Defence Forces ought to be in search of lone ranger types
A new doctoral dissertation claims that the standard of young officers has collapsed
Finnish officer training is facing a very severe crisis, as on average the standard of those people who wish to pursue a career as an officer in the armed forces is too low.
This is the estimate given by M.Sc. (Econ.) Mika Aalto, 51, in a doctoral dissertation that will be presented for defence in a public examination on Thursday.
In his dissertation, Aalto examined what kind of readiness Finnish officers have to act in the highest strategic positions within the Finnish Defence Forces.
Aalto asked whether the Defence Forces have officers who would be able to act as good strategic leaders in the chaotic environment of war.
The answer given by his study was crushing. According to Aalto, there was nothing that could have suggested that the Finnish Defence Forces were led and supervised in an efficient manner.
Instead, it appears that the number of senior officers is too high and the quality of younger officers is weak.
”The academic qualifications of mediocre military cadets are very much lower than those of any above-average university students, for example at the University of Helsinki”, Aalto argues.
Aalto notes that in times of peace, those who wish to pursue a career in the armed forces are administrative bureaucrats who are keen on hierarchies.
Instead, the Defence Forces should attract ”lone rangers”. In other words, academically-gifted strategists whom the Defence Forces would badly need at the top of its rank structure.
According to Aalto, the underlying factor behind the problem is the training system reform implemented in 2001, whereafter the number of cadets more than doubled.
Aalto notes further that this led to a decline in the standard and requirements of students.
Today, cadets study at the Finnish National Defence University for three years in order to gain a bachelor's degree in military science, after which they are to serve in military units as lieutenants for about four years.
After this period, they return to the university in order to get the master of military science degree.
A peculiar phenomenon is the fact that those cadets who studied in the 1990s were more competent officer material than those before and after them.
Nobody seems to be able to put forward any precise reason for this.
As a consequence, the standard of generals in the Finnish Defence Forces will improve in about ten years.
”A problem will occur when they leave their high-ranking positions. In the worst-case scenario, the standard of generals will radically decline at one go”, Aalto predicts.
Aalto points out that the Defence Forces should recruit people who are more academically talented.
Regardless of this fact, all recruitment campaigns are war-oriented, demonstrating Hornets, tanks, and assault craft. Such things do not attract academically qualified people - only those whom the Defence Forces would manage to recruit in any case”, Aalto argues.
However, Aalto admits that to some extent his allegations are provocative.
His doctoral dissertation will be presented for defence on Thursday.
”An officer could not write such a critical analysis. It would be too risky for the officer’s career. I thought that someone has to do it. Let us see what will happen to me”, Aalto concludes.
The doctoral dissertation of Mika Aalto, M.Sc. (Econ.), ”Tragedy of a strategist. Finnish officers as clausewitzian strategists”, in the subject area of management and international business, will be examined at Aalto University School of Economics on Thursday April 26th 2012 at 10:00. (Location: Chydenia Building, Runeberginkatu 22-24, Helsinki.)
Previously in HS International Edition:
Military spending cuts: Defence Forces to save nearly EUR 20 million by relinquishing real estate holdings (10.2.2012)
Significant cutbacks planned for Defence Forces (8.2.2012)
Finnish Defence Forces have discussed temporary layoff of entire permanent staff (1.9.2011)
Cutbacks in defence spending drive Finnish generals into tourist class (7.1.2010)
Finnish Defence Forces
The Finnish National Defence University (Wikipedia)