Tag Archives: Demographic Hole

Draft Details

New Conscripts Depart for the Army (photo: Mil. ru)

New Conscripts Depart for the Army (photo: Mil.ru)

Another posting hiatus officially ends.

A recent Defense Ministry press-release on the conclusion of this spring’s draft campaign contained the following:

“According to the situation as of 2 July 2013, more than 582,800 men were summoned to proceedings connected with the call-up, to which more than 574,900 citizens came.”

President Putin’s March decree stipulated 153,200 men would be inducted into the armed forces in the first half of 2013.

We’ve not often seen figures on the number of young Russian men receiving a summons to appear at local draft commissions during conscription campaigns.

A check turned up only two more recent instances where the summons number was specified:

  • In fall 2012, 556,000 were summoned and 545,000 came against an induction target of 140,140.
  • In fall 2008, more than 800,000 were summoned against a target of 219,000.

The drop from 800,000+ to 500,000+ illustrates the abrupt break in the number of men liable to conscription which occurred between 2008 and 2013, i.e. the “demographic hole” caused by lower birthrates in the 1990s.

Still, it shows consistency — it appears the Defense Ministry (if it meets its induction target) conscripts 25 percent of the men it summons to draft commissions.

And the difference between summonses and appearances shows what looks like the number of draft evaders for that half year (i.e. 8,000 or 11,000).

It’s interesting to compare the summons number to the number of available 18-year-old males.

The data below came from the U.S. Census Bureau, but the birth year in the left column was changed to indicate the year group will turn (or turned) 18.  The age column is the year group’s age in 2013.  According to this, you can see the nadir of the “hole” doesn’t come until 2018 and the climb out is long and slow.  The number of males born doesn’t even return to the level of 1990 (shown here as 2008) until some time after 2031.

Draft Age Males, 2008-2031

Draft Age Males, 2008-2031

So, this spring the Defense Ministry summoned 582,800 men against 718,070 available 18-year-olds.  Obviously, a significant number of those summoned are probably 19, 20, etc., and were summoned before, in 2012 or earlier.  And presumably, some who will be, but aren’t yet, 18 this year can’t be summoned until the fall 2013 draft.

The point being that the draft net has to be expanded considerably to bring in two groups of nearly 600,000 (even with many repeaters) to be considered for military service.  And it’s clear many brought in for the second or third time have solid legal deferments.  Some of them are, of course, drafted later.  Witness the Defense Ministry’s fondness for citing the percentage of draftees with complete higher education.

But it’s certainly harder for the military to draft an older man than it is one just turning 18 this year.  Economically speaking, the marginal cost of inducting a 22- or 24-year-old is much higher.  It requires greater effort on the commissariat’s part and the average return on the time invested is much lower.

It’s hard to guess the mechanics of the draft, but here’s a whack.

As stated above, the Defense Ministry puts 582,800 men in front of draft boards to find 153,200 it will accept.  Of those 718,070 18-year-olds in 2013, presumably only half have birthdays allowing them to be drafted in the spring.  So, in a perfect world, that’s 359,035 of the men needed at the draft commission.  And 223,765 are still needed.

The Defense Ministry looks first to this year’s 19-year-olds.  There are 730,049 of them.  But many served, or will have served, in 2012-2013.  The draft campaigns last year inducted 155,570 and 140,140 for a total of 295,710 men.

Here’s where real guesswork begins.  If 200,000 18-year-olds were drafted last year, there are only potentially 530,049 19-year-olds to send some of those other 223,765 summonses to this year.  And if deferred, their deferments probably still hold this year.  And the undrafted 19-year-olds will probably need to be summoned again in fall 2013 even though another 359,035 men will turn 18 in the second half of the year.  Those 19-year-olds might be considered for induction in place of some large number of 18-year-olds already picked for the military in the spring.

But you get the picture of how rapidly the military’s human resources diminish.

Bye Mom (photo: Mil.ru)

Bye Mom (photo: Mil.ru)

It’s far from a complete picture, but an interesting and essential part of the Russian military manpower dilemma.

Of course, the Defense Ministry has the long-term answer for its declining conscription resources:  professional contract service.  The trick there is to make it work.

Advertisements

No One to Call (Part I)

Shaved and Ready to Serve (photo: Yelena Fazliullina / Nezavisimaya gazeta)

“We could call-up 11.7% of all young men.  Of them, 60% got out on health grounds.  Therefore, the RF Defense Ministry confronts the fact that there is almost no one to call-up into the RF Armed Forces.”

Army General Nikolay Makarov

So the General Staff Chief declared on November 11, 2011, and he’s been quoted to this effect many times since. 

Just nine months earlier, the Defense Ministry declared professional contract service would be the primary method of manning the Armed Forces.  And a year before that, the Defense Minister and General Staff Chief said the exact opposite:  conscription would be primary and contract service would be curtailed.  

But the impossibility of manning a million-man Russian Army by means of the draft was clearly understood by many observers at that time.

The Defense Ministry recently issued its customary press-release indicating 100-percent fulfillment of the fall draft campaign.  

Only 135,850 young men were conscripted for one year of obligatory military service.  This was about 80,000 fewer than the number inducted during the spring draft (218,720), and less than half the fall 2010 call-up (280,000). 

This fall’s 135,850 twelve-month soldiers are just about the same number of men typically drafted for a two-year service term in the mid-2000s.

Viktor Baranets published his archive of annual conscription numbers back to 1999, which is handy.  He makes the point that, in contrast to today’s 12 percent or less, 20 percent of available men were being drafted as late as the late 1990s.

Let’s suppose if Makarov’s 12 percent go to serve and 60 percent are excused for health reasons, then 28 percent are escaping through deferments (mostly educational) or evasion. 

Makarov’s precise 11.7 percent or 135,850 conscripts would mean his total draft pool was under 1.2 million men.  This seems odd because census numbers say Russia should have at least two million 18- and 19-year-old men right now.  And that’s not even mentioning some 21- or 22-year-olds who get caught in the commissar’s dragnet. 

There might be some math your author can’t fathom, but it could also be that the widely-reported number of 200,000 long-term draft (or draft summons) evaders is actually much, much higher.

Let’s look at a fairly detailed report on conscription in one oblast — Sverdlovsk.  Nakanune.ru reports the oblast’s military commissar sent out 25,000 draft notices to the region’s youth. 

Almost half were unfit for health reasons, leaving, let’s suppose, 13,000 young men to sort through.  But this, of course, means Sverdlovsk’s a lot healthier place than many places.

Of those 13,000, some 6,000 had deferments.  So we’re down to 7,000 candidate-soldiers.  Of them, 4,056 were inducted this fall. 

That’s a deferment rate of 24 percent for all men summoned to the draft board.  And 4,056 is 16 percent of those summoned.  The MVD got 700 men (3 percent), and the Armed Forces presumably got 3,356 (13 percent).

Now unmentioned are the 2,944 not deferred and not drafted.  Who knows how they might be counted.  But they might be guys evading the draft by simply going missing.  For those keeping score, that could be an 11.7 percent evasion rate.  Just as many dudes avoiding service as going to serve this fall.

Sharp Cut in Contract Soldiers Coming

In the wake of General Staff Chief Makarov’s February admission that professional contract service had failed, a Defense Ministry source told Interfaks last week that contractees in noncombat positions will be sharply cut.  According to Newsru.com:

“It’s planned that by 1 July of this year only those specialists affecting combat readiness of military sub-units will remain in contract positions.”

He said this means combat vehicle commanders, driver-mechanics, gunner-operators, and other specialists, and civilians or conscripts will fill other contractee posts.  Lenta.ua noted the source didn’t specify how many contractees would be released or how many would remain.

Some of data cited referred back to a Vedomosti editorial about two weeks ago.  It said, under the 2003 Federal Targeted Program “Transition to Manning by Servicemen Conducting Military Service on Contract in Some Formations and Military Units” for 2004-2007, professional contract soldiers in permanent readiness units were to increase from 22,000 to 147,000 by 2008, and from 80,000 to 400,000 in the armed forces overall.  But in reality, there were only 100,000 in permanent readiness units by 2008, and only 200,000 in the Defense Ministry overall.  Meanwhile, the effort cost 84 billion rubles.  Vedomosti concluded:

“It seems the generals could not fulfill (or sabotaged) the directives of the country’s highest political leadership in peacetime.  Who will guarantee that the generals’ disobedience won’t be repeated in an emergency situation?”

“The Defense Ministry could not organize or make professional service in the army attractive and it sees as a way out stuffing the developing hole with a growing number of conscripts.  It’s understandable that the quality of these one-year draftee soldiers will be lower than that of contractees.”

“The abandonment of the move to a professional army promises many dismal consequences for Russia’s future.  Drafting 27-29-year-old higher educational institution graduates, who are in professional demand, could deliver significant damage to the economy and scratch the country’s modernization.”

So what is to be done?

This spring the Defense Ministry floated several trial balloons to answer its manpower problems.  As Parlamentskaya gazeta reported, the chief of the Genshtab’s GOMU, Vasiliy Smirnov told the Federation Council last month that he wants to increase his conscription base by reducing student deferments, raising the upper limit of the call-up age from 27 to 30, lengthening the semiannual callup until it becomes almost perpetual, and requiring young men to report to voyenkomaty without a summons.  Reportedly, the Kremlin has approved some or all of these proposals.

The Genshtab has proposed cutting the number of VUZy with the right to provide students deferments.  Even though deferments were trimmed in the recent past, Russians still have 21 legal ways to postpone their military service.  Smirnov claimed over 2 million draftees, more than 60 percent of the overall number, legally ‘dodge’ the army with deferments, the vast majority of which are educational deferments.  He continued:

“The number of higher educational institutions in which study is a basis for the right to a draft deferment from military service has to be reduced in stages.  Already this year it would be advisable to cut the number of VUZy having the right to a deferment in half or even by 70 percent, keeping that right only for educational institutions having a state order.  An alternative option could be having students perform conscripted service after the first or second year of studies.  The Education Ministry made this study and sees no negative consequences.”

Noting that voyenkomaty have been unable to notify 200,000 men to report, Smirnov concluded:

“Thus, the existing system of holding citizens liable who for some reason are not fulfilling military service obligation is ineffective today.  We have to change the system of notifying citizens.  In case a person does not receive the notice from the military commissariat, it is proposed that he go to the induction center on his own on the date indicated in the certificate of a citizen subject to call-up for military service.  This procedure functions in many states.”

Summing up, Smirnov said:

“A General Staff analysis of capabilities for manning the state’s military organization with conscripted servicemen showed that the needs of the state’s military organization for a draft contingent will not be supported as early as the end of 2010.”

In other words, the ‘demographic hole’ created by the sharp reduction in male births during the early 1990s is beginning to have its inevitable effect.

Deputy Defense Minister, State Secretary Nikolay Pankov and Main Directorate for Socialization Work Chief Yuriy Dashkin appeared at a Duma roundtable on 31 May to discuss conscription and conscript life.  According to RIA Novosti, Dashkin told Duma members, “Today the armed forces, dealing with a large number of tasks, are forced by the state’s economic condition, by resource provision, to rely still on a conscript army.”  Pankov said he could not give percentage figures on the future mix of conscripts and contractees in the Russian Army.  Soldiers’ Mothers Committee chair Svetlana Kuznetsova expressed doubt that the army will be able to induct 270,000 men as planned this spring.

Trud recently published a number of open letters to President Dmitriy Medvedev, one of which came from Soldiers’ Mothers’ founder Valentina Melnikova.  She asked Medvedev to end conscription, writing:

“Dear Dmitriy Anatolyevich, explain, please, why the Defense Ministry buried the idea of creating a professional army in Russia.   Back in 2003 the government adopted a special Federal Targeted Program on the full manning of all permanent readiness units with contractees.  All together, it was proposed by 2008 to bring into the forces 147,000 professional sergeants, for this 79 billion rubles was allocated.  The Defense Ministry reported that it was managing the task, and promised to increase the number of contractees in the army, and reduce the share of conscripts.  But in the end everything turned out exactly opposite.  At the beginning of this year the military officially stated that the task of building a professional army is being put off for indefinite long term.  As regards conscription into army units, the Defense Ministry intends to take it to 700,000 per year.  It’s simply impossible in Russia to find so many boys fit for military service according to the state of their health.  Almost a third of all conscripts that end up in the army have serious illnesses.  They’ll make just as many young citizens serve who have parents who can’t work.  End conscription and force the generals to create an army not of boys, but of professionals.  And don’t believe the generals when they say Russia doesn’t have the money for a professional army.  Independent experts believe that the state, if all expenditures are considered (pay for voyenkomat doctors, medical evaluation in hospitals, transporting conscripts to their service locations, assistance to soldiers’ wives, etc.), spends 150 billion rubles every year on conscription.  It seems to me that for this money it would be fully possible to maintain a fully contract army in a worthy condition.”