Vadim Koval offered words of caution and perspective on contract service in an October 31 NVO op-ed. Until 2012 or so, the retired colonel was the official spokesman for the RVSN.
Koval suggests you can’t measure contract service by numbers alone, which merely represent “start-up capital” for the professionalization of the armed forces.
He was prompted a recent official announcement that the MOD has signed up an historically high number of contractees this year — more than 70,000 already — with two months left on the calendar.
The MOD reports, for the first time, the number of soldiers and sergeants serving on contract exceeds the number of conscripts in the ranks. That means something more than 305,000 — based on fall 2013 and spring 2014 draft campaign target numbers.
Success in finding contractees, Koval writes, is due, in no small part, to an aggressive MOD advertising and recruitment drive this year. But the greatest attraction for young men is increased training, new arms and equipment, and the overall improved condition of the armed forces. None of which “remain unnoticed among potential candidates for contract service.”
Still, Koval concludes, even in light of record recruiting numbers, it’s obvious “the defense department’s main work with this category of servicemen is still ahead.” Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu didn’t fall into euphoria over the numbers, and ordered his subordinates to concentrate on the quality of contractee training, according to Koval.
“Even statistics graphically confirm that problems with the quality of recruited contractees exist: the quantity of contract servicemen dismissed from the Armed Forces in 2014 was 18 thousand.”
Koval finishes noting that much depends on the clarity of the MOD’s response to the challenge of getting and keeping suitable and well-trained soldiers in the military.
It’s surely difficult (well, impossible) to make that 305,000 number jibe with numbers we’ve already seen. If Moscow had 225,000 or 205,000 at the end of 2013, this year’s 70,000+ would make 295,000 or 275,000 contractees. Neither of those is 305,000.
It could be that Koval’s very interesting 18,000 number plays into this . . . if that many contractees quit or were drummed out this year, maybe that’s why the numbers don’t equal or exceed 305,000. Perhaps the MOD isn’t counting its attrition — only the manpower it added.
If 18,000 is the number of contractees who left the service, that’s pretty low attrition — about 6 percent. Last year that percentage looked to be 12 or more.