Defence Committee chairman: greater selectivity would lead to end of conscription
MP Juha Korkeaoja (Centre), chairman of the Parliamentary Defence Committee, says that the calculations presented by Helsingin Sanomat on the number of conscripts in the future go in the right direction.
However, he says that the starting point in the calculations differs significantly from what is contained in the government’s defence policy report.
The report, which is to reach Parliament on Wednesday, reiterates that conscription will remain in force in Finland. The calculations put forward by Helsingin Sanomat are based on a selection of available manpower, which would “rapidly and inevitably” lead to a professional military.
Lieutenant Colonel Mika Kerttunen of the National Defence University made a calculation that it might be sufficient for the purposes of the Defence Forces if just half of those of conscription age - about 12,500 a year - were to undergo military training.
At present, more than 75 per cent of each age group - 25,000 a year - serve in the military.
Kerttunen’s assumptions are based on assessments that the size of the wartime military reserve should be cut in the next decade to about 250,000 from the present 350,000. Kerttunen also assumes that the period of being in the reserves would be extended by a few years, from the age of 36 to 40.
Captain Jyrki Kivelä, who is responsible for conscription matters at the Defence Staff, sees these calculations as unrealistic.
He says that there are pressures to shorten the reservist period, rather than to lengthen it.
He also notes that not all reservists are actually available for call-up: some move abroad, while others are employed in vital tasks that preclude being called up for service.
Kivelä assumes that about 80 per cent of each age group of Finnish men will continue to enter military service ten years from now, and that about 70 per cent of the age groups, approximately 20,000 individuals, will complete their service each year.
He says that the wartime reserve will be selected from that group, and that turnover in the composition of that group will be faster, and not slower, as Kerttunen’s calculations suggest.
Korkeaoja, meanwhile, says that Kerttunen’s calculations reflect an attitude that is widely accepted in the Defence Forces.
Many officers prefer a leaner, semiprofessional military, using advanced technology to a conscript military with more modest materiel.
Nevertheless, the government’s defence policy report calls for maintaining conscription.
Korkeaoja says that one reason for this is that it is an efficient way to keep society committed to national defence.
He emphasises that it is also cost-effective, noting that preparedness for times of crisis, and for participation in international crisis management are at a higher level in Finland than might be assumed on the basis of the slightly over one per cent of GDP that Finland spends on national defence.
More on this subject:
Reduction in number of conscripts leading to closure of garrisons