Tag Archives: NCOs

Serdyukov Year-Ender (Part III)

A good day to finish old business . . . this covers the second half of Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov’s Rossiyskaya gazeta interview.  Serdyukov, while remaining on message, seems tired or uninspired in giving this interview.  He reviews old ground rather than breaking any new.

Serdyukov talks about coming to grips with large existing stockpiles of tanks, BMPs, BTRs, guns, and automatic rifles, and indicates he’s waiting for the defense sector to propose some fundamentally new systems.  In regard to Kalashnikovs, the Defense Ministry is open to new developments from private firms but isn’t eschewing future AK purchases from its traditional supplier either.

On Mistral, Serdyukov tells RG the French will decide where it’s best to produce units 3 and 4, and Sevmash is the likely place.  But he wants them to come in cheaper than number 1 and 2 being built in France.  He expects Russia to acquire leading edge shipbuilding techniques in the process.

Serdyukov shows a flash of interest when asked about conclusions from Russia’s recent space launch failures:

“One conclusion — we have to change our approach to military acceptance.  And we’re occupied with this.  Next year we want to reformat it.  There’s already understanding about what has to be done in training units for military acceptance specialists, their incentives, and technical equipping.”

“Generally, this is a serious question.  We haven’t devoted the due attention to military acceptance because of various obstacles.  Now we are smoothing out the situation.  Not so long ago the prime minister had a conference, and Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin gave a whole series of instructions on price formation and tracking contracts.  Acceptance and production quality was one issue.  Today this task is being worked, and we are preparing proposals by the end of the year [2011].”

Serdyukov says voyenpredy can be civilians, but they should be former military men with lots of practical experience.

The last significant point in the second half of Serdyukov’s interview is his call for differentiated training for new professional sergeants — 3 or 4 months for those in motorized rifle units and 2 years or more for EW or communications specialists, for example.  The comparison he gives is training equivalent to technical secondary school or old school for warrant officers.  He indicates he’s not afraid future NCOs will become “eternal students.”

VDV Day

Today was the 81st anniversary of VDV’s establishment . . .

VDV Commander, General-Lieutenant Vladimir Shamanov is looking for 20 new An-124 transport aircraft to support his troops by the end of GPV-2020, according to ITAR-TASS

Shamanov told Rossiyskaya gazeta he plans to return to jumping next year, despite injuries received when his vehicle was hit by a truck last fall.

He’s  disappointed the BMD-4M hasn’t completed its evaluation; armor testing remains.  And Shamanov admitted:

“There’s still no firm agreement on the schedules for testing and supplying this equipment to the troops.”

Shamanov’s first deputy and chief of staff, General-Lieutenant Nikolay Ignatov also told Ekho Moskvy a final decision on the BMD-4M’s readiness for combat employment will come after upcoming tests at Kubinka.

Ignatov talked to Ekho about the VDV’s plans for professional sergeants.  He said the VDV will start getting contractees from professional NCO training next fall, and will have only professional sergeants by 2016.  They will be “high class” specialists, and platoon and deputy platoon commanders to compensate for officer reductions.  The chief of staff said base [rank] contract pay will be 15-25,000 rubles per month, supplemented by a range of duty-related bonuses. Contractees will sign up initially for three years, and their units and divisions will decide if they’re offered a second contract.

Ignatov spoke disparagingly of the 2004-2007 contract service experiment, in which the 76th DShD served as test bed.  He said low pay and the lack of service housing for married soldiers bedeviled the program, and the government should have taken responsibility for pay and benefits rather than leaving them to the division.

About conscription, Ignatov said flatly:

“. . . today’s conscript servicemen simply won’t have a chance, he won’t be capable of mastering this equipment [new armaments] fully in all its characteristics.”

Ignatov also spoke at length about a new VDV automated C2 system called Andromeda-D, developed by the Scientific-Research Institute of Communications and Command and Control Systems (NIISSU or НИИССУ).

He describes Andromeda-D as a division-to-soldier system, with stationary points for commanders down to battalion, and vehicle-mounted systems for tactical units.  Andromeda-D has passed troop testing, has been deployed in the 76th DShD, and is in the GOZ to buy it for the 7th DShD, 98th VDD, and 31st DShBr, according to Ignatov. 

He told Krasnaya zvezda the existing Polet-K system will be integrated into the new Andromeda-D system.

He also says the VDV plans to deploy GLONASS receivers in its vehicles as part of its C2 system.

What Kind of Army?

Not again . . . but yes, Wednesday Trud asked what kind of army does Russia need in the future? 

It’s almost 20 years since the army ceased to be Soviet, and the paper asked five relatively independent experts the same question that’s been asked since 1991 –what is to be done about Russia’s Armed Forces?

Yes, it’s repetitive . . . it’s rare we hear something new, the problem is not ideas and initiatives, it’s implementing them.

At the same time, these commentaries are short and pithy.  They cover a lot of ground, and might be handy.

Korotchenko supports the Defense Ministry’s swerve back toward contractees, since there aren’t enough conscripts.  And he doubts conscripts are up to the task of handling modern weapons.  But he points to the need to end dedovshchina and other barracks violence to attract professional enlisted. 

Sharavin believes the big mobilization army is still needed, and conscription will continue alongside contract service for some time.  He wants more benefits for conscripts who’ve served, and he wants the sons of the bureaucratic elite to serve. 

Belozerov agrees recruiting 425,000 professional soldiers won’t be easy or fast.

Litovkin is harsher; he says there’s no reform, just back and forth on contract service.  He lampoons the current small-scale effort to train professional NCOs.  He ridicules thoughts of a serious mobilization reserve because of the lack of reserve training.

Makiyenko thinks a contract army is cost prohibitive, and the army numbers only about 800,000.  He likes the fighting spirit of soldiers from the Caucasus, opposes segregating them, but hopes Muslim clergymen in the ranks can restrain them. 

Igor Korotchenko:

“Of the million servicemen, ideally we should have 220 thousand officers, 425 thousand contractees and 355 thousand conscripts.   It’s true, not now, but in 10 years.  On the one hand, this is due to the physical impossibility of calling up more — there is simply no one to put under arms according to demographic indicators.  In the last call-up, the army took in 70 thousand fewer conscripts than in the preceding campaigns.  On the other hand, it’s simply scary to entrust those weapons systems, which should be purchased in the coming decade according to the state armaments program (and this is 20 trillion rubles by 2020), to people who were just driven out of the  sticks and into the army for a year.  Whether the Armed Forces want it or not, they are doomed to a certain intellectualization.  However, this is impossible if existing nonregulation relations between servicemen are preserved.  It seems that the Armed Forces leadership has started to understand this.  A program for the humanization of  service which also aims to remove the problem of dodging service (about 200 thousand men) has appeared.  Now in the Ryazan VDV School the first graduating class of professional sergeants is finishing the three-year course of study.  The eradication of nonregulation relations is connected directly with them.”

Aleksandr Sharavin:

“What kind of army to have is determined primarily by the country’s geographic situation.  If there is a potential threat to its territory from neighboring countries, we need a conscript army, through which a large mass of young men pass and allows for having a great mobilization reserve as a result.  If there is no threat, we can limit ourselves to professionals.  Russia has such threats — look closely at the map!”

“Is the transition to a professional army possible in Russia?  I suggest it’s possible, but not necessary. According to the Supreme CINC, we will transition to a new profile of the Armed Forces in 10-15 years.  For this or an even more extended period, conscription will remain.  Possibly in a much easier form — they will serve, not a year, or will call-up not 200 and some thousand, as now, but only 170 thousand men.  In the future, it would do to reduce even this number.  Moreover, reducing it will allow a certain selection and thereby improve the quality of the young men conscripted into the army.”

“In my view, a serving citizen [conscript] can’t receive the current 500 rubles [per month].  Hard military work should be well-paid, otherwise it is objectively devalued.  The rate — not lower than the country’s minimum wage!  We also need to think about other stimuli:  free higher education for those who’ve served, some kind of favorable mortgage credit, and, most importantly, we should only accept those young men who’ve fulfilled their duty to the Homeland into state service.  No references to health conditions can be taken into account.  If there’s strength to be a bureaucrat — get well and find the strength to serve in yourself!  If we need to amend the Constitution for this, we’ll amend it.  Our neighbors in Kazakhstan went this way and got a double benefit:  improved quality of the army contingent and bureaucrats who are not so divorced from the people, as in Russia.”

Vasiliy Belozerov:

“If the political decision is made, it’s possible even now, undoubtedly, to establish a fully volunteer army in Russia.  But do we need this?  I suggest it will be correct and justified if the share of professional sergeants and contractees in the army will be raised gradually.  Since it’s unclear from where a quantity of 425 thousand professionals can be gotten all at once.  They won’t fall from the sky.  We have to remind ourselves that the contingent of both current conscripts and potential professionals is one and the same:  young men 18-28.  This means we have to  create such conditions that it’s not the lumpen who go into the army, but normal men.  And worthy people need worthy conditions.  And there’s one more figure:  based on world experience it’s possible to say that in a professional army in the year for various reasons (health, age, contract termination, etc.) 5 percent of personnel are dismissed.  This means that in a 425,000-man professional corps in a year we have to recruit an additional 20 thousand men.  They also need to be gotten from somewhere.”

Viktor Litovkin:

“As is well-known, the army should know only two states:  either fighting, or preparing for war.  For us, it is either reforming or preparing to reform.  Meanwhile, there’s still no clear presentation of ​​what kind of army we want and what government resources we are prepared to give for this army.”

“In Russia, there is no coherent policy on establishing new Armed Forces.  The fact is the Chief of the Genshtab says we made a monstrous mistake and the Federal Targeted Program for Forming Professional Units failed, therefore we’ll get rid of contractees.  A half year goes by, the very same Genshtab Chief comes to the podium with the words that the country, it turns out, again needs 425 thousand professionals.  Make the basic calculations:  for this number of soldiers we need to have 65 thousand professional junior commanders [NCOs].  And now in Ryazan we have 250 men studying to be sergeants, they’ll graduate next year.  Meanwhile, there’s no data that they’ve selected the next course.  Has anyone thought about this?  And one more thing.  When we say that we need the call-up to create a trained reserve, this is self-deception.  The reserves are so unprepared!  Suppose we trained a soldiers for a year to drive a tank.  What next?  Once or twice a week after work this mechanic-driver has to work on the trainer at the voyenkomat, and every six months — drive a real tank on the range.  Otherwise, in case of war, we get not a trained reserve, but several million 40-year-old guys with beer guts who’ve forgotten which end the machine gun fires from.”

Konstantin Makiyenko:

“In my opinion, the transition to a professional army in Russia is desirable, but absolutely impossible.  A contract army is actually substantially more expensive than a conscript one.  Another thing, our announced one-million-man [army], in my view, likely doesn’t number 800 thousand men.  We have to talk about yet another problem — the coexistence of conscripts from the Caucasus and other regions in the army. Everyone remembers the wild incident, when these guys laid out the word ‘Kavkaz’ using conscripts of other nationalities.  But, on the other hand, conscripts from Dagestan, Chechnya or Kabardino-Balkaria, as a rule, stand-out for the best physical preparation and desire to learn about weapons.  Once the idea was floated to have Caucasians serve in some units, and Russians in others.  At the last session of the Defense Ministry’s Public Council, it was announced that this won’t be.  It was decided to refrain from creating monoethnic military formations of the ‘wild division’ type from the Tsarist Army.  Contradictions between conscripts called up from the Caucasus and other regions of the country will be removed by introducing the institution of military clergy of the Islamic persuasion.”

Walking Back Contract Service (Part II)

Here are some particulars from Deputy Chief of the General Staff, GOMU Chief General-Colonel Vasiliy Smirnov’s press-conference on the spring draft — and contract service — last week.

After dropping his lower spring draft number (203,720) bombshell, Smirnov said an increase in contractees will accompany this reduction in conscripts.  The Defense Ministry will determine clear, strict criteria for selecting and training contractees, and will raise the prestige of their service (along with their pay and living conditions, of course). 

In other remarks to the press, Smirnov emphasized that conscript service will remain, and the Armed Forces will retain mixed manning (i.e. conscripts and contractees).

Smirnov listed the following priorities for contract manning:

“In 2011, we will man sergeant posts, Navy afloat personnel, Airborne Troops [VDV] formations and military units, formations deployed on the territory of the Chechen Republic, and also the most knowledge-intensive and high technology military specialties, which determine the combat capability of formations and military units, with servicemen on contract.”

Priorities for Contract Service

In the near term, according to Smirnov, the Defense Ministry will put contractees in all sergeant-squad leader billets and positions involving maintenance or operation of complex or new weapons systems and equipment.

He said training of professional sergeants in the Defense Ministry’s higher educational institutions began in six schools in 2009, expanded to 19 last year, and will be conducted in 24 in 2011.

In his Q&A with the media, Smirnov said there’s no plan to switch to large numbers of contractees immediately, but rather:

“The number of contractees will increase gradually, mainly because of the large-scale introduction of new types of armaments.”

So he linked the need for contractees to presumed future success in acquiring new equipment under GPV 2011-2020.

Smirnov told the media a pereattestatsiya was conducted last year, and only 174 thousand competent contractees remain.  He also noted (as indicated on his slide above) that Spetsnaz would also be a priority for contractees.  He said there are currently 55,000 contract sergeants in the training pipeline.

Smirnov defended the earlier contract effort in the mid-2000s, saying it was successfully fulfilled despite being only half financed at 76 billion rubles, and:

“The main Navy and VDV units and formations are half manned with contract servicemen.”

Not a stunning testament to the earlier program.

It’s interesting that Smirnov talked so much about contract NCOs when, less than two months ago, the Federal Targeted Program for Manning Sergeant Billets with Contractees, 2009-2015 was cut in half.  Financing was reduced from 243 to 152 billion rubles, and the number of contract sergeants to be trained from 107,000 to 65,000.  For stories on this, see KommersantNewsru.com, or Komsomolskaya pravda.  The sources in these reports also put the number of contractees remaining much lower than Smirnov’s 174,000; they say at or just above 100,000.

One finds it hard to fathom that the Defense Ministry can find 425,000 contractees when just a half dozen years ago it failed to recruit, train, and retain 133,000.  Thus far in these early pronouncements on reinvigorating contract service nothing’s been said about what or how it will be different this time.  The Defense Ministry will have to make such a case to its political masters, the public, and the men it’s trying to sign up at some point.

Some things, like the Defense Ministry’s other priorities, are already known.  A renewed contract service effort will have to compete with a new higher pay system for a larger number of officers starting next year.  And the Defense Ministry is also at the outset of a new and expensive GPV that’s supposed to provide modern weapons and equipment which demand long-term, professional enlisted personnel (aka contractees).  And there are overdue and unfinished agenda items like the provision of permanent and service housing to officers.

Yes, your author is skeptical that the renewed push for contractees can gain traction.  We have to remember this magical 425,000 number is somewhere off in the future.  There’s no promised delivery date.  And the entire issue began with the tacit recognition that, for many reasons, Russia can only conscript so much manpower.  Keeping fewer guys from being shaved and inducted pretty much against their will is always good politics on the cusp of a presidential election year.

Golts on the Sudden Increase in Officers

Yezhednevnyy zhurnal’s Aleksandr Golts says Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov’s explanation that 70,000 more officers are needed because of VKO doesn’t hold water since it will be created on the basis of existing formations and units.

Golts concludes that Russian military reform has reached its next turning point.  He recalls that cutting officers to 150,000 and eliminating a large number of cadre formations and units represented the rejection of the old mass mobilization army concept.

But the reduction of so many officers could not but bring bitter opposition.  Nevertheless, Serdyukov stubbornly implemented the cuts, ignoring cries about the destruction of the country’s glorious officer corps (which Golts says hasn’t existed in a very long time).

Then suddenly the chief of the military department reversed himself.  Suddenly, it appears there are not too many officers, but a shortage.  The Armed Forces agonizingly cut 200,000 officer positions just to reintroduce 70,000!

Golts thinks there are several possible reasons.

The most obvious is the state’s inability to meet its obligations (primarily permanent apartments) to dismissed officers.  In mid-2010, there was information about 70,000 officers outside the shtat (штат or TO&E).  Later in the year, the number given was 40,000.  But says Golts:

“. . . to find out how many officers are really outside the shtat is impossible:  whatever figure Defense Ministry officials want to name, they name.  It’s possible to suppose that, having realized their inability to settle up with future retirees, the military department simply decided to put them back in the shtat.”

The second possible cause, according to Golts, is that the Defense Ministry failed to fill the officer posts it cut with well-trained sergeants and civilian personnel because the wages it offered were too low.  On the issue of more sergeants, Golts concludes:

“Sergeant training programs are failing.  Training centers simply can’t put out as many junior commanders as the Armed Forces need – they require not less than 100 thousand.  There’s no where to get them from.  And so they decided again to use officers to perform sergeant functions in combat sub-units, as rear service guys, service personnel.  If so, then this is a serious blow to reform.  Because the officer will cease being the elite of the Armed Forces, again turning into a low-level functionary.”

And Golts provides his third, worst case possibility:

“The generals convinced the president, but most of all, the premier [Putin] that it’s possible to achieve combat readiness by returning to the old mobilization model.  This is an ultimate end to reforms.  If so, then after presidential elections in 2012 the term of conscript service will inevitably be raised.  And everything will be back to normal.”

Golts concludes this concession by Serdyukov – heretofore supported by President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin – will make those who hate him conclude he’s lost support, and they will triple their attacks on reforms.  In the worst case, this will be the first step toward overturning them.

Walking Back Serdyukov’s Personnel Policies (Part II)

Medvedev in Meeting on Military Pay (photo: Kremlin.ru)

So officers were cut too drastically, and their numbers are going to be increased.

One recalls Ilya Kramnik saying officer cuts were causing serious tension in the ranks.  As if to prove the point, on Wednesday, near Novosibirsk, a drunken major living outside the “shtat” threatened to blow up his room in the unit’s dormitory.  This summer Aleksey Nikolskiy said halving officers caused trouble for brigades in the Vostok-2010 exercise.

But it’s not just an officer shortage that’s led to this policy reversal.  Difficulties with conscription and sergeants have forced the Defense Ministry to plug holes with more officers. 

Aleksandr Sharavin talked to BFM.ru about the situation:

“I think this is connected with the fact that now the situation in the army is very tense.  They cut officers from 450 thousand [sic] to 150.  They cut warrant officers completely, and professional sergeants aren’t appearing, we didn’t train them, and still can’t do this.  What we’ve got is a lot of conscript soldiers, few contractees, generally no professional sergeants, and a triple load laid on the remaining officers.  Now we have to compensate by increasing the number of officers.”  

Increasing the officer ranks wasn’t the only personnel policy reversal announced on 2 February.  A preliminary decision to increase contractees in the Armed Forces was also discussed.  Serdyukov said:

“This issue isn’t finally decided, but we have a proposal for an increase.  The Security Council was ordered to review this issue, in the course of the month a concrete figure – how much the number of contractees will be increased from 2012 – will be determined.”     

Utro.ru entitled it’s coverage of this story “Army Reform Reversed,” and reminded readers that army contract service was curtailed last winter because the military couldn’t afford it.  And now apparently it can?

We don’t know how many contract sergeants might be added starting next year.  In fact, no one seems to know how many there are now.  Newsru.com claims the army currently has 180,000 contract soldiers, sergeants, and warrants.  If that’s true, the Armed Forces are about 900,000.  But if there are fewer contractees, and conscripts are less than 560,000, then the Armed Forces are that much below 900,000.

Can an about-face on the elimination of warrant officers be far behind?

As early as 27 January, Rossiyskaya gazeta reported Deputy Defense Minister Pankov said some cadets might be inducted into VVUZy in 2011.  It was just back in the fall that the Defense Ministry put a two-year moratorium on them.  As it is, VVUZy now have about 45,000 cadets in the classes of 2011, 2012, and 2013.

But the Defense Ministry is looking at having these would-be officers join 5,000 other former cadets as sergeants.  The Defense Ministry is talking about salaries as high as 40,000 rubles a month for professional NCOs.  But current NCO training efforts in VVUZy are going very slowly, and the army wants 250,000 of them, according to Nezavisimaya gazeta.

Let’s return for a bit to Medvedev’s Tuesday session on raising pay for servicemen and law enforcement.  We’re talking Defense Ministry, MVD, MChS, FSB, FSO, and SVR here.  Men with ranks, badges, and guns.  Medvedev called higher pay for them:

“. . . an issue of state importance.  In the last analysis, our efforts to reform the Armed Forces, create a new profile of the Armed Forces and, of course, reform the system of law enforcement organs, including reforming the Internal Affairs Ministry and creating police depend on it.”

The Defense Ministry is talking median pay of 50,000 rubles a month for lieutenants starting in 2012.  Just a sampling . . . a cadet would get 18,200, a contract soldier 24,800, a squad sergeant 34,600, and a brigade commander 93,800 rubles per month.

NG’s Vladimir Mukhin reports the Finance Ministry believes the new military pay plan will cost another 1 percent of Russia’s GDP, taking the defense budget from nearly 3 to nearly 4 percent of GDP.  All this while the government wonders whether outyear budgets will be in deficit or not.

The last couple days represent the first major defeat for Serdyukov.  His military personnel policies are a complete and utter shambles.  Political analyst Aleksey Mukhin commented to BFM.ru on Defense Minister Serdyukov’s prospects: 

“ It’s fully possible that soon they’ll call him enemy No. 1 for the reform which is being conducted.”

If they don’t already.  One guesses he’ll keep his post though.

So after flirting briefly with paying relatively few officers more money, the Defense Ministry’s going to pay more officers more money instead.  And this is more officers at the same time President Medvedev’s ordered a 20 percent cut in government bureaucracy.

The fact is military reform’s gone beyond the military now and become more of a factor in domestic politics.  Vlasti are just a bit nervous about social stability in the runup to elections this year and next, and are also a little worried about the guys with the guns.  For the regime, the extra money is worth keeping 70,000 potential ex-officer opponents out of the streets.  It may feel this provides some insurance that the guys with guns will do as they’re told.

As BFM.ru concludes, the Tunisian [or Egyptian] “virus” could spread.  And the terrorist threat is high.  So Russia’s leadership has to think about an effective and combat capable army.

Commentator Sergey Markov told BFM.ru that the regime wants to increase the number of officers who can fight, but it will continue cutting those in support functions and replacing them with civilians:

“But everyone understands perfectly that you can’t do without a real combat force.”

The Results of Reform

Trud’s Mikhail Lukanin offered an interesting one last Wednesday . . . with help from other frequent commentators, he takes a swag at describing the results of Anatoliy Serdyukov’s nearly 4-year tenure as Defense Minister.

It’s interesting because it’s unclear if Lukanin’s article is intended to damn by faint praise, to be sarcastic, or was ordered by someone.  Maybe he intends to say these are just results, the good and the bad.

It’s easy to see some good in Lukanin’s first five, but his final three are pretty much unleavened.

The Army’s Become More Mobile

Lukanin quotes Vitaliy Shlykov:

“Until 2008, our army looked like fragments of the old, Soviet one, weighed down with heavy weapons, oriented toward global nuclear war with practically the entire world.”

He says even in the August war against Georgia the army was still “Soviet” — slow to stand up, with an archaic command and control structure.  But now the situation’s changed with mobile brigades that can answer an alert in 1 hour instead of days.

The Army’s Rid Itself of the Spirit of the Barracks

Valentina Melnikova tells Lukanin that the soldier’s life has changed cardinally under Serdyukov.  She says, until recently, one-third of soldiers were typically involved in nonmilitary work every day.  Now soldiers are gradually being freed from such duties as commercial firms take them on.

New Equipment Has Come to the Troops

Lukanin writes that finally a start’s been given to the largest rearmament of the army in post-Soviet times.  One that will take new weapons and equipment from about 10 percent of today’s inventory to 90-100 percent [official sources only claim 70 percent] by 2020.

Lukanin quotes Ruslan Pukhov:

“The Navy alone will receive 40 submarines and 36 new ships, and the Air Forces 1,500 aircraft in the next decade.”

Officer Pay Has Grown

Lukanin says lieutenants and majors made 14 and 20 thousand rubles per month respectively before Serdyukov’s reform,  but now 50 and 70 thousand if they receive premium pay for outstanding combat training results.  And from 2012, premium payments will be included in their permanent duty pay, and 50 thousand rubles will be the minimum base pay for officers.

Lukanin quotes Aleksandr Khramchikhin: 

“The officers of our army are actually comparable with the armies of developed countries in pay levels. “

They Didn’t Talk Reform to Death

Lukanin says experts think it’s good Serdyukov’s reform was pursued energetically, without lengthy discussion and debate.  Pukhov gives the cut from 6 to 4 military districts as an example:

“At one time, it would have taken years to transfer a huge quantity of officers and generals from place to place, but the Defense Ministry did this in just 4-5 months.”

They Stopped Training Officers

Lukanin refers to Serdyukov’s halt to inducting new cadets into officer commissioning schools until at least 2012.  He says 2010 graduates were either released or accepted sergeant positions.  This led to the departure of experienced instructors, and their replacement with younger officers lacking the necessary experience.

Sergeants Almost Ceased to Exist

Contract sergeants were dispersed in 2009-2010.  The Defense Ministry considers them poorly trained, and in no way superior to ordinary [conscript] soldiers.  Now it’s counting completely on conscripts with an even lower level of training.

There’s Nothing to Defend Against China

Here Lukanin notes that some results of reform have put people on guard.  Anatoliy Tsyganok tells him tank units have been practically eliminated: 

“Now only 2,000 tanks, old models at that, remain in the army.”

In Tsyganok’s opinion, tanks are still very relevant for the defense of Russia’s border with China.

What do we make of all this?

  • It’s good that the Russian Army was restructured into smaller, more combat ready formations, i.e. brigades, and sub-units. 
  • We really have no clear picture of the extent and success of outsourcing nonmilitary tasks in the army.  Meanwhile, the “spirit of the barracks” is alive and well when it comes to dedovshchina and violence in the ranks. 
  • The promise of another rearmament program shimmers on the horizon, but it’s not delivering much yet, and there are plenty of serious obstacles to completing it. 
  • The officer pay picture has improved, but the Defense Ministry has real work to do this year to implement a fully new pay system next year.  Meanwhile, several years of premium pay have caused divisions and disaffection in the officer corps. 
  • Moving out smartly on reform was a change over endless talk, but there are areas where more circumspection might have served Serdyukov well. 
  • The Defense Ministry definitely had to stop feeding more officers into an army with a 1:1 officer-conscript ratio.  We’ll have to see what kind of officers the remaining VVUZy produce when the induction of cadets restarts. 
  • Aborting contract service cut the army’s losses on the failed centerpiece military personnel policy of the 2000s.  But something will have to take its place eventually to produce more professional NCOs and soldiers. 
  • Russia is probably right to deemphasize its heavy armor.  It doesn’t appear to have much of a place in the coming rearmament plan.  And tanks really aren’t the answer to Moscow’s largely unstated security concerns vis-a-vis China anyway.

So what’s Serdyukov’s scorecard?  A mixed bag.  Probably more good than bad, but we’ll have to wait to see which results stand and prove positive over the long term.  Definitely superior to his predecessor’s tenure.  Expect more Serdyukov anniversary articles as 15 February approaches.

20 Percent Undermanning and Declining Contract Service

Nezavisimaya gazeta’s Vladimir Mukhin writes this morning that the results of the fall draft are still being tallied, but the General Staff has already announced that several regions didn’t meet their conscription plans.  And so, for the first time in recent years, the Armed Forces is facing undermanned conscript soldier and sergeant ranks, while the number of contract soldiers continues its decline.

Mukhin harks back to Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov’s recent Duma session, where he admitted that the army’s demand for soldiers is not being fully met.  The exact quantitative deficit is a secret, but Mukhin says even a crude estimate tells him the military is at least 20 percent undermanned.

The Armed Forces now officially have less than 500,000 conscripts, 181,000 officers, and 120,000 contractees (800,000 in all, roughly), although approved manning is 1 million.

Mukhin concludes:

“It goes without saying, undermanning affects their combat readiness.  And measures taken to resolve the problem, let’s say it directly, are hard to call adequate.”

A retired VDV general tells Mukhin contractees in the Pskov-based 76th Airborne Division (VDD or ВДД) dropped from 20 percent of personnel to 12 percent in 2010.  The outflow was due to low pay of 11,000 rubles per month against an oblast average of about 18,000. 

Mukhin forgets to mention that the 76th VDD was the cradle of “Pskov experiment” with contract service in 2003.  It led to the wider Federal Targeted Program, 2004-2007, which General Staff Chief Makarov declared a failure early last year.

The Pskov-based 2nd Spetsnaz Brigade recently received a Defense Ministry order not to extend professional contractees, and to replace them with conscript soldiers and sergeants from training sub-units (i.e. guys who’ve been in the army all of three months).

Mukhin’s ex-general says:

“We don’t have to say what Spetsnaz brigades do.  Namely, as before, they carry out not training, but combat missions in North Caucasus hot spots.  You can’t train a good Spetsnaz soldier in a year even, much less three months.  I don’t want to be the prophet of doom, but this means the likelihood of casualties will grow in a combat situation.”

A good article by Mukhin.  His general’s words will likely be borne out.  Anyone who followed both Chechen wars can see the Russian Army lining itself up to relearn the bitter lessons of those conflicts when it comes to choosing between professionals and draftees.

Larger Significance of the Serdyukov Flap

Pavel Felgengauer

You’ll find bits of the following by Pavel Felgengauer in various English language articles, but not his full argument as laid out here.

Writing in Novaya gazeta this week, military commentator Pavel Felgengauer concludes that Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov remains in place, but the army’s problems are growing.  He says:

“Today a dangerous situation of general decay in discipline and order is taking shape which could lead to a loss of control over the armed forces.”

The slow disintegration of the Soviet Armed Forces required Serdyukov to take immediate, radical, and often not well thought out reforms, according to Felgengauer.  Mass officer and warrant officer dismissals have put 70 thousand outside the TO&E “at the command’s disposition,” essentially just waiting for dismissal.  Only 10,000 are junior officers whom the Defense Ministry owes little by way of benefits.

A bit of explanation that Felgengauer doesn’t give you.  We haven’t had any independent observer put this number so high.  These 70,000 are waiting for housing because, by law, surplus officers can’t be discharged until they get permanent apartments.  But they aren’t living on much while they wait.  Because they don’t have duty posts, they get only rank pay, not various monthly supplements that officers in active positions get.  Rank pay might be only 30 percent of what they received when they were in the TO&E.

But back to Felgengauer.  He turns next to NCOs.  He says experts say, with a million-man army and 150,000 officers, the Russian Armed Forces need 200,000 or 300,000 sergeants.  But in Serdyukov’s ‘new profile’ TO&E, there are billets for only 90,000 contractee-specialists and NCOs together.

And these are the guys who’re supposed to help the shrunken officer corps keep order in the ranks.

Felgengauer then recites the Main Military Prosecutor’s announcement that barracks violence is up 50 percent in 2010.  He says incidents of open ‘hooliganism,’ criminal violence, and inter-ethnic conflict are all rising.  And only a declining number of officers is there to hold all this together – with the help of an inadequate NCO corps.  This is why, says Felgengauer, the Soviet officer corps relied on dedovshchina as a lever to keep order among the troops.  He may be suggesting Russian officers are doing the same thing now.

He concludes many are dissatisfied with this state of affairs, and they all focus blame on Serdyukov, somewhat unfairly, according to Felgengauer.  Criticism is focused on the man who actually tried to fix Russia’s decaying defense department, and not his predecessors who drove it to ruin.

Of course, one could ask Felgengauer isn’t this the fate of all reformers?  Maybe those being reformed were happy with the decaying and ineffective bureaucracy and forces that were comfortable, and perhaps profitable, for them.

Felgengauer returns to the issue of attempts to train NCOs.  Instead of officers, military schools are supposed to prepare sergeants instead.  But only the erstwhile Ryazan Higher Airborne Command School is actually doing it, and, ironically, this is where the storm over Serdyukov arose.

Felgengauer concludes that Putin and Medvedev agreed with Serdyukov’s reforms, and so they aren’t ready to dismiss him now.  But the problems and tensions surrounding the Defense Ministry are growing.

In a kind of postscript, Felgengauer sees the decision for military police as something of a ridiculous answer to disorder in the army.  First, they will be selected from the ranks of the most disgruntled – the dismissed officers.  The concept behind using some ‘dissatisfied-dismissed’ to keep order among other dissatisfied is just a little inscrutable.  And, in the best case, it’ll take over a year to change all the laws and regulations to allow military police to operate.  Will Serdyukov and his reforms remain intact by then?

Serdyukov Meets Gates at Pentagon

Mr. Serdyukov Goes to Washington (photo: ITAR-TASS)

ITAR-TASS reports Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov and his U.S. counterpart Robert Gates will meet for a total of 5 hours today.  And the Russian press service concludes: 

“This is highly unusual and attests to the great significance the U.S. Defense Department attaches to the visit.” 

Aside from all the customary ceremonies, there will be three sets of talks today.  The morning session is dedicated to discussing military reform plans and defense spending on both sides.  ITAR-TASS says the Americans consider this the most important topic from their viewpoint. 

The press service quotes The New York Times saying the two men “simultaneously declared war on longstanding and ineffective bureaucratic organizations,” adding that they’ll find a common language as they compare their efforts. 

A working lunch will be devoted to nuclear arms control and missile defense.  RIA Novosti quoted a Defense Department spokesman who said you can’t meet Russians without discussing missile defense, but it won’t be the main topic of the visit.  Today’s afternoon session will cover a variety of regional and global security problems.  Serdyukov will visit an unspecified U.S. Army base as well as the Naval Academy. 

In an interview published in today’s Kommersant, Gates said: 

“I’ve attentively followed Defense Minister Serdyukov’s reform efforts.  I have the impression that the scale and depth of the reforms he’s conducting correspond to what I’m trying to do in the U.S.  The thing is in the coming years we don’t expect significant budget increases.  Therefore, we have to decide how best to use the resources we have.” 

“I know the Russian Defense Minister has an interest in how to select highly professional soldiers and how to keep them in the armed forces, how to exert command and control of the armed forces in order to strengthen national security.  This is especially complicated in the face of economic problems standing before each of our countries.” 

Apparently, Gates doesn’t understand precisely.  The Defense Ministry already has an answer — to jettison its failed professional contract service program, return to reliance on conscripted soldiers, and see if they can train and retain some professional NCOs. 

Asked if Russia’s a threat to the U.S. and about its new ballistic missiles, Gates replied:  

“No.  I don’t view Russia as a threat.  We are partners in some areas and competitors in others.  But we cooperate on important issues.” 

Good answer. 

“From the viewpoint of our program modernization the new SOA agreement is a great achievement.  Just as the agreements which preceded it.  They establish rules of the game which provide transparency and predictability.  Modernization programs within the bounds of the new SOA agreement are absolutely normal.  We’ll conduct our own modernization. 

Asked about cooperation on missile defense and the Gabala radar specifically, Gates said the U.S. is interested in Gabala and in the possibility of establishing a missile launch data exchange center [JDEC] in Moscow.