National Audit Office: Nearly one third of those who were conscripts seven-eight years ago have never attended reservist training

Priit Simson | 5/11/2022 | 11:00 AM

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TALLINN, 11 May 2022 – The number of conscripts recruited and the distribution of them between units corresponds to the schedule for the preparation of units planned in the National Defence Development Plan. However - nearly one-third of those who completed conscript service in 2013 and 2014 have never attended reservist training to date, and many of them have never even been invited by the Defence Forces, the National Audit Office found in the audit report published today.

“If we looked at the two years, about half of those who did not participate in reservist training did not appear despite the invitation and about half were never called up by the Defence Forces itself,” Auditor General Janar Holm said. “At the same time, it could be assumed that individuals from these years have come to the end of their rapid response reserve period when their skills, knowledge and efficiency are at the highest.” Holm indicated that the readiness of a reservists declines significantly in seven years when skills are not updated. 

The National Audit Office recommends regularly inviting reservists who are members of the wartime units of Defence Forces to reservist training. The motivational package for participating in reservist training should be reviewed – is the financial compensation sufficient or should reservists be offered additional leave and other benefits.

The National Audit Office found that the number of conscripts recruited and the distribution of them between units corresponds to the schedule for the preparation of units planned in the National Defence Development Plan. The National Defence Development Plan 2022–2031 prescribes a gradual increase in the number of conscripts to be called for service so that 400 more conscripts than today would serve by 2025. This would increase the number of conscripts to 4,000, facilitating the staffing of the prescribed wartime units. Unfortunately, the increase in the number of conscripts entails additional costs, a part of which has not been taken into account in the development plan.

While an increase in the number of conscripts has been taken into account in the construction of barracks, specific plans are not in place regarding eg training grounds and shooting ranges as to where, when and how much should be invested in order to provide the same level of training to more conscripts. The amount of additional cost for training equipment was also unspecified by autumn 2021. 

According to the Defence Forces, calling 4,000 conscripts to service per year means recruiting about 50 more instructors who are in active duty. Although the National Defence Development Plan foresees an increase of 300 in the number of people in active duty by 2031, this does not automatically mean that the number of instructors directly in charge of conscripts on a daily basis would increase.

A potential bottleneck is the training and recruitment of instructors because positions are vacant even now, which puts a greater workload on instructors. As a temporary solution, the Defence Forces has so far engaged conscripts who started their service in January and have completed the course of junior non-commissioned officers to help conduct soldier's specialty basic course for conscripts starting service in June-July of the same year. These are conscripts who should not yet be given full responsibility for achieving all the training objectives of new conscripts.

The training necessary for becoming an officer and leading a 30-man platoon takes three years at the Estonian Military Academy, and training of platoon sergeants and instructors takes one year at the course of senior non-commissioned officers. Unfortunately, the number of potential students and admission capacity of educational institutions is limited. The National Audit Office recommends clarifying the costs related to increasing the number of conscripts as comprehensively as possible and to ensure the recruitment and training of a number of people in active duty that corresponds to the number of conscripts.

Dropping out of compulsory military training has decreased year by year, facilitating the filling of positions in units. Both the lowering of health requirements and a more personal approach to training have reduced dropping out of compulsory military service before the completion of training. A more personal approach allows taking the differences in people’s abilities and needs better into account but increases the workload involved in the administration of conscripts and leaves less time for training.

Positions of reservists are filled in the majority of the units of the Defence Forces, with the most room for improvement in units prepared by the Defence League. The Defence League is expected to continue significantly increasing the personnel of territorial defence units in the future. This requires a more active involvement of current members as well as recruitment of new members.

In a situation where there are no problems with staffing the units following compulsory military service, the National Audit Office recommends using reservists trained in the Defence Forces to staff the vacant positions in the units prepared by the Defence League. One possibility is to use reservists who have just left the rapid response reserve to staff the vacancies of the Defence League.

The training of a large proportion of units has received a very good assessment in combat readiness inspections of the Defence Forces based on the registry data and documents. However, an assessment exercise that would confirm this combat readiness has not been carried out for many units as at the end of 2021.

The procedural acts of the audit report “Establishment of the reserve force for national defence” were carried out from June to December 2021 and the National Audit Office is publishing a summary of the report. The report itself contains national defence state secret and is not subject to publication.

Priit Simson
Head of Communications of the National Audit Office of Estonia
+372 640 0102
+372 5615 0280
priit.simson@riigikontroll.ee
press@riigikontroll.ee
http://www.riigikontroll.ee/

 

  • Posted: 5/11/2022 11:00 AM
  • Last Update: 5/11/2022 9:54 AM
  • Last Review: 5/11/2022 9:54 AM

According to the Defence Forces, calling 4,000 conscripts to service per year means recruiting about 50 more instructors who are in active duty.

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