Tuusula disappointed by decision to shut down Air Defence Regiment
Defence Minister announces major structural change in Finnish military
There was a sombre mood at the Hyrylä garrison in Tuusula, north of Helsinki on Wednesday, after Minister of Defence Seppo Kääriäinen announced that the installation would be shut down. The closure of the garrison, which houses the Helsinki Air Defence Regiment, was one of the main features of a cost-cutting programme presented to the Parliamentary Defence and Finance Committees.
The cuts announced by Kääriäinen and Chief of Defence Juhani Kaskeala were went somewhat further than originally planned. They were prompted by guidelines set up in the government's defence policy report submitted to Parliament last year. In last week's budget framework talks the Ministry of Defence was compelled to cut EUR 20 million in spending during the next two years.
Kääriäinen described the process as "one of the biggest structural changes since the end of the Second World War" for the Defence Forces.
In addition to Hyrylä, the Savo Brigade in Mikkeli is scheduled to close in 2007. Military activities in the south coast city of Kotka are to be reduced in 2007, which is a year earlier than proposed last month by Brigadier General Arto Räty. More closures are expected in 2009.
The defence forces will be cutting back on spending in many other ways as well.
Fewer reservists will be called up for refresher courses, and next year's main military exercise will be cancelled.
Kaskeala said that belt-tightening will also extend to international operations. However, there are two areas which he said would not be affected by the cuts: training conscripts, and participation in the EU combat forces.
Kaskeala described the decisions as difficult, but justified. He noted that Finland has an overcapacity in the training of ground forces.
He also denied the suggestion that the closure of the Tuusula unit would weaken Helsinki's air defences. On the contrary, he said that moving the unit to the Parola garrison in Hämeenlinna would provide an opportunity to upgrade equipment.
"In all events Helsinki's air defence will be the responsibility of wartime forces. Command centres are in Helsinki, and the grouping areas are in the Helsinki region. It is of secondary importance if the forces are trained in Hyrylä or in Parola."
Parliamentarians whose constituencies will be affected by the cutbacks demanded compensatory measures from the state, and Kääriäinen promised to take such moves under consideration.
"Expectations are great", said Mikkeli MP Olli Nepponen (Nat. Coalition).
Antero Kekkonen (SDP) from Kotka said that one way to compensate his city for the loss would be to accelerate the construction of the planned motorway between Turku and St. Petersburg.
Previously in HS International Edition:
BREAKING NEWS: Defence Minister announces cutbacks - two garrisons to be closed (16.3.2005)
Report calls for closure of four military garrisons as cost-cutting measure (16.2.2005)
Planned reductions in armed forces will cause problems with conscription (15.2.2005)
Government defence policy report released - armed forces to cut over 1,000 jobs (27.9.2004)