BONN — Austria is launching three pilot projects to professionalize its conscription armed forces. Over the next month, three units and six military properties will be organized to work without conscripts, Austrian Defense Minister Norbert Darabos announced.
In Lower Austria and in Salzburg, two pioneer companies will be formed on the basis of a volunteer militia. Soldiers who sign up will receive a yearly bonus of 5,000 euros ($6,474). At the same time, they commit themselves to serve about two weeks per year in exercises or on operations inside the country.
The enlistment will run from February until June, and both units are supposed to be ready for operation by 2013. Darabos said this will increase the strength and professionalism of the existing militia system.
“Both companies will do more exercises, be quicker deployable and get a bonus for performed services,” he said.
Until July, the Jägerbataillon 25, an air-deployable infantry unit, stationed in Klagenfurt, will be reorganized to operate with professional and regular soldiers. Full readiness should be achieved by July 2014. More than 350 professional and regular soldiers will be added to its current cadre of 150 professional soldiers.
The 350 conscripts who perform routine jobs as so-called system upholders in different properties will be transferred to the forces and the military core business, as Darabos put it. Currently, 60 percent of all conscripts are serving as ordinances, drivers and other kinds of aides. Their current duties will be partly outsourced, replaced by technical means or civil servants and trainees. This process is to start in the second half of 2012.
“With those projects, we make the militia more attractive and stronger, we reduce the system upholders, and we increase the operational readiness drastically,” Darabos said at a joint press conference with the Austrian chief of the General Staff, Edmund Entacher, and the commander of the Armed Forces, Günter Höfler on Jan. 23 in the Austrian capital Wien.
The Austrian military wants these pilot projects to provide experience in fields such as operational readiness, recruitment and professionalization.
“Operation has the highest priority for the forces,” said Höfler: “Everything that increases the operational readiness is welcomed.”
The money needed for these projects is to come from the defense budget itself.