Tag Archives: Manning

766,055

That number — 766,055 — is how many officers and soldiers Russia’s Audit Chamber says were paid to serve in the armed forces on 1 January 2013, according to RIA Novosti.

This confirms what’s been said by various military commentators over the past year or so.  Several said about 750,000 or below 800,000.

The Audit Chamber is a quasi-independent and pretty reliable source, something akin to America’s GAO.

Walk this back . . . take 766,055 and subtract 220,000 officers, 186,000 contractees reported at the beginning of 2013, spring 2013 and fall 2012 draft contingents of 153,200 and 140,140, and you are left with 66,715.

That leftover number roughly corresponds to cadets in VVUZy.

Undermanning — below the statutory authorization of one million — has been confirmed officially.

This is the truest, most accurate manpower baseline we’re likely to see.

Combat Readiness Percentages

Conscript on His Mobilnik (photo: Reuters

Conscript on His Mobilnik (photo: Reuters)

Nezavisimaya gazeta’s editorial has the title above.  It’s sub-titled “An Unprejudiced Look at Military Reform.”

Here’s what it says.

“One of the most serious accusations against the former defense minister and former chief of the General Staff is the low combat readiness of armed forces units and sub-units caused by the military reform they conducted.  And the basic argument is the fact that only 15 of 35 combined arms brigades of permanent combat readiness are manned at 100%, the rest have personnel deficits from 20 to 30%.”

“There’s some truth in this.  If you figure the number of servicemen in the force structure — 220 thousand officers, 186 thousand contractees, 320 thousand conscripts and 50-60 thousand VUZ cadets — then the million required by the president’s decree has in no way been gathered.  But the main cause of this is by no means military reform, but the demographic situation in the country for which neither Serdyukov nor Makarov can answer.  And increasing conscript service, as proposed by some [Duma] deputies, can’t patch this hole.  And only those who contrary to Suvorovist science trained to fight the old way with numbers, and not skill, can talk about combat readiness relying just on arithmetical calculations.”

“Many concepts are part of combat readiness.  And not just manning.  Among its components, in particular, are the presence of modern combat equipment and combat support systems in the force, high operational-tactical qualifications of officers, their combat experience, skill and training of personnel…  The military reform of Serdyukov and Makarov, it seems, managed to deal with the last indicator.  We’ll cite just one fact — the average flying time of Russian Air Forces pilots reached 125 hours per pilot in 2012.  And squadron commanders flew 175 hours, and at Vyazma air base — more than 215 hours.  If you remember just several years ago our pilots had an average flying time of 30-40 hours, some of them generally 5-7 hours a year, and they got lost in the sky over the Baltic, then who would dare say that our military aviation is suffering from a lack of combat readiness.”

“The picture is approximately the same in the Ground Troops where soldiers and officers literally don’t leave the training grounds, conducting integrated tactical and operational-tactical exercises jointly with the Air Forces and Air Defense, with the Naval Infantry — if they’re on maritime axes.  They can’t complain about low combat readiness even in the Navy, whose ships, earlier tied to the piers, today ply the waters of the world’s oceans year-round, joining in the struggle against pirates in the Gulf of Aden.  They don’t complain of boredom in the VDV where over the past year more than 65 exercises of varying scale and intensity have been conducted, together with 1,150 combat training events, including more than 800 section- and 270 platoon-level combat firings, 73 company and 14 battalion tactical exercises.  Including with USA spetsnaz on American territory.  Additionally, the blue berets completed several tens of thousands of parachute jumps…  If these are not indicators of combat readiness, then what kind of percentages can you talk about?!”

“One more indicator of combat readiness is the evaluation of strategic nuclear deterrence forces which President Vladimir Putin recently carried out.  Launches of ground, naval and air-launched missiles were conducted then with high accuracy.  And the Supremo directed them from the Unified Central Command Post created in the framework of the reform this very year.”

“Yes, the reform according to the prescriptions of the ex-minister and the ex-NGSh has many deficiencies and mistakes.  ‘NG’ and ‘NVO’ wrote about them not once or twice.  We hope the new Defense Ministry leadership will rectify and correct them.  But not one more or less serious army dared test the combat readiness of our country’s armed forces after August 2008.  And no percentages can refute this fact.”

Yes, Serdyukov and Makarov are to blame for the mistakes of army reform.  Primarily for moving too fast across too broad a front without without adequately understanding the situation and consequences of their actions.  In some sense, this was their task — to break the logjam on military reform.  And that some people in Serdyukov’s team were venal didn’t help matters.

But NG’s right to argue they aren’t to blame for undermanning that leaves only 15 maneuver brigades at full personnel strength.  That’s a number not different from Putin’s first and second terms, the 1990s, or the late Soviet period.

NG’s also right to point to higher levels of training activity as an unalloyed good thing from Moscow’s perspective.  It’s a start.  It’s a function of having money and fuel, and a political leadership willing to allocate them.  But it’s only a necessary condition for building a modern army.  Sizeable Russian forces are probably ready to leave garrison when ordered.

The sufficient condition goes deeper.  Are those formations and units armed, equipped, supported, as well as trained to execute the missions their leadership envisions (and ones it doesn’t)?  It’s simply much harder to tell if they are ready for battle, if they will be capable in combat.  Much depends on the situation and scenario into which they’re thrown.  If, as NG alludes, Georgia should test the Russian Army’s readiness, it would perform better than in 2008.  It would probably do better in a new North Caucasus counterinsurgency.  But these cases are on the low intensity side of the warfare spectrum.  But perhaps they’re the most likely places where the Armed Forces would be employed.

But let there be no mistake, training activity doesn’t equal combat readiness, and combat readiness doesn’t equal combat capability.  It is significant and necessary, yes, but not sufficient.  One has to know a lot more about the condition of the forces and what goes on in those exercises.

No One to Call (Part I)

Shaved and Ready to Serve (photo: Yelena Fazliullina / Nezavisimaya gazeta)

“We could call-up 11.7% of all young men.  Of them, 60% got out on health grounds.  Therefore, the RF Defense Ministry confronts the fact that there is almost no one to call-up into the RF Armed Forces.”

Army General Nikolay Makarov

So the General Staff Chief declared on November 11, 2011, and he’s been quoted to this effect many times since. 

Just nine months earlier, the Defense Ministry declared professional contract service would be the primary method of manning the Armed Forces.  And a year before that, the Defense Minister and General Staff Chief said the exact opposite:  conscription would be primary and contract service would be curtailed.  

But the impossibility of manning a million-man Russian Army by means of the draft was clearly understood by many observers at that time.

The Defense Ministry recently issued its customary press-release indicating 100-percent fulfillment of the fall draft campaign.  

Only 135,850 young men were conscripted for one year of obligatory military service.  This was about 80,000 fewer than the number inducted during the spring draft (218,720), and less than half the fall 2010 call-up (280,000). 

This fall’s 135,850 twelve-month soldiers are just about the same number of men typically drafted for a two-year service term in the mid-2000s.

Viktor Baranets published his archive of annual conscription numbers back to 1999, which is handy.  He makes the point that, in contrast to today’s 12 percent or less, 20 percent of available men were being drafted as late as the late 1990s.

Let’s suppose if Makarov’s 12 percent go to serve and 60 percent are excused for health reasons, then 28 percent are escaping through deferments (mostly educational) or evasion. 

Makarov’s precise 11.7 percent or 135,850 conscripts would mean his total draft pool was under 1.2 million men.  This seems odd because census numbers say Russia should have at least two million 18- and 19-year-old men right now.  And that’s not even mentioning some 21- or 22-year-olds who get caught in the commissar’s dragnet. 

There might be some math your author can’t fathom, but it could also be that the widely-reported number of 200,000 long-term draft (or draft summons) evaders is actually much, much higher.

Let’s look at a fairly detailed report on conscription in one oblast — Sverdlovsk.  Nakanune.ru reports the oblast’s military commissar sent out 25,000 draft notices to the region’s youth. 

Almost half were unfit for health reasons, leaving, let’s suppose, 13,000 young men to sort through.  But this, of course, means Sverdlovsk’s a lot healthier place than many places.

Of those 13,000, some 6,000 had deferments.  So we’re down to 7,000 candidate-soldiers.  Of them, 4,056 were inducted this fall. 

That’s a deferment rate of 24 percent for all men summoned to the draft board.  And 4,056 is 16 percent of those summoned.  The MVD got 700 men (3 percent), and the Armed Forces presumably got 3,356 (13 percent).

Now unmentioned are the 2,944 not deferred and not drafted.  Who knows how they might be counted.  But they might be guys evading the draft by simply going missing.  For those keeping score, that could be an 11.7 percent evasion rate.  Just as many dudes avoiding service as going to serve this fall.

New Poll on Conscription

FOM's Poll on Conscription

The Public Opinion Foundation (FOM) just published a major poll looking at Russian attitudes toward the callup and obligatory military service.  It’s 48 pages, but here are some highlights.

The poll was conducted in July, with 3,000 respondents in 204 populated places in 64 of Russia’s regions.

Fifty-two percent of respondents favor a mixed manning system combining conscription with contract service, and 23 percent favor the callup only.

Sixty-four percent support the announced plan to cut conscripts and increase contract soldiers, although only 22 percent would support taking money from education and health care to pay for them.  Survey participants on average thought 34,500 rubles was worthy pay for contractees.

Fifty-five percent liked reducing conscript service from two years to one while 37 percent did not.  In the 18-30 age group, 65% supported the shorter service term.

In the population as a whole, 29% believe one-year service has reduced dedovshchina and “nonregulation relations” against 46 percent who feel nothing’s changed by it.  There were fewer of the former and more of the latter among respondents claiming intimate knowledge of army life.

The FOM poll showed strong support for a number of Defense Ministry initiatives to “humanize” conscript service.

Fifty-four percent were critical of draft evaders, but 34% were sympathetic toward them.

Finally, buried deep in the results, participants were asked for their views on the state of affairs in the Russian Army in coming years:

  • 19% said it will improve.
  • 19% said it will worsen.
  • 35% said it will stay the same.
  • 26% said hard to answer.

However, when asked to compare military service conditions today against those 10-15 years ago, more respondents said they are easier (39%), and many fewer said they are harder (14%), by comparison with Russians asked the same question in 2002 (just 6% and a whopping 64% respectively).

A Rock and a Hard Place

Russians in Tajikistan (photo: RIA Novosti / Vladimir Fedorenko)

Conscripts or contractees?  It’s difficult for the Russian Army to get the right kind of conscripts, where it needs them.  But, over time, it hasn’t been any easier to obtain long-term contract enlisted either. 

Last week, Izvestiya wrote about army plans to replace conscripts currently serving in its 201st Military Base in Tajikistan with contractees. 

An officer in the formation told the paper it’s too costly to keep 3,000 conscripts in Tajikistan, and, by the end of 2012, the Russian Army will replace half with contractees.  A GOMU source tells the paper replacing all 3,000 at once is “unrealistic.”  Contractees will reportedly serve on three-year deals getting 30,000 rubles per month.

The situation for Russians in Tajikistan, the officer says, is strained, and Tajik authorities regularly detain conscripts for one reason or another.  As an example, he cites the case of a conscript driver who killed three Tajiks last January.  Thus, he concludes, it would be easier with “professionals” – contractees —  who “know what they’re doing, and can be responsible for their actions.”

But there’s no reason to think contractees will avoid trouble any better than conscripts.  The first contract experiment proved that.  Contractees are more costly and just as difficult to control, if not more than their conscripted brother-soldiers.

According to Izvestiya, the 201st now has 5,500 personnel, including the 3,000 conscripts.

An old Krasnaya zvezda report says, in early 2007 – at the height of the first, failed attempt at introducing contract service – the military base had 7,000 servicemen in all, about 60 or 65 percent contractees.  Its two maneuver units had 50 percent or fewer in their ranks.

Back then, the Defense Ministry daily said the military was all set to send conscripts in place of hired soldiers.  It was hard to convince older, experienced men to go to Tajikistan because of the difficult living conditions and prospects for serving on contract in Russia.

As Izvestiya’s interlocutor intimated, relations between Moscow and Dushanbe are a bit strained right now, prompting some to wonder out loud if manning the 201st won’t become a moot issue.

Below One Million?

Dropping Russia’s military manpower level below one million?  Talk about a watershed.  This might be spurious information, but coming from Dmitriy Litovkin, the report has to be taken seriously.  In fine Russian tradition, it could be a trial balloon to elicit public and elite reactions.

In yesterday’s Izvestiya, Litovkin reported that, over the course of two years, the Russian Army will become smaller by 150,000 men, according to a Defense Ministry source.

The impetus for this is the Finance Ministry’s.  Aleksey Kudrin’s been ordered to fight the budget deficit, and he’s got defense and security spending in his sights. 

The source says concrete proposals to cut military expenditures were prepared for a special government conference in early June.  As a result, the government adopted an “additional reduction” of 150,000 servicemen.  This would reportedly save 10 billion rubles in 2010 [sic], and almost 50 billion rubles in 2014.  The article says military staffs have already been cut 40 percent as a result of army reform. 

Litovkin notes Defense Minister Serdyukov has previously called one million the “optimal” manning figure — ostensibly 150,000 officers, 100,000-120,000 contract sergeants, and conscripts for the balance.

But it wasn’t so long ago that the Defense Ministry declared the need for an increase of 70,000 officers, and raising the number of contract NCOs and soldiers to 480,000.  It’s not clear how these new cuts are supposed to jibe with increases proposed earlier this year.  The Supreme CINC [together with his tandem partner] will have to decide.

Litovkin enumerates Defense Minister Serdyukov’s competing costly initiatives — higher officer pay, outsourcing nonmilitary tasks, etc.  According to this, outsourcing alone has already brought 380,000 [!?] civilians into military support positions and this number is supposed to increase.  Litovkin doesn’t close the loop on this, but he seems to imply the high cost of these efforts requires cuts in manpower.

This is all exciting and interesting and occasions a couple thoughts.

One.  The new “optimal” number for the Armed Forces must be 850,000.  Liberal Russian politicians, military analysts, and observers have long argued for this, or an even more radical cut.  But one million has had mystical power.  Russian conservatives will vociferously object that the country’s borders are too extensive to be defended by a single man short of one million, as if even one [or for that matter two] million could do it, or as if sheer manpower’s the best way to parry modern military threats.

Two.  Though not mentioned by Litovkin, isn’t it possible Moscow’s decided to make a virtue of necessity and recognize that demographic and draft problems have left them well short of a fully-manned force of one million anyway?  This could be a small step in the direction of becoming (or at least looking) more like just another European army.

Three.  The inevitable downsides.  Keeping more officers had been intended to deal with the outplacement cost (apartments) and other negative fallout of cutting the officer corps in half, not to mention simply having more officers around to deal with unruly nonprofessional soldiers in the ranks.  And another round of personnel reductions is likely to delay any resumed movement toward a long-term professional enlisted force.

Just the latest fro in the game of Russian defense policy to-and-fro.

Walking Back Serdyukov’s Personnel Policies (Part I)

And so it’s begun. 

The first of Defense Minister Serdyukov’s major reform planks – cutting the officer corps from 355,000 to 150,000, or no more than 15 percent of the million-man army – has been reversed.

The Armed Forces’ officer manning level was apparently one topic in yesterday’s meeting between President Medvedev and his “power” ministers about plans to raise pay for servicemen in 2012.

Serdyukov told the media about the decision to increase officers in the Armed Forces by 70,000:

“A decision’s been taken to increase officer personnel by 70 thousand.  This is connected with the fact that we’re deploying additional military units, establishing military-space defense, that is, an entire service (of troops), and the increase is happening in connection with this.”

First, this raised some interesting questions about VKO.  Is it really going to become a service (vid or вид).  After all, the Space Troops are only a service branch (род войск) right now.  That’s quite a promotion.  And are we really supposed to believe the expansion of VKO or the Space Troops will require 70,000 additional officers? 

Of course not, it’s a convenient excuse to walk back a large part of the 50 percent cut in army officers Serdyukov announced when he launched his reforms in October 2008.

Most media outlets were pretty confused on what this means for officer numbers.  They assumed the Russian Army’s at 150,000 officers right now, just add 70,000 for a total of 220,000.  But it’s not so simple.

When Serdyukov started cutting officers, there were 305,000 occupied officer billets.  Krasnaya zvezda said the Armed Forces had 181,000 officers at the end of last year.  So a grand total of 124,000 officers were either discharged, placed outside the “org-shtat” at their commander’s “disposition,” or forced to accept an NCO billet between late 2008 and the end of 2010.  Returning 70,000 to the ranks might leave us wondering only about what happened to the other 54,000.  And 181,000 plus 70,000 takes the officer corps basically back to 250,000, or fully one-quarter of the million-man army.

The army officer corps has endured considerable sturm und drang in a little over two years all for the sake of shedding just 55,000 officers.

More on this tomorrow.