The Defence Forces will be forced to continue with dramatic programme cuts for the next five years if it hopes to meet rising operational costs and the added austerity goals laid out by the current government, reports the leading daily Helsingin Sanomat. Defence Minister Jussi Niinistö assures that current levels of conscript and reservist training will not suffer, despite the 60 million euros in staff cuts slated.
Finland's military has been struggling for several years now to cut expenditures, and things aren’t looking to let up any time soon, says Finland’s best-selling newspaper Helsingin Sanomat. The Saturday article was based on a leaked secret planning guide for implementing the savings, drawn up by the Defence Command.
The paper says severe cuts to Defence Forces operations are in the works until at least 2020. The savings campaign is necessary due to the rapidly increasing funding gap brought on by recent sweeping reforms combined with a significant rise in operational costs, and made worse by the current government’s framework decision imposing further cuts.
The paper says that in practice, more savings will mean fewer Hornet and NH90 helicopter exercises will be conducted and the number of warships patrolling the seas will be reduced. Hundreds of posts in the Defence Forces will also remain vacant, while fewer contract soldiers will be hired for training conscripts.
Transferring funds from material investment to cyber defence
A main concern of the Defence Forces has long been whether it will be able to update its readiness to current standards with appropriate investments in material. New savings requirements will mean that many of them will have to wait, as money will instead be directed to keep other branches of the military afloat.
Next year for example 50 million euros will be transferred annually from material acquisitions accounts to secure personnel for the development of cyber defence, rising to 78 million euros annually in 2017.
According to the leaked plans, employee reductions will be inevitable, as the goal is to achieve 60 million euros in staff cost cuts between 2016 and 2020. The savings will lead to dramatic cuts in certain areas, for example, one hundred thousand euros will be slashed from both military bands and physical education.
From one pocket to another
Mika Oranen, director of Finland’s non-commissioned officers’ association, responded to the paper’s expose on Saturday, stating that 60 million euros in staff savings will undoubtedly have an effect on the training of conscripts moving forward. He says the idea of the Defence Forces transferring money from one pocket to another is counterproductive.
“Bolstering material investments while cutting back on operations is foolhardy,” he said.
Finland’s current Minister of Defence, Finns Party representative Jussi Niinistö, promptly responded to Oranen’s concern in a statement.
“I will see to it personally that the training of Finnish conscripts and reservists will not suffer. Next year’s budget ensures 2.5 training staff for every conscript company. In addition, we plan to maintain our reservist training levels at 18,000 participants every year,” Niinistö said.