Tag Archives: DVO

Not Enough Officers in ‘New Type’ Brigades?

In today’s Vedomosti, Aleksey Nikolskiy writes that Vostok-2010 has revealed a problem with officer manning in Russia’s ‘new type’ brigades.

In the course of the exercise, practically all SibVO and DVO permanent readiness units have been ordered to training ranges to test out their new TO&E and train their higher-level command elements.

Nikolskiy says:

“In the words of an officer of one of the motorized rifle brigades participating in the exercise, the new structures sent to the troops at the end of 2008 after the beginning of Armed Forces reform showed that officer manning and supply services are extremely inadequate, for this reason part of the brigades’ forces — for example, air defense means — can’t physically reach the training range.  There were bigger problems also with material support of the troops.”

Vedomosti’s source also says the troops are expecting new brigade structures in August that, according to the rumor, will contain even fewer officers.  A brigade’s officers will reportedly be halved, from 200 to 100, and this will just make the situation worse.  However, an officer from the Defense Ministry’s central apparatus says the new structures are being prepared based on the shortcomings of the exercise, and, if it’s decided there aren’t enough officers, their number will increase.

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More on the Military Manpower Dilemma

Social Portrait of SibVO Conscripts (Photo: Trud)

Mikhail Lukanin wrote in Trud this week about the Defense Ministry’s unending manpower woes. 

He concluded that the first two months of this spring’s draft campaign showed there’ll be almost no way to avoid conscription.  Experts he talked to believe the Defense Ministry’s conscription plan is unrealistically high, and the armed forces will turn to inducting every student. 

The callup is supposed to run 1 April to 15 July, and take in 270,000 new soldiers.  Voyenkomaty have already sent 100,000 men—mostly from the Volga-Ural region and Siberia—to their units.  One-third of callup-aged men were screened out due to health problems, most of which were diagnosed initially when the men appeared before the military-medical commission. 

Experts consider the early part of the draft campaign the easy part.  Voyenkomaty have been dealing with young men not in school who go pretty willingly to the army, according to human rights advocate Sergey Krivenko.  

But he says in the last weeks of the draft the voyenkomaty have to meet their quotas mainly with VUZ graduates who don’t have any desire to serve.  Valentina Melnikova of the Soldiers’ Mothers’ Committee says: 

“Mass roundups in student dormitories have already begun.  They traditionally conduct them mostly in Moscow and St. Petersburg.” 

In the fall, 43,000 university and institute graduates found themselves in the army—that’s 15 percent of all conscripts. 

Demographers indicate that the number of 18-year-old men will fall, and not exceed 600,000 for the next two years.  That number equals the number of places available in higher education institutions.  Independent military-economic analyst Vitaliy Tsymbal concludes: 

“The Defense Ministry can fully meet its draft plan only by means of total conscription of students.” 

And it has done little to hide its appetite for students, according to Lukanin. 

GOMU Chief Vasiliy Smirnov already talked to the Federation Council about drafting students after one or two years in a VUZ, and the Education Ministry reportedly didn’t object.  The extension of the current draft until 31 August means that those finishing school at 18 can now fall directly into the army, rather than taking their VUZ entrance exams.  Similarly, the ‘nonstop draft’ means VUZ graduates hoping to start their graduate studies will now fall subject to the draft. 

Of course, Smirnov has also raised cutting sharply the number of VUZy that can provide students a draft deferment.  He talks about a 50 percent cut, expanded later to a 70 percent cut in qualified VUZy.  Trud has been told all nongovernmental institutions will lose the right to provide deferments. 

Sergey Krivenko believes in every draft about 130,000-150,000 conscripts are ready to serve [his number may be high since it wasn’t so long ago that 133,000 were drafted every six months, and surely not every one of them was happy to go].  If, according to Krivenko, the Defense Ministry stuck with this number, it wouldn’t have any problem with conscription [it would certainly have fewer problems].  He continues: 

“However, the whole point is that beginning with spring 2009 the plan jumped to almost 300,000 in one callup.  Troop commanders themselves say that half of this number is simply ballast for the army.  Mainly these are guys in poor health, with a low level of education, and also inveterate hooligans.” 

Lukanin had a second article reviewing data from a survey of 7,800 conscripts in the SibVO.  Every third conscript considers serving a burden.  Only 40 percent had a secondary school (high school) or initial professional (post-secondary technical training) education; 4.5 percent had a complete higher education.  A third of the men grew up without fathers.  One in ten admitted either misusing alcohol, trying narcotics, or having a run-in with the police before coming to the army. 

More than 30 percent said they came to the army just to avoid trouble with the authorities.  Two percent said they have a negative attitude toward the army [this represents the small number of young men willing to tell the army’s pollsters what they really think to their faces]. 

Experts tell Lukanin the poll results will change as conscripts from Moscow, St. Petersburg, and other large cities begin to arrive.  A figure of 15 percent with negative attitudes toward the army is about the norm. 

Ten percent of the conscripts have health problems.  Three percent are underweight. 

The medical condition of conscripts may be worsening.  Official data say half of conscripts have health-related restrictions on their service.  And army commanders confirm that it’s hard to find draftees without some kind of defect.  ‘Ideal’ soldiers (from a physical and social standpoint) are found only in honor guards.  The deputy commander of the Moscow honor guard battalion said last fall he traveled all over Kostroma Oblast and, of 1,000 candidates presented by local voyenkomaty, he accepted only 30. 

Finally, one last story of draft-related problems . . . Nezavisimaya gazeta ran an editorial this week describing how some conscripts finishing their year of service in the DVO, Pacific Fleet, and SibVO are not being demobbed on time.  According to this report, they are being held because the DVO doesn’t have trained soldiers to take their places and participate in the operational-strategic Vostok-2010 exercise starting at the end of June.  The editorial concludes that the spring conscripts don’t even know how to handle their weapons yet, much less find a target on radar.  NG calls it a symptom of the fact that the Russian Army never has, and never has had, enough specialists.  The editors could hark back to the need for a professional army, but instead they recommend a better system of reserve mobilization.

Idea of OSKs Waxes Again

In Russian defense policymaking, ideas never die; they wax and wane, and wax again.  Andrey Nikolskiy in Thursday’s Vedomosti reported a source in the Defense Ministry’s central apparatus claims the idea of establishing four regional Operational-Strategic Commands (OSKs) in place of Russia’s current military districts and fleets is waxing again.  This is hardly a new story.

The West reportedly would combine the Moscow Military District (MD) and Leningrad MD, and the Baltic Fleet, under a headquarters located in St. Petersburg.  The East would combine the Far East MD with part of the Siberian MD, and the Pacific Fleet, with its headquarters in Khabarovsk.  The North would combine the remainder of the Siberian MD with part of the Volga-Ural MD, and the Northern Fleet, with Yekaterinburg as the headquarters.  Finally, the South would put the North Caucasus MD with the remainder of the Volga-Ural MD, and the Black Sea Fleet and Caspian Flotilla, with Rostov-on-Don as the headquarters.

Vedomosti  is circumspect on the four OSKs.  It maintains that no decision has been taken yet, and the possibility of creating them is being studied.  Interfaks was quick to claim they’ll be established before the end of the year.  Putting the West headquarters in Piter would track with the apparently continuing effort to relocate the Navy Main Staff to the country’s ‘northern capital.’

So, a little about what would happen if this idea were implemented . . . clear losers are the LenVO, SibVO, and PUrVO, which all disappear.  The VMF won’t like the idea and the VVS is perhaps more ambivalent since its air forces and air defense armies (AVVSPVOs) pretty much exist within the current MD structure anyway.  The East would have 14 active maneuver brigades instead of the DVO’s 10.  The West would have 9 instead of 6.  And the North might be created with 6 brigades.  Of course, the OSKs would also have greater territory to cover than the MDs.

In retrospect, new Ground Troops CINC General-Colonel Aleksandr Postnikov foreshadowed renewed talk of OSKs replacing MDs when he arrived in March mentioning the possibility of an MVO-LenVO merger.

Former Genshtab Chief Yuriy Baluyevskiy’s one-year experiment with an Eastern Regional Command at Ulan Ude headed by General-Lieutenant Nikolay Tkachev was euthanized by his successor, Nikolay Makarov, in October 2008.  Theoretically, it might have been one regional command alongside analogous western and southern structures.  Baluyevskiy’s initiative probably dated back to 2005 discussions about a new command structure in the RF Security Council.  But it’s not clear what kind of regional commands were considered.  Were they to overlay the MDs and fleets like the High Commands of Forces of late Soviet days or replace them in a more radical restructuring?

This winter, then Ground Troops CINC, Army General Boldyrev said that each MD would become an OSK, and the MD-OSK commander would have operational control over all military units on its territory–Navy, Air Forces, MVD Internal Troops (VV), etc.  Boldyrev said:

“The operational-strategic command is a military district.  Such is its function and standing.  The legal status of the OSK has been drafted, its approval is planned in the very near future, this will possibly happen before the end of this year.  The district commander has been declared the commander of the operational-strategic command.”

Nezavisimoye voyennoye obozreniye has been predicting the MD’s replacement for some time, writing in September last year: 

“. . . the leadership of the country and of the Armed Forces are returning to the idea that was proposed several years ago by former RF Armed Forces General Staff Chief, Army General Yuriy Baluyevskiy, who attempted to create Operational-Strategic Commands in theaters of operations, but not on the basis of individual districts, but rather by unifying several districts and fleets under the command of the OSK.” 

The MD is still more part of the administrative, training, and mobilization system for the paradigmatic ‘large-scale war’ of Soviet planning.  The OSK would have to become a combatant command for fighting regional or local wars here and now.  Consolidating three MDs and possibly downgrading fleet commands somewhat might save a few hundred senior officer positions.

As Vedomosti describes it, if the four OSKs actually stand up, they will include armed forces units, not other militarized forces like the VV or FSB Border Guards.  This isn’t surprising since these OSKs would be permanent, not just wartime, command structures. 

The control of strategic nuclear forces is always an issue in debating structures like the OSK.  Would OSK commanders really control and operate the RVSN, SSBNs, and long-range bombers on their territory?  If not, how would the OSK’s general purpose forces support strategic operations?  

Abolishing 6 MDs and especially 4 fleets and their long histories would be a politically daunting task, sure to raise lots of opposition in the ranks and among the publicly vocal ex-military.

Finally, it might be argued that the military has experienced near ‘permanent revolution’ over the last 18 months, and doesn’t need another major organizational innovation while the situation settles out from previous changes.

In any event, the replacement of MDs with OSKs still remains a rumor at this point.