The Defense Sector’s Systemic Failure

In today’s Nezavisimaya gazeta, Vladimir Mukhin concludes the OPK’s “systemic failure” has left the military without new weapons.  His article also says a lot about the base upon which the Kremlin intends to build a modernized economy.  But perhaps the OPK is in worse shape than other sectors . . .

Defense Minister Serdyukov apparently sent President Medvedev a report explaining why some very important armaments and military equipment were not delivered in 2010.

According to Boris Nakonechnyy, Deputy Chief of the Directorate of State Defense Order Formation in the Defense Ministry’s Armaments Department, Serdyukov proposes that the Supreme CINC use “measures of administrative effect against enterprise directors who have violated the timeframe for fulfilling the Gosoboronzakaz.”  He doesn’t say if this means fines, arrest, etc.  Specifically, Nakonechnyy said, in 2010, a proyekt 20380 corvette, two proyekt 955 submarines, one proyekt 885 submarine, 3 of 9 planned Yak-130 trainers, and 73 of 151 expected BMP-3s  were not delivered.

Mukhin calls this an obvious failure, and estimates at least 30 percent of the 2010 GOZ wasn’t realized.  He contrasts this with President Medvedev’s Poslaniye, in which he said he was sure defense expenditures in the 2011-2013 budgets would allow the Armed Forces to buy the new armaments they need.

Speaking to defense enterprise directors in Sverdlovsk Oblast, Nakonechnyy said the cause of failure in the Gosoboronzakaz is poorly organized work by enterprises and designers:

“Signing contracts . . .  an enterprise director assumes quite serious obligations.  And, signing such a state contract, he is correspondingly bound to meet these obligations.”

But, he says, in a number of OPK enterprises, this isn’t happening.

Mukhin turns to the directors’ side of the story.

Military plant directors in the Urals unanimously announced that “contracts are concluded in such a way that we will always be in extremis.”  They say they’ve made proposals about contracts, but none of them are considered.  They also point to the Defense Ministry’s significant indebtedness to enterprises for completed work.  This supposedly amounts to 228 million rubles in the Urals.  Most of all, managers worry about uncertainty in this year’s GOZ, and about the Defense Ministry’s intention to pay 2009 prices this year.

The head of the Sverdlovsk producers’ group says:

“To this point, there are no agreements, no money.  All this pushes us toward emergency work in the future.  The pricing policy is driving us into a corner.”

Another general director complains of low profitability in the OPK.  Only 6-7 percent, according to him.  The Defense Ministry is allowing growth in materials costs of not more than 1 percent this year, and this will erode profitability further.

Military analyst Vladimir Dvorkin says a third of defense enterprises are really bankrupt.  Investment in R&D is ten times lower than in developed countries.  Investment in basic capital and personnel training is five times lower.  He continues:

“Fixed capital assets at OPK enterprises are two-three times, and labor productivity five-ten times lower than in developed countries.  More than 70% of technologies supporting production demands are worn-out or obsolete.  More than half the machine tool inventory is 100% worn-out.  The average age of OPK workers is more than 50, in defense NII [scientific-research institutes] it approaches 60.”

Dvorkin thinks the Armed Forces can’t be brought to the level of the world’s leading armies without extraordinary efforts.  Priorities need to be set for the armaments development system in order to concentrate efforts on a limited list of systems.

Mukhin thinks it might be too late since Medvedev’s already signed GPV 2011-2020.  But whether its priorities will be met is another thing.  So far in post-Soviet history, not one GPV has been fulfilled, Russia’s defense industry continues to decline, and global restructuring in military production still hasn’t been noticed in Russia.

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