And so it’s begun.
The first of Defense Minister Serdyukov’s major reform planks – cutting the officer corps from 355,000 to 150,000, or no more than 15 percent of the million-man army – has been reversed.
The Armed Forces’ officer manning level was apparently one topic in yesterday’s meeting between President Medvedev and his “power” ministers about plans to raise pay for servicemen in 2012.
Serdyukov told the media about the decision to increase officers in the Armed Forces by 70,000:
“A decision’s been taken to increase officer personnel by 70 thousand. This is connected with the fact that we’re deploying additional military units, establishing military-space defense, that is, an entire service (of troops), and the increase is happening in connection with this.”
First, this raised some interesting questions about VKO. Is it really going to become a service (vid or вид). After all, the Space Troops are only a service branch (род войск) right now. That’s quite a promotion. And are we really supposed to believe the expansion of VKO or the Space Troops will require 70,000 additional officers?
Of course not, it’s a convenient excuse to walk back a large part of the 50 percent cut in army officers Serdyukov announced when he launched his reforms in October 2008.
Most media outlets were pretty confused on what this means for officer numbers. They assumed the Russian Army’s at 150,000 officers right now, just add 70,000 for a total of 220,000. But it’s not so simple.
When Serdyukov started cutting officers, there were 305,000 occupied officer billets. Krasnaya zvezda said the Armed Forces had 181,000 officers at the end of last year. So a grand total of 124,000 officers were either discharged, placed outside the “org-shtat” at their commander’s “disposition,” or forced to accept an NCO billet between late 2008 and the end of 2010. Returning 70,000 to the ranks might leave us wondering only about what happened to the other 54,000. And 181,000 plus 70,000 takes the officer corps basically back to 250,000, or fully one-quarter of the million-man army.
The army officer corps has endured considerable sturm und drang in a little over two years all for the sake of shedding just 55,000 officers.
More on this tomorrow.