Defence Forces restructuring may lead to changes in number of officers
Reforms in the Finnish Defence Forces could bring changes to the number of officers in the military. It had appeared before that the changes would not affect the number of officers, but Minister of Defence Carl Haglund (Swed. People’s Party) now says that this could change.
“There will be extensive effects on personnel. This means that it has not been ruled out that there would be changes with respect to the highest-ranking officers.”
Finland has 32 generals or admirals on duty, as well as more than 100 colonels or commodores. In addition there are more than 1,100 lieutenant-colonels, commanders, majors, and commander-captains.
The Defence Forces have plans to reduce 1,600 civilian employees and about 500 soldiers from its peacetime strength. Most of the cutbacks in soldiers will affect petty officers. The number of positions to be cut will be announced next spring.
Haglund points out that the number of officers depends on the needs of wartime. After the changes, the wartime strength of the Defence Forces will have been reduced by a third.
“I have not set any goals at this point on any specific number of generals to be reduced. This question remains open in all respects”, Haglund says.
The the exact number of officers needed is set at the Defence Staff, and outsiders are not given the opportunity to make any critical evaluations. The number of officers seems to remain largely unchanged, even though the total wartime strength of the military has been declining in recent decades by hundreds of thousands of soldiers.
One of the goals of the reforms has been to simplify administration. To this end, all four military districts are to be closed down. The generals heading those districts will need to be given new tasks.
“The tasks of the military districts will be passed on to regional offices, and they will be led by lower-ranking officers, not generals”, Haglund says.
Officers are already looking for new tasks for generals.
Harri Westerlund, the chairman of the Officers’ Union, wrote in an article in the organisation’s publication in April that the status of Finland’s remaining garrisons will be emphasised after the reform.
“It is hard to imagine the Helsinki region without a general commanding a garrison”, Westerund wrote. He also wants Finnish Lapland to have a general of its own.
Defence Forces Director of Communications, Colonel Jyrki Heinonen does not feel that it is necessary for generals to be at the head of larger and more versatile military units. However, he feels that it is possible.
He says that if the demands of the job continue to be the basis for payment, then it will be a more demanding task than commanding a larger number of soldiers.
“One might imagine that it would also be reflected in military ranks.”
A possible decision on reducing the number of higher-ranking officers is to be made by politicians. The Defence Staff is not expected to suggest on its own that number of generals and colonels is excessive.
The chairman of the Parliament’s Defence Committee Jussi Niinistö (Finns Party) said that he tried in vain to clarify the situation among higher-ranking officers. The defence administration is reportedly examining the matter.
“If the wartime strength is significantly reduced, then is it a good idea to keep the number of higher-ranking officers at the same level as in the old model? Do we really need that many high-ranking officers?”
Niinistö points out that one of the aims of the proposed reforms in the Defence Forces is to reduce costs.
“Salaries are an important factor in this. No improvement can come with this personnel structure.”
Previously in HS International Edition:
Significant cutbacks planned for Defence Forces (8.2.2012)
Military spending cuts: Defence Forces to save nearly EUR 20 million by relinquishing real estate holdings (10.2.2012)
Military cuts have greatest impact on civilian employees (9.2.2012)
Government Communications Unit: Reform of the Finnish Defence Forces to start
Finnish Defence Forces