Humanizing and Outsourcing the Army

Press outlets report that the Siberian MD’s Yurga-based 74th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade is the test bed for Defense Minister Serdyukov’s army ‘humanization’ initiative announced in late April.  And today Chief of Rear Services, Deputy Defense Minister General-Colonel Dmitriy Bulgakov expounded upon the extent of, and near-term plans for, outsourcing of food services in the army. 

The 74th IMRB is trying out a 5-day work week and weekend passes for soldiers.  They are permitted to wear civilian clothes while off-base for the first time.  The brigade has also introduced an after-lunch rest hour into the daily regimen. 

ITAR-TASS quotes brigade commander Colonel Andrey Khoptyar: 

“The intensity of combat training in 2010 has risen significantly, the load on soldiers has increased, therefore extra rest time has been allocated.”

Khoptyar said his soldiers are also getting an additional 30 minutes of sleep at night.

The media describes the 74th IMRB as one of Russia’s best performing and best-outfitted formations.  Some of its soldiers live in ‘hotel-type’ accommodations with four-man rooms and their own bath and shower rooms.

Transferring nonmilitary functions and duties from soldiers and their units to contracted commercial firms was another facet of Serdyukov’s April announcement.  Since December, this brigade’s troops have been spared mess hall duty because a private firm ‘MedStroy’ has taken over responsibility for operating its cafeteria.

IA Regnum described this as a “practical trial of new measures in all-around systematic support of day-to-day troop life by outside civilian organizations on an outsourcing basis.”  As the SibVO spokesman says:

“The main idea of the innovations is to free servicemen, to the maximum extent, from performing noncore tasks, establishing conditions for full-fledged combat training of personnel.”

At present, outsourced food service has already been establishing in the SibVO’s Ulan-Ude, Aleysk, and Yurga brigades, and the district military hospital in Chita.  The process of changing to this system of service has already started in two more permanent readiness brigades, the district training center, rear services units of two SibVO armies, three military schools, and 12 military hospitals this year.

The SibVO spokesman says state contracts worth 1 billion rubles have been concluded which bring 1,000 civilian specialists to provide services to more than 20,000 of the district’s troops.  The contracts include food and laundry services, housing-communal services in military towns, recreation services, and other material-technical support, including POL provision to the tune of more than 71 million rubles.

Beyond experiments in the SibVO, today Armed Forces Rear Services Chief Bulgakov told the press 340,000 soldiers in all permanent readiness units, military-educational institutions, and cadet and Suvorov premilitary schools will be fed through outsourced contracts by this year’s end.  He indicated 180,000 soldiers will be fed in 200 units for an annual cost of 6.5 billion rubles by 1 September.   At present, the logistics head said civilian enterprises are feeding 141,000 soldiers in 99 units, except in inaccessible and distant areas.  According to Bulgakov, commercial firms not only provide quality service, but are more economical than having soldiers perform this work.  Bulgakov added that outsourced food service has:

“. . . eliminated the diversion of personnel from combat training activities, food quality has improved, the variety of food prepared has broadened, culinary culture has been raised; the energy value, chemical composition and full achievement of the norms of food rations are reliably meeting normative requirements.”

Bulgakov spoke to reporters during a special rear services exercise supporting an ‘inter-service force grouping’ in the SibVO.  He pointed out how studying U.S. and NATO experiences influenced the Russian Army’s decision to outsource support functions.  According to ITAR-TASS, he said:

“As a result it was evident that the entire U.S. and NATO contingent in Afghanistan and Iraq at present is outsourcing all material-technical support.”

He added that “civilian specialists from commercial structures in these countries are working both in military units in their places of permanent deployment as well as in ‘hot spots.’”

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