‘The army must have more funds’, says Minister of Finance

Autor: Nuala Casey, Oldrich Holecek

On 15th October, the First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Andrej Babis, visited a military garrison in Praslavice in the Olomouc region. The visit was at the invitation of the Chief of the General Staff, Lieutenant General Josef Becvar, and coincided with recent negotiations regarding an increase in the military budget over the next few years.

The 72nd Mechanised and 73rd Tank Battalions in Praslavice, which have not seen any new investment for 12 years, were presented to Minister Babis by the Commander of the 7th Mechanised Brigade, Colonel Josef Kopecky.

"As we are responsible for the training and deployment of our soldiers in defending our country, and during foreign missions, we must ensure that they are sufficiently well-equipped," said Colonel Kopecky.

After inspecting the base, Minister Babis told reporters, "Taking into account the current security situation worldwide and the ongoing terrorism threats, we feel that it is important to substantially increase the military budget for the foreseeable future. I believe the army is currently seriously under-financed. Presently, there is a shortfall of five thousand soldiers, and a majority of the equipment I see here would be more at home in the Military Technical Museum in Lesany than in a combat unit."

"The army must get it priorities straight. It is not acceptable that battalions do not even have the correct allowance for their own personal gear. Soldiers are entitled to certain incidentals per year, such as socks, etc..," added Minister Babis, and assured the soldiers that defence funding would be significantly increased.

The internal debt of the Armed Forces of the Czech Republic is, according to experts, around 120 billion Czech Crowns. Personnel recruitment has been steadily decreasing in recent years, which has subsequently led to the present personnel shortages, and which in turn has led to the current urgent need for a recruitment drive, not only for military professionals but also for new members of the Active Reserve force.

‘It is not only the modernisation of weapons and equipment that requires more investment...’

According to General Becvar, the recent government approval to increase the defence budget for next year means the army can also focus on conceptual development of the military forces. "Predictions for 2017 and 2018 so far are positive and, if funding is increased, we will be very pleased. Next year’s budget is earmarked for modernisation projects and will also help to recruit the required personnel, and the vision is to have implemented these changes by 2020. It is also indisputable that the 7th Mechanised Brigade needs urgent rearmament, especially the replacement of the technically outdated BMPs-2 combat vehicles the army has been using since 1984."

Later in the day, Minister Babis watched a demonstration of live combat firing from two T-72M4 CZ tanks and one BMP-2 vehicle at the range of the Military Training Area in Libava.

October 20, 2015