During the press conference, Alan Geder, the new chief of the General Staff of the Slovenian Armed Forces, drew attention to staff issues in the Slovenian army and to a lack of resources. At the same time, he expressed his conviction that after its training, the battalion group will pass the CREVAL evaluation, ensuring that missions abroad are no longer compromised, and reserves will also be called up in order to perform tasks in Slovenia.
Among other things, Geder spoke about the staff in the Slovenian army and recalled the resolution on the long-term plan for the development and equipping of the Slovenian army until 2025, which provides for 8,000 professional soldiers and 2,000 members of the reserve pool. He also commented that the resolution had been made on the basis of analyses of tasks, while all other documents that had been made afterwards include lower numbers, among other things also due to austerity measures.
Shortage of 1,238 people
Geder points out that such numbers have never been reached and adds that the tasks of the army have never been adapted to such staff numbers. According to Geder, there is a shortage of 1,238 people, and it is therefore no surprise that problems have started to arise, such as the recent problem concerning CREVAL when the officers of the 74th regiment of the 72nd brigade along with additional units of the Slovenian army received a negative grade, meaning that according to the Nato assessors, they are not suited for serious operations.
Geder, who recently replaced Osterman, has already replaced the commanding officer of the regiment and his deputy, who did not do well, while ordering Milko Petek to provide “accurate analyses of the new plan for arranging forces for this year’s performance of the tasks in Slovenia and internationally in a way that will ensure a successful completion by the end of summer”. According to Geder, the CREVAL evaluation will be repeated, and success would ensure operation within the framework of international operations.
That would mean a replacement of contingents within the designated time frame. The exception will be the KFOR operation (Kosovo Force) in Kosovo, where the operation of the motorised unit will be extended for a period of two months. The soldiers of the unsuccessful battalion had been reserved for a mission in Lebanon. After the word of their failure spread to the public, they confessed that it might become necessary for the current contingents to prolong their missions. Therefore, the battalion battle group is going to focus solely on training in the coming months. But since this will reduce staff for other tasks even further, Geder ordered a call up of the reserve pool. What set of tasks will be performed by the reserves will be left to the force commander.
Worn out equipment, low wages
Geder also addressed the problem of worn out equipment and wages, which need to be raised according to him. According to Geder, it would be advisable to have the government specify an allowance for constant availability and new pay groups for formational duty as well as raise the allowance for commanders to the level before the Act on Balancing Public Finances. According to STA, the wage of the Slovenian soldier reached more than 90% of the average Slovenian gross wage in 2008, while today it only reaches 55%. “When we opted for a professional army, we have – some of us probably unknowingly – opted to put it on the merciless labour market,” stressed Geder and added that the labour market is the one that invites an individual into a certain profession based on wages.
Geder is concerned about the low financial resources intended for the army. But the greatest concern he highlighted was the following finding: based on the adopted financial projection and the expected availability of financial resources after 2023, there will be a slowdown in the dynamics for forming two intermediate battalion battle groups. This basically means that they will not reach the required operative battle capabilities within the desired time frames (therefore, the financial inflow does not support reaching goals in the prescribed period): for the first group by 2023 and for the second by 2025. Therefore, it will be necessary to change the financial plans and increase the resources intended for modernisation.
Among other things, he wants to raise the motivation in the Slovenian army
In the context of his own vision, Geder mentioned a long-term and stable supply of resources for the army and advocated continuing and completing the process of professionalisation, withdrawing from the unified payment system, raising motivation, and improving leadership with an emphasis on the cohesion, responsibility, and ethics of the payment system. Regarding the tasks of the army, he clearly stressed that the primary duty of the army is to successfully protect the country against aggressors under all conditions, either individually or within the framework of an alliance. According to Geder, other tasks (STA reports that he mentioned the engagement of the army in protecting the borders and maintaining the fence) cannot be prioritised.