Ministry of defense started the implementation of the reconstruction and reform Plan of the military forces for 2005-2008 period and of the Plan for increasing the social security, material status and living conditions for the military personnel of the National Army; the new composition of the Parliament has adopted the Law regarding the status of the military personnel. All that served as a reason to meet with Minister of Defense Valeriu Plesca.
- Dear Minister, the goal of the military reform in Moldova - is to create an actual, combat ready army. But what for, do we, a neutral country, need an army?
- Without an Army there is no State. The presence of it - it's not an indication that the country is planning fight with somebody, but it is more a tendency to prevent wars. In addiction to that, the Army is the stabilization factor in the State, the axis around which is creating the nucleus that assures independence, sovereignty, and integrity of the country.
We, also, can get another argument as well. These days there are a lot of discussions about creation of the regional, European, World security System. How will we contribute to that? Participation in this process with just empty words or declarations, will not have an effect, every country has to introduce its own concrete contribute in creation of these systems. Our contribution, for example, is expressing in the participation of the Moldavian Military Personnel in different UN, OSCE and other international organizations and peacekeeping operations.
Speaking about the neutrality, I need to point out just one moment. A neutral country has to assure its own security, and the main tool capable of that is the Army. This, actually, is proven by the international practices. For example, Switzerland, a country with a status of neutrality over a century, has a very mobile and good equipped Army and a brilliant system of the reservists training. And it is not going to fight with nobody. For these reasons we have to discuss not about the necessity of the Armed Forces, but about how does it have to be and what functions does it have to have.
As a result of that, the Conception of the military reform was elaborated, and adopted by the Parliament in 2002. This is a conceptual, strategic plan. Today we are on the second stage of its realization and all documents adopted by the Government, reflect main missions for the 2005-2008 period. Their realization is intermediary chain in getting to the main target - creation a modern and good equipped Army by year 2014.
When we speak about the reform of the national security system, we cannot divide missions in first or second priority. This is like in the car - one piece is broken and the car stops. The same in our situation - all tasks are solving in complex, because everything is inter connected. For example, how can we speak about the cooperation between different military branches, if the communication gear is out of date and do not meet current standards? Therefore, working on improve, for example, the system of control of the air space of the Country, by the modernization and reorganization way of the Anti Air Defense, we do the same with other branches in parallel - aviation, signals, without which we can not accomplish this mission.
I would like to mention that we had a number of meetings, in this direction, with the represents of the different companies and organizations, which are ready to contribute to realization of some projects. One of such partners became the Academy of Science of Moldova, which, having a tremendous scientific potential, simply wasn't involved in the process of reform of the National Army. We hope that with its help it will be possible to solve a number of programs not only from technical but also from humanitarian side, that are included in the military reform plan.
Everything has to be done in complex, because successful mission accomplishment in final depends on the cooperation of all structures of the state.
- Dear Minister, for realization of any reform funds are necessary. Does the National Army posses them? How much is allocated from the National budget for the military needs for current year?
- In the conception of the military reform it is planned that by the year 2014 the state will allocate for the military needs up to 2,5% GDB. But, to that figures we will come step by step, according to missions that are planned for each step of the military construction. For example, the percentage that I was mentioning earlier, is motivated by the fact that at the end of the reform we will finish the completion of the military units based on the contracted volunteers and we will finish the process of the exchanging the military vehicles and equipment with the new examples. So, to the figure of 2,5% we will come step by step, increasing the military budget every year.
Military budget for this year is about 9,5 mln USD and it is 0,4% of GDB. This amount covers just one third of the real necessities of MOD. Of course we would like to receive more funds, but we are also aware of the difficult situation in R. Moldova. Current budget is a social one: 61% of it is to be spend for the salary, food logging, etc
- So what is the solution for other problems which cannot be covered by the very modest budget?
- Excuse me, but I did not tell that we cannot solve those problems. We work them out, solve most of them even with the limited financial possibilities. However it is not easy at all, we do all possible to avoid useless waste of money. There have been made analyses and have been determined directions in which we could be able to save money. As an example of saving money could be the rationalization of the communal expenses by reducing the number of military camps and objects that are not being used by the military personnel. In parallel we also will look up other ways to obtain necessary funding. We plan to invite foreign partners to participate in realization of the programs for modernization of military systems and other.
- How do you consider, the biggest problem of our Army is the absence of necessary funding, outdated equipment or the intellectual level of personnel?
- Honestly it is an interesting and tricky question. What do we lack for an ideal army - bigger budget, modern equipment, and professional personnel? At my opinion no country can have ideal army. There are always some issues which generates more or less problems. Even more difficult discussion is the one about high standard army in relatively new created independent states. This traces main direction of the Concept of military reform. Of course there are problems with financing, a big part of equipment was maid in soviet times, which from different parameters is outsourced, and however we do have the main - people that will allow us to create a contemporaneous and proactive Army. And in their professionalism we were able to convince ourselves not just one time, during different missions not only inside the country but also outside in different humanitarian missions. For instance, to tell honest, it is very pleasant to hear, how people speak about the job of our sapper engineers in Iraq and not only as the minister of defense, but also as a citizen of this country.
The professionalism of moldavian militaries was highly appreciated not only after their participation in the post-conflict operation in Iraq, but also during various missions as military observers in peacekeeping operations under UN or OSCE authority in Liberia, Cot D'Ivoir, Georgia, Macedonia and other countries.
So answering your question I'll say - today the main problem is keeping all professionals that are in the Armed Forces. I'll repeat myself, they are the nucleus that is able to create an Army capable defend the independence and integrity of the state.
- Dear minister, to year 2009 National Army will decrease with 1000 people, on whose account?
- Today we have positions that are vacant during many years. Why would we need them? There also are such positions the double each other or are busy with sorting papers. All this is ballast for the Army that stops its development. That is why, during the development of the program for the optimization of the structures of the units and installations of the National Army, we took in consideration of what is operative and effective. For accomplishing this goal we'll put the accent on young officers that have been studying in Academies, know foreign languages and have initiative. If generalizing, people that think "the new way" and are not afraid to make decisions.
And secondly, this process will be accomplished step by step and synchronic, with a strict dependence on the optimization of the military installations process. To January 1, 2009 the process of restructuring will be completed, in the central command will activate 3, 79% from the number of personnel of the National Army. The most number of personnel will be in the ground forces (50, 34%) and logistic units (18, 97%).
I would like to mention one more time that entire process of the optimization of the National Army will be accomplished in accordance with all social security norms. And more than that, we intend to do the way that it will be no matter how did the military leave the Army - according to reduction, age or his own will, so, there will be no negative sediments regarding the attitude to the Armed Forces.
And this relates also to the conscripted militaries. Now we start to elaborate and implement a complex of measures, directed to change completely the current conditions of the day by day life, equipment, alimentation and other issues of conscript soldiers. For example, we would like to start a pilot project in one military unit according to which the alimentation of military personnel will be provided by the civilian economical agents. We show them our requirements to the ration and let them work. This will allow us not only to increase the quality and the diversity of the day by day menu, but also to cut down some positions that could be used in other directions, more important for a normal activity of the Army.
We can discuss a lot about our plans for this direction, but they all conduct to one - we have to make it the way that military service, Army in general, became attractive.
- In order to keep the professionals in the army, we need keep them in an appropriate conditions. Last year 90 young active officers decided to leave the army. The situation with NCO core is no better. The main reason for leave is social care problems.
- That is correct, social problem is a very acute one, even taking into the consideration the recent years steps for its improvement, we still have lots of work to do in this area. The main problem is logging for the personnel. The queue to receive an apartment is about 750 families, and some of them are in line for over 10 years. Many of them are desperate to receive anything. Also the number is growing annually, so we are trying to fix it with also possible and impossible means. In this order we draw more directions: first, duty apartments which are to be issued to personnel during their active duty with the right to have a personal apartment after 10-15 years. We, army leadership will do everything possible for that, planning to build several houses, and several military hotels with the decent human conditions and facilities.
Meaning hotels of course we mean first of all the NCO core we are trying to support. This is our weakest link in the army, we want to fix it. We do not tolerate old fashion style and considering them our main support for the officers.
Secondly, we are considering giving up some military unused estates to companies which can provide us with new apartments now.
Third, I order to review the long queue in order to except cases for illegal issues. Along with housing, where is another big one: wages. We discus that problem at high levels, and personally I think it is not right that a lieutenant receives too little for such a difficult and responsible job as a platoon leader.
I think that a situation like that is no longer to be tolerated, so the leadership of the Ministry of defense is working out possible solutions for the radical social improvements in the army. We can discuss a lot about reform, other problems but we all come to one simple thing: army are first of all people. Military servicemen shall have such conditions, that they would be able to say - this service is worth to dedicate my life for!VALERIU PLEŞCA