective, and professional. The Ministry of National Security remains committed to supporting the Regiment through this period of change, in order to ensure the security of Bermuda.

“Mr. Speaker, I have recently met with the 9 Colonels, a group of former Commanding Officers of the RBR who have been proponents for conscription to continue but are a group of men who are truly vested and interested in the sustainability of their beloved Regiment. I have outlined for these men the plan for the RBR and how we plan to evolve the organisation to better serve its stakeholders and how we plan to sustain the numbers necessary to achieve this aim.

“Mr. Speaker, whilst the Colonels will remain steadfast in their belief that conscription should not end, they are open to the recommendations made in the RBR Strategic Plan. They have made it clear that they would like to see a clear time continuum and firm undertaking by the government that shows a commitment to enacting the key recommendations made in the aforementioned strategic plan.

“Mr. Speaker, the RBR has worked hard to transform to an all-volunteer Regiment. Their ongoing public relations campaigns have been aimed at highlighting the benefits of volunteering and improving the public’s perception of the RBR. I believe they have seen much success. The Government and the Ministry of National Security will continue to support the RBR through this transformation.

“Mr. Speaker, I am confident that Bermuda will be the better for ending conscription and supporting the RBR as it evolves into a more modern, innovative and sustainable defence force that will serve the people of Bermuda in a manner that is appropriate for the needs of today and tomorrow.

“Mr. Speaker, I commend this Bill to the House and for Honourable Members to discuss.

Clause by Clause Analysis of the Bill

“Clause 1 is self-explanatory.

“Clause 2 repeals and replaces section 4 of the principal Act such that voluntary enlistment is the only means by which a man or woman can enlist into the Royal Bermuda Regiment; and abolishes compulsory enlistment [conscription], by any means, into the Royal Bermuda Regiment.

“Clause 3 repeals [a] sections 12, 13, 13A, 15, 15A, 16, 17, 17A, 17B, 18, 19, 20, 23[3],[4],[5], 25[1][a], 27, and 28[5] of the principal Act; and [b] Part III and Part IV of the Schedule to the Bermuda Regiment Governor’s Orders 1993.

These repealed sections speak to registration and liability to military service, method of selection for service, period of compulsory service, the Exemption Tribunal, deferment of service, and offences related to failure to complete military training. As Clause 2 of this Bill abolishes conscription, these sections of the principal Act and Governor’s Orders are redundant.

“Clause 4 is the transitional provision which clarifies that [a] any man of the regiment having become a man of the regiment by virtue of compulsory enlistment [conscription], prior to the coming into operation of this Bill, shall serve out any remaining period of time of his compulsory enlistment as if this Bill had not come into operation; and [b] any hearing commenced prior to the coming into operation of this Bill, in relation to compulsory enlistment [conscription], shall continue in accordance with the Defence Act 1965, as if this Bill had not come into operation.

“Clause 5 is the commencement provision which states that this Act shall come into operation on 1 July 2018.”

Shadow Minister Michael Dunkley

Mr Dunkley said, “The House took steps to end conscription with the passage of the Defence Amendment Act 2018 in the House.

“This process actually commenced in 2014 when the OBA Government confirmed its intention to abolish conscription which was communicated in the Throne Speech in November 2013.

“While both the former OBA Government and the current PLP Government can take credit for this move it should also be acknowledged that the group Bermudians Against the Draft [BAD] had a significant impact on the amendment passed today.

“The National Security and Defence Review commissioned in 2013 under the OBA Government has proven to be an important document towards a more secure Bermuda.

“In that report it was recommended a phased approach to the abolition of conscription with the Regiment transitioning from a volunteer force supplemented by conscription [if needed] to an all-volunteer force over a time frame that preserves those national defence, internal security and disaster relief aspects provided by the Regiment, currently or in the future.

“Conscription was a backdrop that the OBA never wanted to use but accepted the advice of the Review. History now shows that no one was conscripted during this “phasing” period.

“Moving forward it is critical that we support the Royal Bermuda Regiment so they can always obtain the manpower required to fulfill their mandate; with changing roles and new responsibility as referred to by the Minister with the newly developed strategic plan.

“This can be greatly helped by an effective recruiting strategy based on advertising and promotion of the RBR, financial incentives and a deep interaction with the community to influence potential recruits.”

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Comments (25)

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  1. CAS says:

    just saying. IMHO you will not get near enough Bermudians to fill the posts and keep numbers at required manpower. This is not a job where you show up where when how you want and do what you want when you want. It requires discipline and leaders. Discipline has to be adhered to as does listen and carry out orders. Regrettably 2 traits our youth seem to have disdain for. It may work if we allow some of our foreign workers ( with Mr Col. Burchs blessing ) apply for what I foresee at meagre wages. ( Govt has NO money ) Nor is this a type of organization that should have any union influence. ( sorry Mr Furburt there goes a cash windfall ). Regardless it has to be a highly effective, functional, professional, no nonsense entity. I see a lot of work having to go into this for it to be viable. I honestly hope that this works out for BERMUDA

    • Family Man says:

      What exactly does the regiment do? Serious question – what is their job and can this be done more efficiently in another way?

      I suppose if a big country like Iceland can get by without a military then Bermuda might just manage to do the same.

      • Just a suggestion says:

        I find your comment rude and very uneducated regarding the military both here and Iceland. Please note the Icelandic navy are currently in the Med Sea. Deal in facts

        • Family Man says:

          Iceland does not have a navy. Iceland is the only NATO country without an army.

          They do have a coast guard with three ships involved mostly in search and rescue.

          Just a suggestion – try Google. It’s an amazing resource. you can learn so much.

  2. John E. Thorne says:

    It is about time! Thanks to everyone involved.

  3. Greatful says:

    At last I’m finally safe to return my old regiment kit !

  4. Stormy daniels says:

    Guess we will being paying the private landscape companies to clean up after hurricanes etc.
    Unless our photo opers mps are going to do it. Highly unlikely

    • Seriously though says:

      Yes, pay humans for clean up, no free labor period!

      • Anbu says:

        Regiment was never ever free labor. Conscripts do in fact get paid. Just sayin

  5. Southampton says:

    You will be sorry that the government has done this.
    There will come a time when you will really need the Regiment.
    You will not have enough men to come to Bermuda’s aid, no matter
    what it may be.

    Just because the guys do not want to accept discipline.
    Such a sorry note.

    • PBanks says:

      Why don’t you sign up then, and get some like minded individuals to join? Win-win.

  6. Kevin says:

    Lets see who volunteers in 3 years time we will not have a regiment we can afford and guess who pays ….one way or another you will pay ….what short sighted individuals we have in Government …and we knew that but remember I didn’t vote for them you did
    I won’t be one of those getting on your roof’s to help you i’m done , so good luck

    its easy being a politician who has never tarped a roof after a hurricane or cleared roads of fallen trees … they don’t have a clue

    • PBanks says:

      Luckily Bermuda doesn’t have as many people with the attitude of “I won’t help you” and feel the best way to get hurricane relief help is conscripted soldiers, ignoring the many volunteers of all walks of life who will pitch in to help their fellow man.

  7. The Dark Knight Returns says:

    Truth be told the Regiment is a complete waste of money. We already have W&E who already get paid to clean up. Take that money and use it to hire more police officers. Failing that I would hire a platoon of men and use them to guard key points in Bermuda. For example Parliament, the Premier, the Govenor and assist the police when needed. Bermuda is way too small to be employing and paying so many men with little to no return.

    • Kevin says:

      Dark Knight congratulations, I only thought our Politicians were clueless
      when have you ever seen a W&E employee putting a tarp on a roof …not happening not in their scope of work and Bro Furbert won’t let that happen Anyone believes for one second that this a good decision has a14 storey building and the elevator only goes to floor 4.
      We can stop looking we have found the village idi*t. You will pay and believe me you will pay ….I didn’t vote for them before and trust me I didn’t vote for them now ….guess what same outcome ……We all lose , just that some will feel it worse

  8. cpm says:

    The US and Canada will give us hurricane help totally free
    I love the plp for one day trash pick up-have you tried to get to Tynes Bay recently?

    • Question says:

      Don’t try getting anywhere by bus either.

  9. Triangle Drifter says:

    Decades late in being done. All that is needed is a small ceremonial unit, maybe something like the US Marines drill squad. Amazing to watch in person. A marine unit to augment the police during Cup Match or other large maritime events & a land unit to help the BPS at events in crowd control.

  10. Carlton says:

    yippe more work permits looming

  11. Positive move says:

    It seems like a well thought out plan. We all know that increased productivity will result from someone wanting to do a job and enjoying it rather than being forced to do a job. If the Regiment is rewarding in terms of intrinsic and financial rewards, then maybe one day the application process will be competitive because we will have more applicants than positions!

  12. Izzypop says:

    Now all those young men overseas in school who r there to escape the regiment can now come home.
    I know several

  13. Onioun Puke says:

    OJ and Major General Captain Corney Burch should be pleased. One more nail in the Colonial past!

  14. Me says:

    The have nots still have NOT in my area

  15. Um Ok. says:

    You also have to look at the status of political standing within this country. Iceland is a socialist country, which means they advocate that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole. Many socialist countries don’t involve themselves in war, or worldly conflict. Google that.

  16. Karen says:

    Bye Bye Regiment. Not enough young Bermudian males willing to do the work