Tag Archives: Contractees

The Rest of Government Hour

It’s worth wading through the rest of Russian Defense Minister Shoygu’s “government hour” address to the Sovfed to compare this speech to previous data points. His future remarks can be put in some kind of context against this baseline.

Shoygu in the FC

Shoygu

First, Shoygu briefly illustrated the condition of the Russian Army in 2012.

He said “modern” equipment amounted to only 16 percent of the total. Serviceable equipment (i.e. operational, not needing repair or overhaul) 47 percent.

The Defense Minister said Serdyukov-era cuts in officer corps created 61,000 rasporyazhentsy (распоряженцы) on which the MOD had to spend 32 billion rubles annually. These semi-unemployed officers occupied 28,000 service apartments and others occupied housing rented by the MOD at commercial prices.

So the rasporyazhentsy problem was a bigger one than the MOD ever let on. It was hardly discussed after 2012 until the MOD reported it solved in late 2019.

But back to Shoygu. He indicated 107,000 Russian servicemen needed apartments in 2012. There were only 186,000 would-be professional contract soldiers in the ranks. The air forces were short some 2,300 pilots. The MOD had 1,300 unneeded military towns on its books costing five billion rules to maintain. Only 21 percent of Russians thought the army could defend the country and only 28 percent considered the army prestigious.

Then he described major points in the Supreme CINC’s (Putin’s) May 2012 decrees:

  • The share of “modern” weapons would be 70 percent at the end of 2020.
  • Not less than 50,000 contractees would be recruited each year for five years (436,000 by the end of 2017?).
  • Social protection of servicemen in housing and pay would be raised.
  • Military-patriotic indoctrination of young people would be organized.
  • Prestige and attractiveness of military service would be increased.

In answer to those pointed, Shoygu claimed the share of “modern” MOD systems is now 68.2 percent and will be 70 percent by the end of this year.

Strategic nuclear forces are more than 87 percent “modern.” He must be counting just missiles and warheads because many delivery systems (i.e. bombers and SSBNs) can’t really be called modern.

Serviceable equipment is 94 percent. More than 1,400 aircraft and more than 190 ships, boats, and support vessels were procured. The “combat potential” of the RF Armed Forces has more than doubled since 2012, according to Shoygu.

However, some weapons and equipment Mr. Putin wanted by 2020 won’t be delivered. Putin’s list in 2012 looked like this:

  • 400 ICBMs and SLBMs.
  • 8 Borey SSBNs.
  • About 20 multipurpose submarines.
  • More than 50 surface ships.
  • Nearly 100 military satellites.
  • More than 600 aircraft.
  • More than 1,000 helicopters.
  • 28 regimental sets of S-400.
  • 38 battalions of Vityaz SAMs.
  • 10 brigades of Iskander-M.
  • More than 2,300 tanks.
  • About 2,000 SP artillery systems.
  • 17,000 military vehicles.

The eight Borey SSBNs and 20 other subs obviously won’t happen. Vityaz SAMs are just starting to reach the force. The tanks were supposed to be new T-14s but became modernized T-72B3Ms at best.

Other items did arrive: ICBMs, airplanes, helos, S-400s, Iskanders, etc.

But back to the speech. Russia, Shoygu said, is countering U.S. missile defenses with:

  • Experimental combat duty of the Kinzhal ALBM.
  • Flight testing of the Tsirkon ASCM / LACM.
  • First regiment of Avangard HGVs on SS-19 Mod 4 ICBMs.
  • The Peresvet laser system.
Russian Peresvet laser for point defense of ICBM bases

Peresvet laser for point defense of ICBM bases

Defense Minister Shoygu recounted the “great experience” gained from the Syrian civil war.

He said every military district commander, staff officer, army and air army commander, division, brigade, and regiment commander has received combat experience in Syria. Ninety percent of flight crews and 56 percent of air defense personnel participated in combat there. Russia now has some pilots with 200 combat flights, according to Shoygu.

It’s clearer than ever that Moscow intervened in Syria not simply to raise its international profile, but also to have a place to test its weapons and train its personnel under real-world conditions. 

Shoygu said the military has 225,000 conscripts and 405,000 contractees. The army’s sergeant ranks are fully contract as are Spetsnaz, Naval Infantry units, battalion tactical groups, and operators of complex systems.

Interestingly, no figure on the Navy afloat which is supposed to be virtually all contractee. This raises the official contractee number from 384,000 to 405,000. The number’s been steady just shy of 400,000 for the past four years.

Since 2012, some 775,736 servicemen have been housed per Shoygu. This includes permanent housing for 244,107, service housing for 226,712, and “real market rate” compensation for 304,917 renting on the local economy. Since 2014, 37,312 have used subsidies to buy or build in “places of their choosing.”

Odd he didn’t mention the military mortgage program which, since 2009, has been a key plank of solving the army’s housing problem.

Congratulating himself for reviving the Young Pioneers in the form of Yunarmiya, Shoygu castigated 12 regions where local authorities aren’t supporting this organization. He said he knows some Senators aren’t sponsoring their own Yunarmiya detachments.

Beyond the 1,300 in 2012 mentioned at the outset, Shoygu said the MOD has transferred 1,800 military towns to the regions. But this is, of course, not always a boon for the recipients. Sometimes the former garrison towns are a big burden.

Shoygu said about 90 percent of Russians “trust” the army, while “negative evaluations” have declined by 4.5 times.

It’s not obvious what polling the Defense Minister is referencing. Polls usually ask, “Can the army defend Russia in the event of a real military threat from other countries?” If that’s not trust, what is? Even Levada’s poll from 2010 showed 63 percent of the nation believed it definitely or most likely could.

Contractee Goal Quietly Pushed Way Right

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.

Pankov-240.jpg

Pankov

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.

Can’t Get Beyond 384,000

Capture

Last week Russian General Staff Chief Valeriy Gerasimov addressed a variety of topics in his annual briefing for the Moscow foreign military attaché community. According to KZ’s coverage, he said Russia continues to work at manning Russia’s military forces at 95-100 percent of their authorized level.

On contract service — the Russian military’s longstanding attempt to recruit, train, and retain large numbers of enlisted soldiers to serve alongside one-year conscripts — Army General Gerasimov said:

“The number of servicemen serving on contract has reached 384 thousand. This has led to a noticeable qualitative growth in the combat capabilities of sub-units.”

“The transition to the new system of manning combined arms formations, and also naval infantry and VDV formations, with contract servicemen has enabled them to have in their composition the necessary quantity of battalion tactical groups ready immediately to fulfill their designated missions. A further increase in the number of contract servicemen is planned.”

Anyone studiously following the process of Russian military professionalization would notice that 384,000 is the very same number given by Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu almost exactly two years ago.

Just over a year ago, the head of the MOD’s NTsUO — charged with day-to-day monitoring of the status of Russia’s armed forces — said the number was 354,000.

The MOD’s announced goals were / are 425,000 contractees by the end of 2017, and 499,000 by 2020.

So we’re safe in concluding that Russia’s contract service program is treading water. It has stalled with just enough new recruits to replace those who don’t renew their contracts.

The lack of civilian employment for young men and the attraction of joining the military’s mortgage program are not enough to encourage the number of enlistees the MOD seeks.

It’s also clear (and not surprising) the MOD is emphasizing filling the ranks of its frontline combat forces — combined arms, naval infantry, and VDV units — with contractees.

Perhaps most interesting, virtually no Russian media outlet is calling the MOD out on contract service. Just this from Denis Mokrushin:

“If the media checked what was said, they would quickly find out that the officially declared number of contract servicemen has not changed since 2016, Shoygu and Gerasimov always give the same number. But every time they talk about it as if over the past year there has been an increase in the number . . . .”

Putin: Russia Ending Conscription

President Vladimir Putin significantly changed the script for Russian military reform on October 24 by indicating intent to end the draft in favor of volunteer contract service.

Putin We are gradually going away from conscription

Putin: We are gradually going away from conscription

That day Putin told his young audience:

“While I don’t have a ready-made answer, in the same vein if we try to develop this practice further, then maybe we’ll come up with something, but in general we, of course, should keep in mind that we are gradually going away from conscript service in general.”

“We are doing this, unfortunately, at a slower pace than planned in connection with budget constraints, but we are doing it all the same and will continue to do so. So it will be a short time when in general this question will not be acute.”

The largest questions are why, and why now. The answer to both is the impending presidential election on March 18, 2018. It will be more a coronation keeping Putin formally in power for 20 of 24 years of the 21st century (but in reality for all 24). Still there’s no doubt ending conscription will provide an extra electoral boost for Putin. Cutting the draft term from two years to one gave Team Putin a lift ten years ago.

Russia’s generalitet has always said the military will never completely abandon conscripts for contractees. It fears the difficulty of conducting a big-war mobilization without hundreds of thousands of relatively young men with pretty fresh basic military training. Just like that, however, Putin changed a fundamental assumption of his generals.

Writing for Yezhednevnyy zhurnal, the inimitable Aleksandr Golts has pointed out the MOD’s flawed addition when it comes to contractees. Literally 11 days ago, General-Colonel Mikhail Mizintsev said the armed forces have 354,000 contractees. And Defense Minister said they had 384,000 at end of 2016, so the number is actually falling. At the end of 2017, they are supposed to have 425,000.

Golts concludes:

“Of course, it’s not excluded that once again military men have become confused in their own lie. Removed from any kind of control, they are at will to announce any data — it’s impossible to check it anyway. Meanwhile, Mizintsev is not simply a general. He is chief of the National Center for RF Defense Command and Control. They assure us that data on the condition of the Armed Forces flows right to him in real time. So, perhaps, he told the truth.”

For more on the Russian military muddle over contractee numbers, see also Denis Mokrushin’s entertaining “2×2=5. Maybe Even 6.”

Golts believes the number of contractees stalled at the 2015 level, with the 90,000 added since then cancelled by a similar number declining to renew their contracts after three years. So, he continues, one has to think the conditions of service in the army aren’t as attractive as depicted on MOD brochures. Contract pay hasn’t increased since 2012 (but inflation has by 44 percent). And the chance of injury or death in a “hot spot” like eastern Ukraine or Syria has gone up.

Regarding the reduced requirement for conscripts in the current draft campaign, Golts puts it down to the fact that the Russian Federation is at the very bottom of its demographic trough right now.  In 2017 and 2018 respectively, only 638,000 and 633,000 18-year-old men are available.

As a result of all this, Golts sees Russian Armed Forces manning at about 850,000 (250,000 conscripts, 354,000 contractees, 220,000 officers, and 30,000 military school cadets). This is well below President Putin’s recently authorized 1.13 million. The missing 160,000 or so troops has to affect Russia’s combat capability, according to him. He expects the generalitet to close gaps in the ranks with reservists to create leverage to convince Putin the draft must be preserved.

But maybe Putin isn’t even serious about ending the draft anyway.

Contractees in BTGs

General Staff Chief, Army General Valeriy Gerasimov held a press conference with Russian news agencies on 14 September.  The just-completed Kavkaz-2016 strategic exercise was the main, but not the only, topic.

gerasimovs-press-conference

Gerasimov’s Press Conference

Interfaks-AVN captured Gerasimov’s comments on one particular subject of interest.

Army General Gerasimov said:

“Contractees are substantially increasing the combat capability of sub-units and military units.  In our districts, including the Southern Military District, battalion tactical groups [BTGs], which are fully manned by contract service soldiers, have been created.  There are now 66 of such BTGs, at the end of 2016 there will be 96, next year 115, and the year after [2018] 125.”

Every BTG, Gerasimov noted for the media, has 700-800 men, and reinforced BTGs have 900.  As a rule, each Russian regiment and brigade has two BTGs, he said.

What is a BTG?

A BTG is a motorized rifle or tank battalion of 2-4 companies with attached ATGM, artillery, reconnaissance, engineer, and rear support platoons making a fairly self-sufficient ground combat unit.

These were some brief but significant comments from Gerasimov. What do they tell us?

BTGs are supposed to be completely manned and fully combat ready. Gerasimov didn’t say that regiments and brigades typically have at least a third maneuver battalion which may not be completely manned or combat ready.

To simplify our math, let’s say Russia’s Ground Troops today comprise 36 maneuver (motorized rifle and tank) brigades.  We’ll leave out the longstanding 2nd Motorized Rifle Division and 4th Tank Division, as well as the future 150th MRD.

Those 36 brigades equate to a nominal 108 (36 x 3) maneuver battalions.  If there are 66 BTGs now, then two-thirds of the 108 are organized in essentially ready-to-fight packages.

Ninety-six would get close to 100 percent BTGs by the end of this year.  But adding another 30 (66 + 30 = 96) in less than four months seems almost ridiculously difficult.

The 115 (96 + 19) and 125 (115 + 10) figures for 2017 and 2018 would be much easier.

Battalions composing current divisions (or new divisions and brigades in the process of forming up) certainly account for some number of BTGs above 108.

It’s unclear how many airborne (VDV) or naval infantry BTGs there might be. Gerasimov seemed to be talking strictly about Ground Troops.  Between them, VDV and naval infantry might have 30+ battalions already organized into BTGs, or candidates to become BTGs.  But we don’t know if or how they factor into Gerasimov’s current or future number of BTGs.

Gerasimov’s comments have value with regard to contract service.  Sixty-six BTGs at 800 men each account for 52,800 professional enlisted.  And 125 would be 100,000. Those numbers represent a fair portion of a Russian Army of 300,000 considering that there might be 60,000 officers, and there will always be conscripts.

JO Shortage

Russia’s Eastern Military District (MD) is apparently experiencing a junior officer shortage.

The district headquarters in Khabarovsk announced this week that 227 of its contractees are set to receive lieutenant’s shoulderboards in the near future.

Eastern MD Contractees in Basic Training

Eastern MD Contractees in Basic Training

The Russian MOD site indicated that these contractees already have a higher education, and 39 have a military specialization.  Apparently, they will start serving immediately as junior officers.  The other 188 have been enrolled in military training establishments (VUZy) for an unspecified period.

Another 85 will soon be sent off for similar training.  The MD is already selecting well-prepared contract servicemen who have a higher education.

The district also intends to send representatives from its personnel directorate and military commissariats to western and central Russia to recruit individuals to serve as officers in the Eastern MD.

The MOD site reminded readers that, in May, MD commander General-Colonel Sergey Surovikin said the district needed to find officers “who were forced to resign during the optimization of the structure and size of the Russian Army” as well as contract servicemen with higher education who want to be officers.

The “optimization” of course was that of former defense minister Anatoliy Serdyukov.  His effort to cut bloat in the officer ranks began in earnest in 2009. While focused mainly on senior officers, Serdyukov’s knife also slashed lieutenants and captains at the base of the TO&E pyramid.  At the time, commentators reported complaints from units saying they had trouble keeping order and fulfilling routine requirements due to a lack of platoon and company commanders.

In some sense, the news about a JO shortage is surprising given that each spring the MOD gushes about young lieutenants graduating from VUZy and taking up their responsibilities in the nation’s far-flung armed forces.  It also brags about stiff competition to enter those VUZy every year. 

In another, it isn’t surprising.  Serving in the military in Russia’s harsh and underpopulated Far East is no more popular than living there for other reasons.  It’s a hardship post with little attraction for 22-year-old.

Lastly, each contractee taken to become an officer means another enlisted soldier has to be signed up for the Eastern MD.  And that’s a more difficult sell.  One is left wondering if the recruitment of contract servicemen for the Far East isn’t going so well either.

Sufficient numbers of young Russian men are just getting harder to find.  It’s hard to get them to go where the military thinks they’re needed.  Meanwhile, Moscow is trying to expand its force structure. And the very bottom of Russia’s demographic hole won’t be reached until 2018. 

Million-Man Army

President Putin (photo RIA Novosti Sergey Guneyev)

President Putin (photo: RIA Novosti / Sergey Guneyev)

For some time, observers have talked about the Russian military as a force of roughly 1,000,000 soldiers.  But its legal ceiling was above one million, while its true personnel number was below that level. Now Moscow has, for the first time, a statutory limit of 1,000,000 uniformed personnel.

This week President Vladimir Putin decreed a manpower limit of 1,885,371 for Russia’s Ministry of Defense.  One million will be uniformed service personnel and the balance civilian employees.

RIA Novosti reported on the decree.  It replaces one from January 2008 specifying 2,019,269 with 1,134,800 in uniform.

In a largely overlooked December 2008 act, former president Dmitriy Medvedev decreed that the limit would be 1,884,829, including one million serving in uniform, from the beginning of 2016.

So Putin has authorized an additional 542 civilian workers for the Defense Ministry.

To round out this picture, Putin decreed a limit of 2,020,500 with 1,134,800 servicemen in 2005.

Putin’s latest decree is the new benchmark.  But who is that million?

There are about 300,000 draftees in the armed forces at present.  In late 2015, the military reported having 352,000 contractees.  It announced it would take only 31,000 volunteer soldiers in 2016, and claimed its formations and units were manned at 92 percent of authorized manpower.

If you take 300,000 + 352,000 and add in 220,000 officers and 50,000 warrants, it looks like armed forces of 922,000 or 92.2 percent of the current one million authorized.  Another 31,000 contractees this year would be 95 percent.

In late 2014, the Defense Ministry said 220,000 officers, 50,000 warrants, 425,000 contractees, and 300,000 conscripts was its goal by the end of 2017. That’s 99.5 percent of one million.  Some 42,000 contractees will have to be signed up in 2017.

Perhaps, just maybe, the days of undermanning at 766,055 servicemen on January 1, 2013 are behind the MOD.  However, there are problems with believing it.  Number one is the fact that no one talks about the rate of contractees leaving the armed services.  Retention may be as good, but it’s not 100 percent.  The addition of new volunteers isn’t a straight line up to 425,000.

Beyond whether contractees stay are more important (and more difficult to evaluate) issues of the quality of recruits, what they learn in training, and what they add to Russia’s combat capability.

P.S.  Also notable this week was Putin’s signing of a decree on MVD manning which increases its personnel by 64,000 to 1,067,876 (872,970 police officers).  This, and the MOD decree, are part of an apparent rewickering of the “power” ministries that began with the establishment of Putin’s National Guard.