War period units trained by Defence League have evolved considerably but non-military part lacks systematic approach

Toomas Mattson | 5/23/2018 | 9:10 AM

Text size: [-A] [+A]

Language: EST | RUS | ENG


TALLINN, 23 May 2018 – According to the National Audit Office’s assessment, the training of the war period units by the Defence League from 2013–2017 as outlined in the national defence development programme was mostly conducted as planned. Yet this training of the military and domestic defence auxiliary non-military units was not conducted systematically due to insufficiently concrete goals.

The national defence development programme implemented since 2013 has entrusted the Defence League with concrete tasks in the context of both military defence of the state and domestic security. One fourth of the armed forces trained for Estonian defence is the responsibility of the Defence League. Furthermore, the Defence League trains non-military units to support the formation of the units of the Defence Forces, guard national defence sites and assist the police and the border guard in maintaining public order in crisis situations. In 2018 the Defence League has been allocated 33.5 million euros from the state budget. In addition to that, the Defence League receives supplies from the Defence Forces to be used for war period unit training.

The audit conducted by the National Audit Office has revealed that training of land defence military units has been a priority of the Defence League, with the manpower, supply and combat readiness aspects of those units and the special ops commands improving annually and the training process conducted largely on schedule.

One problem here is the scarcity of those participants who are in active service, which in the Defence League directly affects both peacetime activities (including training of military and non-military units) and the process of filling the active servicemen vacancies in the war period units. The jobs of the missing active servicemen in the Defence League are performed by contractual employees and to some extent by volunteers, but this is not a sustainable situation and another solution must be found in cooperation with the Defence Forces. It is the opinion of the National Audit Office that an assessment must be made about whether some of the jobs have too high military training credential requirements.

The Defence Forces check how the Defence League trains war period units, assessing their combat readiness. These checks cover all the vital aspects: unit manpower, training level, supplies and leadership. Defence League combat readiness was checked in 2016 and 2017. In the course of the extensive Hedgehog 2018 exercises a check was conducted of what the Defence League had achieved over the previous five years in development of military and non-military capabilities.

The National Audit Office deems it a serious problem that the national defence development programme for 2013–2022 and its updated version for 2017–2026 contains only generally phrased goals for the Defence League’s military and domestic defence auxiliary non-military units. According to the national defence development programme, the Defence League’s non-military tasks include providing support for the formation of Defence Forces units, protecting the national defence sites that are in the Defence Ministry’s sphere of responsibility and assisting the Police and Border Guard Board in maintaining public order.

Neither the government nor the Defence Ministry (in cooperation with the Interior Ministry) have set any measurable goals or a time frame for fulfilment of the Defence League’s non-military tasks. Thus, to a considerable extent, the Defence League independently ensured non-military task readiness for 2013–2017. Different Defence League districts understand non-military tasks differently, which is why the plans and preparation practice for such tasks and personnel training also differs from district to district. As no measurable goals (which units, what kind of training, supplies and so on) have been set, it is impossible to assess the level of training of the Defence League’s non-military units.

Another problem is that the databases in the Defence Ministry’s sphere of responsibility and the Defence League’s volunteer registration database do not provide sufficient personnel information for Defence League operations. During the audit it became clear that there is no centralised source of reliable information about active members of the Defence League: their compliance with the requirements, including health requirements, current mobilisation restrictions, training level, extent of participation in training events and so on.

The main cause of this problem is the insufficient functionality of the existing databases (including inability to cross-reference) and the poor quality of the data stored there. It has been very difficult for the Defence League to determine whether the list of the active members contains, for instance, deceased persons and persons with current criminal records, or whether all active members are in fact Estonian citizens as required, and so on. Due to this lack of adequate information it is impossible to ensure within a reasonably short period of time that essentially correct decisions are made regarding the members. Therefore, confusion potentially arises when the units are to be deployed operationally. For example, the current information systems do not provide a complete overview of active members holding positions with mobilisation restrictions, which is why it cannot be excluded that one person is encumbered with multiple national defence obligations. There is also no overview of Defence League members who are simultaneously involved in another voluntary domestic security organisation (auxiliary police, volunteer land or maritime rescue). In practice, this means that a person that is supposed to be able to be relied on in a particular situation actually might not be available when the need arises because they are busy fulfilling other tasks at another voluntary organisation.

One positive aspect is that the Defence League’s personnel registration system is already being updated and as a result of this, both the availability and usability of the personnel details needed for the Defence League operation should improve. The new personnel information system should also facilitate ascertainment of the actual number of active Defence League members who are contributing to national defence in a tangible manner. As for passive members, the new system should simplify the process of finding effective means of either engaging those people or dismissing them from the organisation. Recruitment of new members would be increased as well.

The auditors also assessed whether the Defence League uses the state-allocated funds expediently and legally. The National Audit Office is of the opinion that the financial control system in the Defence League ensures expedient consumption of the funds allocated to the Defence League from the state budget and the legality of the financial transactions.

The audit did not cover the Defence League’s female and youth organisations, the cyberdefence unit or the school.

* * *

The Defence League is the largest volunteer organisation in Estonia. Its membership, including the female and youth organisations, is over 26,000 volunteers, i.e. about 2% of the total population of Estonia. Defence League membership is growing. In the extensive national defence development programme for 2013–2022 the Defence League’s role in achieving independent national defence capability has been increased substantially. The goal set for the year 2026 is to raise the membership to 30,000.

* * *

NB! The complete text of the audit report is access restricted and it is meant for internal use only. Only the report summary is public. The report contains annexes with state secrets.


Toomas Mattson
National Audit Office, Communication Manager
+372 640 0777
+372 513 4900
[email protected]
[email protected]

  • Posted: 5/23/2018 9:10 AM
  • Last Update: 5/23/2018 10:52 AM
  • Last Review: 5/23/2018 10:52 AM

The Defence League is the largest volunteer organisation in Estonia. Its membership, including the female and youth organisations, is over 26,000 volunteers, i.e. about 2% of the total population of Estonia.

Kaitseväe fotopank

Additional Materials


More News