Conscription to the island’s defence force is to be abolished in the next few months, the Minister of National Security announced yesterday.
Wayne Caines added that the end of compulsory service in the Royal Bermuda Regiment was “a critical step in the modernisation of the organisation and transforming it into a broader career choice for Bermudians”.
The RBR already has a Boat Troop responsible for inshore maritime patrols, but it was planned that the Regiment will assume a “core function” in the island’s security services.
Mr Caines, a former RBR officer, said the goal was to develop a full-time defence force designed to operate in all areas of security and supplement existing resources “as necessary”.
The minister, who retired from the Regiment as a captain, said the force would become a challenging career opportunity for Bermuda’s men and women.
He added the RBR would boost volunteer recruitment by holding a second recruit camp during the summer, as well as the traditional January intake.
Ending conscription has been an increasing priority since 2010, and the island marked its first all-volunteer camp in January 2016.
Mr Caines noted that a raft of amendments to the 1965 Defence Act, passed in 2015 under the previous administration, had required time for training and had since come into force on November 1.
The minister said a potential salary figure could be $65,000 a year after the requisite specialist training.
The landmark announcement follows years of discussion under two successive administrations to take conscription off the books.
The previous One Bermuda Alliance administration ended conscription — but left it on the law books in case it were ever needed.
Mr Caines added that he expected to bring legislation to abolish conscription to Parliament at the start of next year.
• To read the minister’s remarks in full, click on the PDF under “Related Media”.