A couple years ago Russia’s MOD aimed to have 499,000 professional enlisted soldiers — contract servicemen — manning its forces in 2020. That goal has, without notice, dropped to 475,600 by the end of 2025.
The MOD has been unable to get above 384,000 contractees for several years. Every year it claims to sign up its annual quota of 50,000, but separations are high enough to stop progress toward its ultimate contract manning target.
TASS recently reported Deputy Defense Minister Nikolay Pankov — who supervises execution of MOD manpower policies — said this about recruiting volunteers into the ranks during 2019:
More than 50,000 men were accepted into military service on contract which allowed for manning the armed forces with well-prepared specialists, and the main emphasis was on the quality of candidates being selected — 70 percent have professional education.
“Professional education” means some type of post-secondary schooling (community college, trade school, etc.) short of a university degree.
Recall Moscow has, since the early 2000s, tried to establish contract service — a program to attract and retain long-term enlisted personnel and build a strong non-commissioned officer corps.
The news agency continued:
The draft action plan for the RF Ministry of Defense in 2019-2025 calls for an increase in the quantity of contractees to 475,600 men by the end of 2025.
This “475,600 by 2025” is basically what General Staff Chief Valeriy Gerasimov said last winter.
Cutting the number and shifting the date five years to the right is becoming official policy.
We haven’t seen a new MOD “action plan” yet. The last “action plan” covered the 2013-2020 period. That plan called for signing up 50,000 contractees every year to have 425,000 in the armed forces by the end of 2017.
Gerasimov said the Russian military had 384,000 contractees in late 2018. Defense Minister Shoygu reported the same number in 2016.
Russian Army recruiting is barely holding its ground even with new volunteers. This year’s 50,000 just compensate for those who don’t re-up at the end of their contracts.
In recognition of the MOD’s recruitment dilemma, the RF government in September increased base pay for contractees by 50 percent, raised compensation for family housing, and also supplemented specialist pay and performance bonuses. It remains to be seen if this will attract more men into the ranks.
Recruiting is difficult for any military. The U.S. Armed Forces invest great resources into the effort because human capital acquisition is the sine qua non of military power.
Of course, Russia intends to continue drafting men to serve. But maybe it’s reached some natural limit on its ability to attract volunteers.
Perhaps Moscow has signed up the easiest and most willing candidates and, in some HR corollary to the law of diminishing returns, MOD attempts to recruit the next one increasingly demand more effort, time, and expense.