Tag Archives: GOMU

It Was That Bad

General-Lieutenant Yevgeniy Burdinskiy

General-Lieutenant Yevgeniy Burdinskiy

Another lesson in the value of collecting and following data points over the long term.

On October 24, GOMU Chief General-Lieutenant Burdinskiy made a simple statement to the Russian media:

“The manning of the armed forces is 95 percent, since 2012 this indicator has risen by 35 percent.”

So Russian armed forces manning was only 60 percent of the nominal org-shtat in 2012. The forces were undermanned by 40 percent.

Wow.

On these pages, reports of Russian military commentators to the effect that undermanning was 20, 25, or even 30 percent have been repeated and highlighted many times. But no one would have written or believed 40 percent undermanning. Now the report has come from GOMU itself.

As recently as seven years ago, that’s how bad undermanning was, and that’s how hard the Russian MOD worked to conceal the state of affairs with its manpower.

Now the MOD can demonstrate how dramatically its personnel situation has changed, but only by admitting just how bad it was in the past.

Adding (and Subtracting) Contracts

General-Colonel Viktor Goremykin

General-Colonel Viktor Goremykin

Chief of the Main Directorate of Cadres (GUK) — head of personnel for the MOD, General-Colonel Viktor Goremykin was on-stage Friday, 3 April as the latest spokesman for contract service, i.e. the military’s professional enlisted recruitment program.

This is an interesting, if subtle, shift.  More often in the past, the General Staff’s Main Organization-Mobilization Directorate (GOMU) spoke to contract manning issues.  GUK has typically dealt more with officer promotions and assignments.

The GUK’s Goremykin was commissioned into the army, but his mid-career training came in counterintelligence at the FSK Academy (soon renamed the FSB Academy).  So perhaps he was a KGB “special section” guy or osobist from his earliest days as an officer.  His path is reminiscent of his immediate boss, Nikolay Pankov.

According to TASS, Goremykin told the assembled media that the MOD will very soon have 300,000 contractees, because it now has exactly 299,508.  He added that the military gained 80,000-90,000 men on contract service in 2013 and 2014, and has added 19,000 in 2015 thus far.

We can peel back the contract service onion as a result:

  • If, from this 299,508, we subtract 90,000 + 90,000 + 19,000, the Russian MOD had only 100,508 contractees as recently as 31 December 2012. Pankov claimed 186,000 contractees at the start of 2013.  The 85,492-man discrepancy represents contract attrition over the last 27 months, or an average loss of 3,166 contractees — an entire brigade of recruits — every 30 days.
  • As Mokrushin notes, General Staff Chief Valeriy Gerasimov said there were only 295,000 contractees in late December.  If 19,000 were added in 2015 but the total is only 299,508, then a net of only 4,508 was added due to the loss of 14,492 contractees during those months.  Call that five percent attrition, but annualized it’s 20 percent.
  • We were told in early November 2014 that the Russian military, for the first time, had more contractees than conscripts.  Since there were 305,000 conscripts at the time, ipso facto, contractees must have numbered at least 305,001.  You can add the November-December losses — 10,001 — to 14,492 and you get 24,493 lost in five months.  That’s 4,899 per month on average — call that two brigades of recruits lost — every 30 days.

Russian recruiting centers have to keep a torrid pace just to stay even with these losses.

But back to Goremykin.  He said the MOD’s goal for 2015 is to reach 352,000 contractees, and plans for the outyears haven’t changed — 425,000 by 2017, and 499,000 by 2020.

With possible attrition of 27,000 over the next nine months, the MOD will have to recruit 79,000 contractees to be at 352,000 by the end of 2015.

Goremykin indicated the MOD will continue allowing conscripts with higher education to serve two years as contractees instead of one as draftees.  The percentage choosing this option isn’t large, but it’s growing, according to him. The six-year service requirement to qualify for a military-backed mortgage may be dropped to five years just to encourage this category of contractees to re-up.

The GUK chief said there are plans to make the Russian Navy almost 100 percent contractee, starting with its submarine forces first, then most of its surface forces.

According to RIA Novosti, General-Colonel Goremykin also announced this year the MOD will make its entire contingent of “junior commanders” (NCOs) contractees.  It intends to do away with the longstanding practice of selecting and making some draftees into sergeants.  Goremykin added, “This is a task for this year.”

Two take aways:

  • As always, it’s difficult to trust the MOD’s numbers; they tell us about additions, but not subtractions.
  • As shorthand, we tend to call newly recruited and enlisted Russian contractees professionals when, in fact, they have just signed up to become professional.  Whether they do is a function of whether they stay, get trained, and become experienced.  One senior Russian commander has said he considers soldiers professionals when they’ve served two or more contracts (6+ years).

Draft Details (Addendum or Draft Board Storming)

One must report the apparently contradictory along with the confirmatory . . . Mil.ru has reported GOMU’s final results for the spring 2013 callup.

GOMU indicates that, as of 12 July, it summoned more than 700,000 draft-age males, with more than 692,000 appearing as requested.

The order to induct 153,200 men in President Putin’s decree was, of course, fully accomplished.

It must have been hard getting 118,000 men in front of draft commissions during the final ten days of the callup.

Это какой-то штурм . . . .

A Rock and a Hard Place

Russians in Tajikistan (photo: RIA Novosti / Vladimir Fedorenko)

Conscripts or contractees?  It’s difficult for the Russian Army to get the right kind of conscripts, where it needs them.  But, over time, it hasn’t been any easier to obtain long-term contract enlisted either. 

Last week, Izvestiya wrote about army plans to replace conscripts currently serving in its 201st Military Base in Tajikistan with contractees. 

An officer in the formation told the paper it’s too costly to keep 3,000 conscripts in Tajikistan, and, by the end of 2012, the Russian Army will replace half with contractees.  A GOMU source tells the paper replacing all 3,000 at once is “unrealistic.”  Contractees will reportedly serve on three-year deals getting 30,000 rubles per month.

The situation for Russians in Tajikistan, the officer says, is strained, and Tajik authorities regularly detain conscripts for one reason or another.  As an example, he cites the case of a conscript driver who killed three Tajiks last January.  Thus, he concludes, it would be easier with “professionals” – contractees —  who “know what they’re doing, and can be responsible for their actions.”

But there’s no reason to think contractees will avoid trouble any better than conscripts.  The first contract experiment proved that.  Contractees are more costly and just as difficult to control, if not more than their conscripted brother-soldiers.

According to Izvestiya, the 201st now has 5,500 personnel, including the 3,000 conscripts.

An old Krasnaya zvezda report says, in early 2007 – at the height of the first, failed attempt at introducing contract service – the military base had 7,000 servicemen in all, about 60 or 65 percent contractees.  Its two maneuver units had 50 percent or fewer in their ranks.

Back then, the Defense Ministry daily said the military was all set to send conscripts in place of hired soldiers.  It was hard to convince older, experienced men to go to Tajikistan because of the difficult living conditions and prospects for serving on contract in Russia.

As Izvestiya’s interlocutor intimated, relations between Moscow and Dushanbe are a bit strained right now, prompting some to wonder out loud if manning the 201st won’t become a moot issue.

Farewell Russian Arms and Russian Army

Does it matter what old soldiers think?  It doesn’t seem to right now.  Maybe they’re just bitter old dudes whose time has passed. 

But they certainly provide interesting and frank commentary on the state of the OPK, the Armed Forces, and Serdyukov’s reforms at odds with official pronouncements from the Kremlin, White House, and Defense Ministry.

Former 58th Army Commander, retired General-Lieutenant Viktor Sobolev wrote recently for Pravda.  He reacted to a program on the army on NTV from October 9.  It apparently wasn’t posted on NTV’s site. 

Sobolev says this right up front:

“On the eve of elections, our president and Supreme Commander-in-Chief Dmitriy Medvedev and ‘national leader’ Vladimir Putin have been worried in turn by the condition of the country’s army and military-industrial complex and are assuring gullible Russian citizens that they will do everything so that our Armed Forces meet modern requirements and receive new types of armaments and military equipment in a timely manner.”

“The Russian mass media [SMI] under the government’s and president’s control have been actively used in making these assurances.”

The ex-general-lieutenant is critical of just about everyone:  Serdyukov and his “effective” managers, people who haven’t served in the army, former First Deputy Defense Minister Popovkin who wanted to buy more arms abroad, his successor Sukhorukov who dares insist that defense enterprises substantiate their prices, independent defense commentators like Litovkin and Pukhov, interest-hungry banks, corrupt middlemen.

He points only to Tactical Missile Armaments Corporation General Director Boris Obnosov in a positive light for recognizing that other countries won’t sell Russia their best weaponry. 

Still, Sobolev’s under a bit of a misimpression thinking that Moscow is really buying lots abroad.  In fact, a cynical observer might conclude the whole situation over the last year was designed to let Putin be the champion of the domestic defense sector vs. Medvedev the Westernizer.  But we digress . . . 

For Sobolev, this all sums to an OPK with a broken GOZ, that’s chronically underfinanced and losing its capability to produce modern arms and equipment. 

Again, the cynic might say this was already lost a number of years ago.

But, says Sobolev, when compared with the OPK:

“Even worse is the situation in the Armed Forces.  It’s believed we have a million-man army which Mr. Sukhorukov recalled on this program.  Let’s calculate it together.  According to TO&E, there are 150 thousand officers in the army, no warrants at all, they were liquidated.  According to civilian [but he still wears his uniform] GOMU Chief V. Smirnov, 184 thousand contractees are serving in the army and navy.  In all 334 thousand, the remaining 666 thousand are conscript servicemen.  But they simply couldn’t have called up so many.  Moreover, conscripts serve not only in the army and navy, of the number called up, up to 30% serve in the Internal Troops, Border Guards, MChS units, presidential regiment, and so forth.  This means in the army and navy huge undermanning exists, and it will only get bigger.  It’s planned to reduce the fall callup by 2 times.  More than 200 thousand citizens, according to Smirnov, are evading military service.  The spring callup stretches out to September, and the fall until March.  In the troops, they’re occupied with it constantly, in the course of the entire year, they take young soldiers into their ranks in small groups, organize individual training for them and try to man sub-units.  At the same time, the process of dismissal also goes on without interruption.  In these conditions, you can’t talk about any kind of quality manning of sub-units.  What kind of units of permanent combat readiness are these?”

“Therefore NATO’s military analysts note with satisfaction that, as a result of the reforms conducted, Russia’s Armed Forces aren’t capable of completing missions even in local conflicts, ‘The Russian Army does not have a sufficient quantity of transport resources for redeploying troops over great distances, does not have a sufficient quantity of aircraft and pilots who know how to fly in any weather, no unified information system.  There are not enough soldiers in the army . . .’”

“In NATO, they understand the Russian Army’s fallen apart, but how about our country’s leadership?”

Whoa. 

Sobolev’s no crank, and he’s not to be taken lightly.  Born and schooled in southern Russia, he probably has combat experience whereas the current General Staff Chief and Ground Troops CINC probably don’t.  Sobolev served as Deputy Commander of the OGV(s) in Chechnya in 2002, before taking over the NCMD’s 58th Army in 2003.  He ended his career as the chief military advisor in Russia’s Indian embassy in late 2010.

General-Lieutenant Sobolev

A more recent photo shows him looking just about as fit in retirement at age 61.

One wonders if a conservative like Sobolev realizes how much his thinking coincides with that of more liberal critics he seems to detest.

Walking Back the Draft

General-Colonel Vasiliy Smirnov

Reversing decisions made in the context of Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov’s military reforms is apparently necessary, no matter how painful.  In early 2010, Serdyukov and General Staff Chief Nikolay Makarov announced their intention to curtail professional contract service and rely on the one-year draft to man the Armed Forces.  Scarcely more than a year later, they’ve been forced to retreat from this plan.

Yesterday Deputy General Staff Chief, General-Colonel Vasiliy Smirnov said Moscow will draft only about 200,000 young men in this spring’s callup.  See Mil.ru’s transcript of the press-conference.

The Russian military has tried to conscript in excess of 270,000 men in every draft campaign since one-year service started.  But General-Colonel Smirnov said the military will now induct only 203,720 men this spring, and (not mentioning problems with numbers) he attributed the reduction to a Defense Ministry and General Staff decision to raise the quality of the callup contingent.  He added that coming drafts would also aim for about 200,000 new soldiers, plus or minus 3-5 percent.

The Russians are also refraining from measures to round up more men.  Newsru.com noted the spring callup will run only until July 15, not August 31 which would have allowed for drafting more men before they enter higher educational institutions (VUZy).  President Medvedev decided not to make technicum (post-secondary trade school) graduates liable to the draft so they can attend VUZy if they choose.  Other ideas, such as extending the upper age limit for the draft from 27 to 30, or raising the service term back to 18 months or 2 years, remain off the table.

So Moscow is facing its manpower limitations head-on.

The simple fact is a million-man Russian Army was never going to have 600,000 or 700,000 conscripts, perhaps not even 540,000 at any given moment.  Vladimir Mukhin already reported in January on the fall callup’s failure, and approximately 20 percent undermanning in the ranks.  That would put draftees at about 430,000, or at what Smirnov says they now plan to conscript each year.  Mikhail Lukanin wrote last June that the military’s conscription targets were unrealistic when the number of 18-year-olds alone won’t reach 600,000 during the next couple years.  Army General Makarov said it himself back in September when he noted that only about 13 percent of draft-liable manpower serves in the army.  His 13 percent of 3 million 18- to 27-year-olds is 390,000.

Where does all this leave Russian Army manpower?

Taking recent pronouncements on the intention to have 220,000 officers and 425,000 contractees in the future, conscripts might number 355,000 at some point in a million-man army.  Smirnov’s statement yesterday indicates they intend to have somewhat more than 400,000 at any given time for now.  Where they are today is harder.  If there are 181,000 officers and 174,000 contractees (as Smirnov said yesterday), and there are no more than 540,000 conscripts presently serving, the Armed Forces are comprised of less than 900,000 men.  How much less depends on the actual number of conscripts.  That’s at least ten percent below their authorized level.  If there are only 500,000 conscripts, that’s about 850,000, or 15 percent under one million, and so on.

Contract Service Not Quite Abandoned

In St. Petersburg Thursday, Anatoliy Serdyukov explained that the Defense Ministry is cutting the number of contractees due to a lack of funding:

“We don’t have the resources to maintain contractees in the amount we want, therefore a reduction in contractees and an increase in conscripts are occurring.”

He made the remarks in response to complaints about higher draft numbers in a meeting with human rights activists.  

Serdyukov said the transition to permanent combat readiness units requires the Defense Ministry to take a full draft contingent, meaning that an increased number of those with an unfulfilled military obligation are being conscripted. 

But he repeated past statements that the armed forces will drop by 134,000 at some point to a level of one million personnel.

According to Svpressa.ru, at the March Defense Ministry collegium Serdyukov admitted:

“We are not satisfied with the results of this [contract service] program.  We somewhat underestimated the situation in units – who should transfer to contract, on what conditions, with what kind of pay.”

RIA Novosti cited GOMU Chief Vasiliy Smirnov from the end of July when he said that contractees will man more than 100,000 soldier and sergeant billets in the Russian military.  This press item added Smirnov’s comments that contractees will be 20 percent of the armed forces, and currently number 210,000.  And money freed up by the reduction in contractees will go to increased pay for other unidentified servicemen.

Some of this reporting – especially Smirnov’s 100,000 and 20 percent figures – seems garbled, but it’s just that some key background’s been left out.  Let’s rebuild some context around last week’s statements, so they make more sense.

Looking back on what was said officially last winter, General Staff Chief Nikolay Makarov had a much harder edge on his pronouncements about the failure of contract service.  Serdyukov was much less categorical; he emphasized that contract service was being cut, not abandoned.

Makarov and Serdyukov offered different figures on contractees; the former said 190,000 and the latter 150,000.  And Smirnov said 210,000.  Recall all three figures probably included 79,000 or less recruited in the 2004-2007 program.

Serdyukov said first the contract service program will be cut – perhaps down to Smirnov’s 100,000 – then eventually expanded to 200,000 or 250,000.  In his March interview, even Makarov said ideally a motorized rifle brigade should have about 20 percent professional enlisted personnel. 

At Alabino in May, Serdyukov said contract service is being reworked.  The key thing is he’s yet to explain exactly how he’ll do it.  For the time being, he’s saying there’s no money for it, but it remains on the agenda.

For now, contractees will or may be cut to Smirnov’s 100,000 level, but if they expand back to 200,000 somehow in the future, they would be 20 percent of Serdyukov’s million-man army.  For now, they’re going to be 18 or 13 percent of the army, and drop maybe as low as 10 percent before increasing (maybe).

We should also recall Valentina Melnikova’s admonition not to believe Russian generals (or defense ministers) when they say they can’t afford a professional army.  They just have other priorities right now.