Tag Archives: Combat Capability

Through the Public’s Eye

How does the Russian military look in the public’s eye?  The Public Opinion Foundation (FOM) asked recently, and the answers showed a fairly substantial improvement in the average citizen’s view of the capabilities of the armed forces.

The poll indicates the constant Russian media drumbeat on rearmament has affected public perceptions of the military’s capabilities.  Its unopposed march through Crimea this spring probably contributed as well, but no survey questions addressed this.

FOM asked, if extra government funding were available, would respondents use it on military or civilian needs. Those polled still strongly prefer civilian uses (55% vs. 61% in early 2012).

Seventy-four percent of those surveyed now think the armed forces are capable of ensuring the country’s security (vs. only 49% in early 2013).  Those who think not dropped to seven percent (vs. 23% in 2013).

Are They Capable?

Are They Capable?

In response to an open follow-up question, 21 percent said the military is capable because it has all combat equipment it needs.

Asked if the military’s combat capability is increasing, decreasing, or not changing, 64 percent said increasing (vs. 38% in 2013).  Only 12 percent said not changing (vs. 30% in 2013).

In an open follow-up, 20 percent said expedited outfitting, development of defense industry, and new weapons are all necessary for increasing the combat capability of the armed forces.

At the same time, 63 percent indicated Russia has a sufficient amount of modern arms and equipment (vs. 43% in 2013). Sixty-five percent think the share of modern weapons is increasing; 41 percent thought so in 2013.

The survey also asked respondents to rate their knowledge of the situation and problems in the armed forces.  These numbers were basically unchanged.  In this survey and in 2013, less than 30 percent said they knew them “well” or considered themselves “not badly” informed.  Slightly less than 70 percent said they didn’t know much or were poorly informed.

But, as the saying goes, opinions are something everyone has.

About one-third reported having relatives, friends, or acquaintances in the military; about two-thirds said they don’t.

The poll was done on 23-24 August with responses from 1,500 participants in 43 regions and 100 populated areas.  Its margin of error is not greater than 3.6 percent.

FOM also offers a complete breakdown of its survey results from the webpage for those who’d like to download them.  It shows them by age, sex, political preference, education, income, etc.

Advertisements

Reacting to Felgengauer

A good friend asked for a reaction to Pavel Felgengauer’s latest piece.

This author agrees with many of Felgengauer’s views, though not all of them.  In particular, this observer is unable to declare, like Felgengauer, that Russia’s military reform is failing abjectly, despite its uneven results.

Let’s look at his article.

Mr. Felgengauer presented the essence of Defense Minister Serdyukov’s dustup with Prime Minister Medvedev last week.  Serdyukov said outright, if the PM wanted to fire someone for failing to prepare semi-abandoned military towns for handover to regional authorities, he should fire him.

You may have read on these pages, the problem of no-longer-needed military towns is an enormous one.  There’s a veritable archipelago of hundreds of voyengorodki throughout Russia.  They’ve long since lost their purpose and support from the Defense Ministry.  Fixing them to transfer to civilian control is an enormous task, probably beyond the Defense Ministry’s current financing and capabilities.

One Putin campaign pledge for 2012 was not to foist broken down military infrastructure on Russia’s regions and localities.  And, though left unsaid, the problems of voyengorodki are connected to the military housing woes.  If more apartments were ready for occupancy, there might be fewer ex-servicemen living in the archipelago of former military towns.

Felgengauer could have written about how the Serdyukov-Medvedev flap reflects wider tensions in Russia’s ruling elite.  Between Putin’s people and Medvedev’s.  He did say the scandal showed the latter’s relative powerlessness.

Felgengauer might have clarified for some folks that, under the constitution, the Defense Minister answers to the President first, and the PM second.  Not so for most ministers.

He mentioned the situation harked back to Serdyukov’s reported ambivalence about continuing in his job.  There was also pre-election talk that Serdyukov might be replaced at the start of Putin’s third term.  But Felgengauer concludes Putin wanted to keep him in the post regardless.

Felgengauer suggests Serdyukov might suffer a “mental meltdown.”  He could have reacquainted readers with the temper and frustration Serdyukov showed the VDV in Ryazan in late 2010.

Turning to strictly military issues, Felgengauer concludes, “. . . the actual capabilities of the military after almost four years of Serdyukov’s reforms are questionable.”

Despite efforts to move away from reliance on hollow units, and increase permanently ready units, woeful undermanning (Vedomosti, June 9) leaves newly formed army brigades crippled, “with most of them not ready to be used in combat as full units in any circumstances.”

He continues:

“Most of the soldiers are one-year serving conscripts, called up two times a year, so half of them at any moment have been serving less than 6 months — not yet trained to be battle-ready at all.”

Let’s examine all this a bit.

Undermanning certainly exists.  The lack of detail on the strength of Russia’s new brigades make things somewhat sketchy.  If (a very big if) the brigades aren’t large, 300,000 conscripts might stretch to cover them, barely.

If the 45 maneuver units have only 3,000 draftees each, that’s 135,000.  Add maybe 60,000 (40 x 1,500) in other brigades, and Russia uses 200,000, or two-thirds, of its conscripts for the Ground Troops.

If these brigades are fully equipped and can depart garrison in an hour or two, they’re technically permanently ready.  But, as Felgengauer points out, six months is not adequate time for combat training, so it’s not clear what missions they can accomplish.  The issue is more combat capability than readiness.  Permanent readiness is a starting point, not an end in itself.

Felgengauer rightly notes that Serdyukov’s reform has lacked a strategic objective and defined doctrine.  One might say it’s failed to prioritize goals, problems, and threats.  Felgengauer says “attempts to meet all other possible threats [besides the U.S. / NATO] resulted in thinly spreading out limited resources.”

This author agrees completely.

Felgengauer ends, weakly, saying military food service was outsourced to make conscript service more attractive, and Putin might abandon it.  He views it as a failed military reform.  It may be, but outsourcing was really introduced to keep draftees in training 100 percent of the time rather than in non-military duties like KP.

We’ll return to the issue of whether military reform is succeeding or failing another time.

FOM’s Poll

On this election day 2012, let’s look at FOM’s survey on attitudes about the army.  Its questions are different from 2011But this year’s results show less enchantment with positive changes in the army.

Just prior to the army’s February 23 holiday, FOM asked its sample whether the Russian Army’s combat capability is high or low.  Only 15 percent said high, 33 percent said low, 37 percent said average (not high or low), and 15 percent found it hard to say.

Two years ago 24 percent said high and only 27 percent said low.

Then FOM asked whether the army’s combat capability is increasing or decreasing.  Twenty-eight percent said increasing, 17 percent said decreasing, 38 percent said not changing, and 16 percent found it hard to answer.

In 2010, 36 percent said increasing.

It’d be interesting if FOM asked respondents to say what combat capability means to them.

Then FOM asked about the military’s prestige.  Given the choice of high or low, 21 percent said high, 27 percent low, 40 percent not high or low, and 12 percent found it hard to answer.

But 38 percent said the military’s prestige is growing, 11 percent declining, 38 percent not changing, and 13 percent hard to answer.

If Russia’s budget had extra resources that could go only to military needs, or only to civilian needs, just 18 percent said they would direct that money to the military, 61 percent said to civilian uses, and 21 percent said hard to answer.

The Sociological Center

Is the Russian Army's Combat Capability Increasing?

A nice find on Mil.ru . . . the Defense Ministry website has the Internet poll above on its front page.  If you click on Voting Results, you go to the results of all surveys conducted by the Defense Ministry’s Sociological Center.

To this particular question, 78 percent of respondents said its combat capability is decreasing.

Stepping back a bit, clicking on Sociological Center goes to a narrative explaining a little about it.  Its purpose is monitoring social processes in the military to work out scientifically-founded proposals on the morale-psychological support of military organizational development, training, and employment of the Armed Forces.  It also provides information support to commanders, staffs, and personnel officers.  The Center is charged with collecting data about the socio-economic circumstances of servicemen and their families.

The military opinion surveying effort has been around for a while.  During the first big push for contract service beginning in 2003, Defense Ministry pollsters actively asked contractees, or prospective ones, what attracted or discouraged them from signing up.

We’re not told how or when these survey questions were asked.  They’re likely Internet polls rather than more scientific random sampling. 

But one still admires the brutal honesty of publishing these results.  They don’t accord with what Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov wants to see or hear three years after launching military reform.  They indicate how far the Russians have to go to turn around the perception, if not the reality, of life in the Armed Forces.  At the same time, getting feedback is a critical step in correcting their problems.

Your author has regrouped the survey results on various questions thematically.  In the interests of brevity, only the answer with the highest percentage is shown.

Let’s start with other combat capability-related questions:

  • How do you evaluate the Russian Army’s current combat capability?  72 percent said low.
  • Is three months sufficient to train a military specialist?  82 percent said no.
  • What effect is the humanization of service having on combat readiness?  71 percent said it is causing it to decline.
  • Are you satisfied by the media’s presentation of Armed Forces exercises?  75 percent said no.
  • How do you evaluate the present level of combat training?  74 percent said poor.
  • Can the Armed Forces reliably guarantee Russia’s security?  81 percent said no.
  • Is there now a military threat to Russia from other countries?  79 percent said yes.

Some very general questions:

  • Do you approve of the Russian Army’s activity?  62 percent said no.
  • How do you feel when you talk about the Armed Forces?  52 percent said negative.
  • Is it necessary for the media to discuss negative events in the Armed Forces?  75 percent said yes.
  • How does the media portray the activities of the Armed Forces?  64 percent said not objectively.
  • Do you agree that “A powerful army is a powerful Russia?”  80 percent said yes.

On conscription:

  • Should draft evaders be punished?  68 percent said yes.
  • How do you feel about draft evasion?  59 percent said negative.
  • Does military service promote striving for a healthy way of life?  56 percent said yes.
  • Would you want a close relative to serve in the army?  68 percent said no.

On law and order in the ranks:

  • Who should control the military police?  52 percent said the Defense Ministry.
  • Do officers have enough powers to keep order?  84 percent said no.
  • How do you assess measures to counter corruption in the army?  66 percent said they have little effect.
  • Is “dedovshchina” an acute problem?  62 percent said yes.

On personnel, pay, and benefits:

  • Should Order No. 400 premium pay continue or be discontinued?  80 percent said discontinue it.
  • How do you feel about rotating officers’ duty stations?  51 percent are negative.
  • How has Order No. 400 affected corruption in the army?  88 percent said it’s caused it to grow.
  • Is there a “cadre famine” in the Armed Forces?  83 percent said yes.
  • How do you evaluate the consequences of Order No. 400?  89 percent are negative.
  • Where should priests be located?  42 percent said in battalions.
  • Will priests help in forming healthy moral relations in the military collective?  55 percent said no.
  • How do you evaluate the effect of the military mortgage system?  74 percent said low.
  • Will higher pay in 2012 raise the social status of servicemen?  58 percent said no.
  • Will requalifying military arsenal workers increase safety?  65 percent said no.
  • Do military families live better or worse than people in your region?  77 percent said worse.
  • Are social guarantees for servicemen sufficient?  86 percent said no.
  • Has the prestige of the Armed Forces increased in the course of military reform?  59 percent said it remains at the previous level.

The responses on the army’s capabilities weren’t new.  One is surprised, however, at how negative respondents were on premium pay, how little they expect from higher officer pay, and the lack of any improved perception of the prestige of military service.

Medvedev’s Take on Combat Capability

RF President Dmitriy Medvedev

 You may recall after the five-day war with Georgia, and before Serdyukov’s reform announcement, President Medvedev issued his own theses on combat capability.  

Though he’s not a learned military theoretician, Medvedev’s statement is obviously important.  Find coverage at Rosbalt.  

Medvedev said:  

“The development of five factors is necessary for the effective resolution of combat missions.  We are talking about improving the TO&E structure of the troop basing system.  If we speak plainly and directly, all combat formations must be transferred into the permanent combat readiness category.  Second is increasing the effectiveness of the armed forces command and control system.  It’s impossible to count on success in modern combat without this.  Third is the improvement of the personnel training system, military education and military science.  We need an army equipped with the most modern weapons–the fourth factor.  We’ll give first priority attention to this issue, but fundamentally new high-technology weapons types will have special significance.  The fifth factor is improving the social condition of servicemen.  These five factors will determine the combat capability of our armed forces.”  

This is fairly close to what our military scholar published in Voyennaya mysl.  

Medvedev went on to add that, by 2020, Russia will add to its nuclear deterrence, intelligence, air superiority, ground and naval strike, and operational troop redeployment capabilities.  Russia has planned for serial ship and submarine construction, and establishment of an aerospace defense system, according to Medvedev. 

Before becoming president, Medvedev traveled to Kaliningrad in January 2008.  He was still a first deputy prime minister in charge of ‘priority national projects,’ of which housing is (was?) one.  On that occasion, he noted that the resolution of the social problems of servicemen directly influenced the combat capability of the armed forces.  He said it was necessary to solve their housing problems, “otherwise combat capable armed forces won’t exist.” 

Next, there should be some interesting Putin comments on combat capability, also questions in many public polls on the armed forces are couched in terms of what people think about their combat capability.

Evaluating Combat Capability

Part 2 of the Voyennaya mysl article focuses specifically on methods of evaluating and calculating indicators of combat capability for tactical units.

Every unit possessing personnel, arms and equipment, and necessary material supplies has combat capability.  The level of combat capability multiplies the following factors:

  • The quantitative level of personnel, arms and equipment, and supplies.
  • The suitability of arms and equipment.
  • The quality of supplies.
  • The condition of personnel (morale-psychological and physical, discipline, professional training, and combat integration).
  • The condition of the command and control system.

Determining the Combat Capability Level of a Sub-Unit

Decrements in each of the factors take the theoretical armaments potential of 1 down to a combat capability level of .43 in the author’s example.

He goes on to show how each of the factors themselves are individually broken down and evaluated.  What could be called sub-factors in them are each evaluated by a familiar excellent (1), good (.95), or satisfactory (.9) standard.  He describes how of positive, good, and excellent training evaluations are converted into the professional training sub-factor.  He has an interesting chart showing things like less than 70 percent positive evaluations is an unsatisfactory, not less than 70 percent positive evaluations is a satisfactory, etc.

The author summarizes by saying his approach allows for identifying problem areas in combat capability with an eye to improving combat potential.  The results of inspections can be used to evaluate soldiers and then the entire sub-unit.  So 60 percent of soldiers at excellent (.8), 20 percent at good (.7), 15 percent at satisfactory (.6), and 5 percent at unsatisfactory (.4) gives the sub-unit an overall evaluation of .73.  This has to be multiplied against the quantitative first bullet above, if it’s .8, then .73 x .8 yields a combat capability level of .584.

The point is, at this working military academic level, the Russians have what might be a fairly rigorous methodology for evaluating their own combat capability.  Who knows if the high command thinks this way when it talks publicly, but combat capability clearly isn’t the same thing as combat readiness.  And the concept of battle readiness needs a closer look.