The boss of the private company responsible for Army recruitment has blamed Britain 'not having any wars on' after he failed to sign up enough new soldiers.
Paul Pinder, the chief executive of Capita which has a £400m Ministry of Defence contract to recruit full and part-time soldiers, made the remark as he was grilled by MPs on his failure to hit targets.
He was immediately accused of 'disrespecting' 6,000 service personnel currently battling the Taliban in Afghanistan and those killed and maimed on the frontline during the 12-year conflict.
Since Capita took charge of bringing in new recruits the number of interviews and selection tests has plummeted by more than a third.
Just two weeks ago father-of-two Sergeant Major Ian Fisher, 42, of the 3rd Battalion the Mercian Regiment, died in a suicide blast in Helmand.
Mr Pinder was being questioned by the Public Accounts Committee on why Capita was failing to meet recruitment targets despite being paid huge sums of taxpayers' money.
He said: 'I'm not being flippant when saying this, but we actually have the disadvantage of not having any wars on.
Mr Pinder last year received £2million in pay and perks compared to the £17,000 salary of a new Army private was roundly criticised last night.
Madeleine Moon, of the Defence Select Committee, said: 'This is a pathetic and offensive attempt to excuse his company's failure to recruit service personnel.
The Ministry of Defence privatised Army recruitment in April. The ten-year deal was supposed to free 1,000 soldiers from recruitment roles and enable them to return to frontline duties.
But problems in installing and using a secure computer system meant Capital had suffered problems in drafting new soldiers.
In the first four months of its contract, Capita sent 3,259 potential troops to Army selection interviews, compared with 5,042 the previous year.
And 367 potential Territorial Army troops were recruited by Capita against a target of 1,432.
The row broke out as the Defence Secretary narrowly avoided a humiliating Commons defeat over controversial plans to replace full-time troops with Army reservists.
Defence secretary Philip Hammond came under fire is axing the number of regular soldiers from 102,000 to 82,000 while doubling the number of part-time troops to 30,000 to save money.
Tory rebels, spearheaded by former infantry officer John Baron, had tabled an amendment urging ministers to halt the shake-up.
But Mr Hammond said the amendment would halt the process of recruiting reservists, sending 'completely the wrong signal to those thinking of joining the reserves'.
The rebel amendment was defeated by 306 votes to 252, Government majority 54.