The British Army's psyops unit 77 Brigade is still falling short of recruiting targets, despite cyber skills being bigged up repeatedly by the military and government.
The unit – whose remit covers information operations, psyops and similar shady things – has continued its struggle to attract part-time recruits, according to figures released under the Freedom of Information Act.
Despite its target headcount having been increased from 448 to 474 people between January 2017 and mid-2018, an increase of 5.8 per cent, in June 2018 the unit had 340 on strength – a shortfall of 29 per cent, or 134 personnel.
Another way of looking at the stats is that the crafty tricks brigade grew their headcount by 64 over 18 months for both full-time and part-time personnel, albeit more slowly than they should have done.
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Figures analysed by The Register show that the unit seems to have greater difficulty recruiting part-timers from the civilian world than it does in recruiting and keeping full-time soldiers.
While the numbers are an improvement over the 40 per cent shortfall that The Register reported in 2017, the continually missed targets reflect the British Army's ongoing recruitment problems in general as well as the broader shortage of cyber security skills in the armed forces.
Breaking down the figures, 77 Brigade's 2018 targets were to employ 203 full-timers and 271 part-timers to achieve its mission of being an "elite unit of hackers, propagandists and ne'er-do-wells who crawl social media to plant stories, influence opinion and generally manipulate things on behalf of government" as some crafty joker who hijacked their Twitter account summarised 77 Brigade's purpose.
The unit was short of meeting both targets: it actually employed 190 full-timers and 150 reservist part-timers. We've put the relevant numbers into a table below.
The Ministry of Defence has been asked to comment.
77 Brigade forms one of the key parts of the armed forces that meets the government's oft-trumpeted "offensive cyber" capability, as referenced over the past couple of days by both Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
Part of the cause may be infamous outsourcing giant Capita, which handles all Army recruiting matters thanks to the disastrous outsourcing contract which continues to hobble the military. ®
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