Tag Archives: Pay

Defense Policy Reset?

RF President Vladimir Putin last week held the first meeting of his third term to discuss military priorities with senior uniformed officers.

President Putin

He looked less impressive, and less in command of his brief in the video of his introductory remarks than on similar past occasions.

But he clearly laid out his main concerns for Russia’s top Armed Forces leaders:  training, Aerospace Defense Troops, rearmament, contract manning, pay, and housing.

He seemed confounded by the Defense Ministry’s failure to pay new, higher military salaries on time, and by the continuing lag in providing housing to servicemen.  He said his Control Directorate is investigating both situations.

Taking it from the top, Putin said the state of military training and exercises today is completely changed from past years when the Armed Forces were rarely active.  The president twice emphasized conducting joint exercises with Russia’s allies in the CSTO, CIS, and SCO.

His second priority is developing the newly created and reformed Aerospace Defense Troops.

His third is rearmament.  He repeated the familiar goal of replacing 30 percent of weapons and equipment with new generation systems over the next three years (2015), and 70, or in some cases 100, percent five years after that (2020).  And he added:

“I ask you to report promptly about all instances of breakdowns or incomplete deliveries, if you identify them.  Everyone participating in Gosoboronzakaz work must bear personal responsibility.”

The fourth priority is manning, and the earlier announced effort to increase professional soldiers in the ranks to 425,000.  This, he says, would increase their numbers two and a half times, reportedly from 170,000 today.  Putin made the customary comments about carefully screening and selecting enlisted troops, and giving them incentives to serve well.

Fifth and finally, Putin emphasized efforts to provide better social support for servicemen, specifically, this year’s increase raising military pay by up to three times, and his attempt to provide all military men permanent housing in 2013 and service housing by 2014.  He said:

“Sufficient resources have been allocated for this, the necessary amount has been reserved.”

“But I have to note that, to this point, there are many problems in the provision of housing and calculation of pay, unacceptable breakdowns and procrastination, open professional negligence by officials.  And even if on paper and in reports everything is normal, in fact in real life servicemen and their families at times encounter various kinds of bureaucratic procrastination, often with a formalistic indifferent approach.”

“I’ve directed the Russian Federation President’s Control Directorate to conduct a corresponding check in all these areas.  Unacceptable facts are being encountered, already in the first stages of this check this is clear:  this is both delays in the transmission of pay, and the impossibility of normally finalizing the paperwork for an apartment.  Fitting conclusions will be drawn according to the results of the check, and instructions will be formulated.  But today already I’m asking Defense Ministry representatives to report what measures are being adopted to correct the situation.  May is ending, and normal work with pay still hasn’t been smoothed out.  We already talked about these issues more than once.”

Where are outside observers left?

  • Training and exercises have increased as a function of more budget and fuel, but this didn’t happen until the late 2000s.
  • Aerospace Defense Troops are another structural reorganization, potentially a good one, not unlike other reorganizations since the 1990s.
  • Rearmament is a serious downfall.  Despite the Putin factor, nothing really happened on this score until late 2009.  It’s complicated by the difficulties of fixing a dilapidated OPK.  And, although there may be some favorable signs, success here remains to be seen.
  • Contract service is a second serious downfall.  Putin’s first effort to professionalize the army started in 2002.  The General Staff Chief declared it a dismal failure eight years later.  The Defense Minister revived it on an enlarged scale one year after that.  Demographic reality and draft problems leave Moscow no other choice.
  • Low military pay is a downfall.  It became more of a realistic priority with Serdyukov’s arrival in the Defense Ministry, but it was still five long years before the new, higher pay system was implemented.  And Putin admits how poorly it’s functioning.
  • Housing is also a downfall.  Despite progress since Putin first really addressed the issue in 2005, it’s still problematic.  And the president publicly moved back his timetable for a solution.

The downfall areas are problems requiring a long-term, sustained commitment to resolve.  Putin 2.0 is wrestling with the same military issues he identified back in 2000.  It’s still far from certain he can or will bring them to a successful conclusion.

This author believes there’s been progress on Russia’s military issues during the 12 years of Putin’s time as national leader.  But future economic or political challenges could derail progress toward rebuilding the country as a full-scope military power.

Is Putin resetting or rebooting defense policy?  Yes, at least jumpstarting it on key issues.  But a restarted or jumpstarted computer, car, or policy usually works (or doesn’t work) the same way it did before it stalled.  So this isn’t necessarily the path to a successful finish.  But no one ever said making and implementing policy was easy.

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Serdyukov Year-Ender (Part II)

After talking GOZ-2011 and contracting with OPK enterprises, Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov fielded Rossiyskaya gazeta questions on pay, military sanatorium-resort (i.e. vacation) benefits, apartments, contractees, opposition to reforms, and MPs.

He said increased pay will more than offset the loss of vacation benefits.

The military will have acquired 135,000 apartments by the end of 2011.  It will obtain another 25,000 next year according to Serdyukov.

He rejected any suggestion officers were deceived or Prime Minister Vladimir Putin “set up” when it came to the original 2010 and 2012 deadlines for solving permanent and service apartment problems:

“No one was deceived.  You know the number of those without apartments in the army sharply increased after the transition of the Armed Forces to a new profile began.  The dismissal of servicemen accompanied this process.  Unfortunately, the registration of those needing housing was conducted badly.”

“Precisely because of this, the lists for the receipt of housing rose from 70 thousand to 170 thousand.  It’s understandable that a hundred thousand increase could in no way be “inserted” into the bounds of 2010.”

On contractees, Serdyukov said there will be 180,000 in 2012, and 50,000 will be added each year until the number reaches 425,000 in 2017.  He added the optimal ratio, in his view, is 80 percent contractees to 20 percent conscripts.  But, if financing allowed, he’d go to 90-10.  Conscripts will serve primarily as infantrymen in motorized rifle brigades where less technical skill is required.

Asked the usual question on resistance to his steps to renew the army, Serdyukov said reforms weren’t all to his credit; they were devised mainly in the Defense Ministry by uniformed officers.  He said he can’t say there was strong resistance but rather misunderstanding about changes being made.  Without prompting, Serdyukov identified personnel downsizing, dismissals, and officers placed outside the shtat [TO&E] as sources of opposition to his work.

Serdyukov claimed there would be fewer inquiries from Duma deputies if they visited units instead of relying on newspaper articles and information from the Internet.

Finally, for the first half of his interview, Serdyukov talked about launching Russia’s military police.  First, the MP garrison service will stand up, followed by disciplinary battalions and the military automobile inspectorate.  Troops from line units will no longer guard cargoes or bases, he said.  MPs will be responsible for order in garrisons.  He concluded:

“In my view, this will bring real changes in barracks life, it will fight barracks hooliganism.”

Serdyukov would say dedovshchina doesn’t exist, and he wouldn’t bring himself to say simply barracks violence.  But, in essence, he acknowledges that “real changes” in the barracks are needed. 

He said a Main Directorate of Military Police has been created and General-Lieutenant Surovikin will head it.  The MPs will have several thousand specially trained personnel, including possibly some officers now outside the shtat.

Year Two

This blog completed its second year yesterday.  There were 288 posts in year two (a few less than last year).  Just a couple to go to reach 600 posts since December 10, 2009. 

One hopes the reading was half as worthwhile as the writing.  But frustration lingers.  It’s impossible to follow everything.  Adding Twitter provided a “release valve” for overflowing news.  Still there’s tension between posting short items and writing more detailed pieces drawing together many different sources. 

In 2011, Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov and General Staff Chief Nikolay Makarov had plenty of interviews, official appearances, and other public utterances to cover.  There were a large number of high-level personnel changes, retirements, and dismissals to report.

Serdyukov eased a little on cutting the officer corps.  The Defense Ministry readied its new higher pay system while scandal plagued the stopgap premium pay scheme.  Military housing remained a major headache as always.

Moscow hit a wall on manpower and had to accept undermanning.  After acknowledging there aren’t enough potential draftees, the military is starting over (yet again) with an effort to create professional enlisted and NCOs through contract service.

This year began with questions about the GPV’s feasibility, but devolved into immediate problems with GOZ-2011.  The Russians threw money at the OPK without looking at the defense sector’s (and the procurement bureaucracy’s) capability to turn financing into the kind of weapons and equipment the military requires.  Difficulties ramping up production of naval and missile systems occupied media attention.  The public debate over the relative merits of buying Russian or foreign weapons made several headlines.     

So where is Russia’s military?

To this observer, the Russian Armed Forces are improving and beginning serious rearmament.  But the hour is late.  Significant future problems could derail recent positive changes.  These include new and old, unsolved economic, budgetary, social, demographic, and possibly even political challenges.  Not to mention purely military obstacles to modernizing the army and navy.

Your visits and page views grew significantly in year two.  Page views are about 400 a day, 2,000+ a week, and 9,000-10,000 a month.  We’ll see if this is the ceiling for this rather specialized topic.

Your views, opinions, and arguments are always appreciated.  Those sharing or highlighting data and evidence on issues are particularly valuable.

Medvedev Signs Pay Law

Medvedev's Meeting on Pay Law

Monday President Medvedev met an unusual group — the Defense Minister, General Staff Chief, and MD / OSK commanders (but no service CINCs or branch commanders) — to announce he signed the long-discussed law on military pay that becomes effective on January 1, 2012.

The increased military pay in this law was a key goal for Anatoliy Serdyukov when he arrived at the Defense Ministry nearly five years ago.  Premium pay was just a stopgap.  So this is a success for his reform program.  His idea was to cut half (or more) of the officer corps and raise the pay of those remaining.  Of course, he had to back off somewhat on cutting down to 150,000 officers.

Why did it take so long to enact an increase in military pay?  Was it hard to find the money?  Maybe, given the global financial crisis of the late 2000s.  Was it hard to overcome former Finance Minister Kudrin’s resistance to higher defense outlays?  

Newsru.com, Svpressa.ru, and others see the pay increase as timed to coincide with Duma and presidential elections, and designed to engender the military’s goodwill toward the current leadership at the ballot box.  It’s worth noting the reduction in conscription from two years to one came in the context of the last national elections in 2008.

According to Kremlin.ru’s account, Medvedev indicated he wanted to congratulate those assembled on their long, hard effort to raise military pay to its new level, on average 2.5 or 3 times above today’s pay.  RIA Novosti provides the standard example of lieutenants rising from 19 to 50 thousand a month. 

In addition to higher base pay, the usual supplements will remain in effect, including additional pay for special duties, class qualifications, and difficult service conditions.  Premiums of up to three times base pay for outstanding performance will also continue.  Military pensions will increase at least 50 percent to 17,000 on average.  Read more about pay calculations here.

Addressing his small audience, Medvedev said:

“In such a way, servicemen have a very serious stimulus to carry out their service duties well and improve their professional training.”

He was careful to say those without duty posts (the so-called распоряженцы) won’t be left behind:

“It also includes important provisions, which, in principle, allow us to prevent worsening of the material situation of different categories of servicemen, citizens, dismissed from military service, their family members, if the amount of pay given them is reduced in connection with introducing the new system, then here there is an established mechanism of compensation and balancing out of these payments that is also an important guarantee of financial stability for our servicemen.”

Not reassuring.  But those guys won’t vote for United Russia and Putin anyway. 

The president continued:

“I won’t conceal that many drafts were ripped up around it, there were many discussions about whether we were prepared to raise pay to such a degree, whether the state had the resources for this, whether this wouldn’t drain our budget, wouldn’t create some kind of problems in the future?”

“I want to tell those present and, naturally, all servicemen of the Armed Force to hear me:  it won’t drain us, everything will be normal, and all required payments by the government will be made because this is the most important guarantee of raising the professional preparation of servicemen and improving the quality and effectiveness of the Armed Forces.  Therefore, the decisions, proposed several years ago, are being executed and put into action by this law.”

Thanking Medvedev, Serdyukov said:

“For us, in a complete sense, this resolves all earlier problems:  this is manning with both officers and contractees; this is serving; this is the attractiveness of military service, the fact is this is the entire complex of issues which weren’t practically resolved for us.”

Medvedev completed his remarks with this:

“But the main thing the state, by adopting this law, its signing and, accordingly, its entry into force, shows is that decisions once given voice are subject to unconditional fulfillment, whether someone likes them or not, if depending on them is the social condition of a huge number of people:  these are servicemen and their family members.”

“And further, we will do this so that our Armed Forces will be highly effective, and service in them will be prestigious and highly professional.”

So Medvedev declared it a test of governmental capability, and swiped at dear departed Kudrin who opposed the extent of defense budget increases in view of priorities like education and health (not to mention the pension fund).

It takes capability to implement a decision, yes, but it takes even more to stick with it over the long term.  Will the Russian government be able to continue the new level of military pay when the elections are over, economic conditions less favorable, oil prices and revenues lower, and budgets tighter?  That’ll be the true test of capability.

P.S.  We shouldn’t forget that the Defense Ministry has also semi-obligated itself to paying 425,000 professional enlisted contractees 25,000 rubles or more a month in the future.  That will probably equal the bill for paying officers.  Let’s estimate this total cost at 500 billion rubles a year.  The non-procurement defense budget in 2009 was only 670 billion.

Some Cracks in Air Forces’ Stonewall (Part II)

Returning to the latest on Igor Sulim . . . in a late July Nezavisimoye voyennoye obozreniye article, Oleg Vladykin summarized the GVP’s various recent press releases about rising crime in the Armed Forces.  He provided insight into how senior officers view Sulim and premium pay extortion at Lipetsk.

A colonel, a deputy formation commander speaking anonymously told Vladykin:

“Almost the entire service of many senior officers came to twenty years in which they constantly humiliated, deprived the army whenever possible, and generally kept it in a miserable state.  But at the same time they used it regularly.  Senior officers carried all this gloom on their shoulders.  And here now, as if in gratitude, they promise to raise their pay three times!  Colonels will receive the same as junior managers in some public company, whose peaceful labor the army successfully defended in spite of everything.  Many have only a year or two left to serve, then dismissal in connection with reaching the age limit.  And what then?  And then also an increased, but still laughable pension.  It will be two times less than a lieutenant’s pay.  Therefore, senior comrades confidently tell younger officers:  ‘Boys, you still have everything ahead of you.  Somehow, you’ll manage to make a more or less decent living.  We here won’t…’  You know the majority understand this.  And those like Senior Lieutenant Sulim from the Lipetsk Center are the exceptions.  I’m not judging them, no, but I’m sure that after 1 January the prosecutors won’t easily locate those who’ll agree to talk about their contributions to their senior colleagues.”

Vladykin says he can’t agree with this argument, but it’s impossible not to note some logic in it.  He concludes:

“The psychology of men in shoulderboards has changed very powerfully in the course of recent Armed Forces transformations.”

In his Moskovskiy komsomolets blog Friday, Sulim highlighted an article posted on Lipetsk’s Gorod48.ru.  The article reviewed the shady, semi-criminal past of Hero of the Russian Federation, General-Major Aleksandr Kharchevskiy.

Then Sulim asks (rhetorically) how Kharchevskiy can be silent, and how could he not know about the criminal activities of his deputy, of his cousin, or of his subordinates who extorted money from their subordinates.  He sums it up:

“It’s shameful and disgusting that in the space of twenty years they’ve turned an elite flying unit into an elite business for stuffing pockets, hiding all this under a mask of love for the Motherland and swearing on officer’s honor.”

Perhaps there’s some kind of behind-the-scenes three-way struggle between the Defense Ministry, Air Forces, and military prosecutors over premium pay extortion.  Or maybe it’s a negotiation to agree on how, and how far, to pursue the Lipetsk case and ones like it.

But the Defense Ministry seems paralyzed.  The unit checks ordered by Serdyukov rather improbably failed to turn up similar crimes in services or branches besides the Air Forces.  As the colonel quoted above says, the Defense Ministry may believe the scandal will die down after the new, higher military pay system goes into effect.

The cracks in the Air Forces’ stonewall on the Sulim case are only tiny fissures.  Those immediately involved in extorting money and pressuring officers at Lipetsk are finally in trouble with the law, but no one above that immediate level.  As an institution, the VVS appears unworried for now.

The prosecutors apparently can’t even name the officers they “hold accountable” in the VVS Glavkomat.  This isn’t to belittle Sergey Fridinskiy, his organization, and their efforts.  He and his prosecutors sometimes seem to be the only people looking honestly at the state of the Russian military.  There are clearly only so many battles they can fight. 

And preoccupied as they are with their own positions, skirmishes, and the fast-approaching election season, Russia’s political and government leaders aren’t likely to devote more time or attention to untangling what’s happened at Lipetsk.

Some Cracks in Air Forces’ Stonewall (Part I)

An update on the Igor Sulim case . . . on Tuesday, Moskovskiy komsomolets’ Olga Bozhyeva reported there may finally be some pressure on the alleged extortionists.  Colonel Kovalskiy and one Captain Artemyev decided (in fine Russian tradition) to go the hospital to avoid arrest, but a former 4th squadron chief of staff and Kovalskiy relative, Mikhail Zakurdayev was arrested on July 30. 

Bozhyeva wrote about related crimes at Lipetsk including forgery and extortion from civilian workers receiving premiums to the tune of 10 million rubles.

She reported that, despite the Defense Ministry’s promise to check all units, systemic extortion of premium pay was only found in Lipetsk, Sevastopol, Syzran, and Michurinsk.

The case at the Syzran generated some media attention starting on July 29.  The press reported the chief of the helicopter pilot training center, Colonel Nikolay Yartsev, and a former training regiment commander have allegedly been “taxing” pilots five percent of their premium pay, taking a total of four million rubles from 43 officers last year.  The Saratov garrison commander has opened a criminal case against them.

According to Bozhyeva, military prosecutors say the command in Lipetsk is still creating obstacles instead of establishing order in the ranks.  It transferred a primary witness and Sulim ally — Major Anton Smirnov — to Chelyabinsk.  Another officer whose wife complained in a letter to the president was removed from flight duty for “poor morale.” 

Bozhyeva ends with an excerpt from Sulim’s blog where he says officers are quizzed several times a day on the most obscure military topics.  Failing the tests justifies not paying their premium pay.

According to RIA Novosti, on Wednesday, Sergey Fridinskiy announced that unnamed VVS Glavkomat officers have been held to account for violating the rights of Lipetsk pilots facing extortion from their own commanders. 

The Main Military Prosecutor apparently responded to queries from Duma deputies interceding on behalf of Senior Lieutenant Sulim.  Fridinskiy indicated his prosecutors checked on Sulim’s complaint that his rights were violated during the initial [Air Forces] investigation. 

The head prosecutor claimed, as a result of these checks, several criminal cases were launched, and steps were taken to prevent further violations.  The GVP also announced that:

“The officials, including those in the VVS Glavkomat, who committed them have been brought to account on the GVP’s demand.”

The GVP found that, in the investigation, no active steps were taken, and conditions were created for continued illegal activity by dishonest officers.  They obstructed the investigation, and pressured officers prepared to cooperate with investigators.

According to RIA Novosti, Sulim’s main antagonists, Colonels Kovalskiy and Sidorenko, were removed from duty, but continued to have regular, unfettered access to the base.  But the pilots and navigators who gave evidence were removed from flight duty and given menial duties.  Several times the command’s given Sulim tasks without informing him to provide the basis for reprimands for not fulfilling assigned duties.

The Duma deputies who went to Fridinskiy think the Lipetsk command’s dragging out the case and using “administrative resources” to pressure those who spoke out.  The deputies believe the Tambov garrison military prosecutor isn’t interested in closing the case, and to them, this means higher-ranking officials will have to be made accountable.

More tomorrow.

Below One Million?

Dropping Russia’s military manpower level below one million?  Talk about a watershed.  This might be spurious information, but coming from Dmitriy Litovkin, the report has to be taken seriously.  In fine Russian tradition, it could be a trial balloon to elicit public and elite reactions.

In yesterday’s Izvestiya, Litovkin reported that, over the course of two years, the Russian Army will become smaller by 150,000 men, according to a Defense Ministry source.

The impetus for this is the Finance Ministry’s.  Aleksey Kudrin’s been ordered to fight the budget deficit, and he’s got defense and security spending in his sights. 

The source says concrete proposals to cut military expenditures were prepared for a special government conference in early June.  As a result, the government adopted an “additional reduction” of 150,000 servicemen.  This would reportedly save 10 billion rubles in 2010 [sic], and almost 50 billion rubles in 2014.  The article says military staffs have already been cut 40 percent as a result of army reform. 

Litovkin notes Defense Minister Serdyukov has previously called one million the “optimal” manning figure — ostensibly 150,000 officers, 100,000-120,000 contract sergeants, and conscripts for the balance.

But it wasn’t so long ago that the Defense Ministry declared the need for an increase of 70,000 officers, and raising the number of contract NCOs and soldiers to 480,000.  It’s not clear how these new cuts are supposed to jibe with increases proposed earlier this year.  The Supreme CINC [together with his tandem partner] will have to decide.

Litovkin enumerates Defense Minister Serdyukov’s competing costly initiatives — higher officer pay, outsourcing nonmilitary tasks, etc.  According to this, outsourcing alone has already brought 380,000 [!?] civilians into military support positions and this number is supposed to increase.  Litovkin doesn’t close the loop on this, but he seems to imply the high cost of these efforts requires cuts in manpower.

This is all exciting and interesting and occasions a couple thoughts.

One.  The new “optimal” number for the Armed Forces must be 850,000.  Liberal Russian politicians, military analysts, and observers have long argued for this, or an even more radical cut.  But one million has had mystical power.  Russian conservatives will vociferously object that the country’s borders are too extensive to be defended by a single man short of one million, as if even one [or for that matter two] million could do it, or as if sheer manpower’s the best way to parry modern military threats.

Two.  Though not mentioned by Litovkin, isn’t it possible Moscow’s decided to make a virtue of necessity and recognize that demographic and draft problems have left them well short of a fully-manned force of one million anyway?  This could be a small step in the direction of becoming (or at least looking) more like just another European army.

Three.  The inevitable downsides.  Keeping more officers had been intended to deal with the outplacement cost (apartments) and other negative fallout of cutting the officer corps in half, not to mention simply having more officers around to deal with unruly nonprofessional soldiers in the ranks.  And another round of personnel reductions is likely to delay any resumed movement toward a long-term professional enlisted force.

Just the latest fro in the game of Russian defense policy to-and-fro.