In the middle of the second decade of the 21-century Polish Army remains a mix of soviet, post-soviet and modern armed forces (for example having three different types of tanks). The professional army (after abolishing the conscription in 2009) is professional only on the paper- many polish units have skeleton staff (40-60% of the regular size), particularly in the neighbourhood of the Russian border. Another problem, which has to be solved, is that the eastern part of Poland is almost empty from forces.
This paper army suffers a lack of modern helicopters, infantry fighting vehicles or counter-air defence. The introduction of modern armament remains the main challenge. Modern Western armament cost very much, as one saw in the case of Caracal helicopter. On the other hand, the Ministry of Defence whom budget representing 2% of the Polish BIB is unable to choose the armament in tender procedures. Therefore Poland must spend every penny very carefully. How to reform the army?
The main reform ought to focus on the soldiers. First, they need to be better equipped. There are still parts of the equipment’s which remember the Communistic period, such as shoes made from cheap half-products which provide lower comfort. The personal equipment is crucial in the modern area of the fight. The proper shoes are something essential, otherwise, the army has no trust among soldiers.
However, the main change has to be done with the length of the contract and the benefits. In Poland, every soldier, who served for 15 years, can retire and receive (a quite good in polish conditions) pension. As a result, the 33 years old man who is capable of working and to serve, he goes into retirement. The pension is guaranteed and paid from the budget of the Ministry of Defence until his last days. As I indicated above, Polish budget is very limited and the Army cannot afford to pay 50% of its budget on wedges, pensions and current spendings. In fact, the Army has been becoming an administrative office. That has to be changed. The turn for the better can free many assets lies in the curtailment of the military service from 15 to 5-6 years and abandonment of the pensions. After having served five-six years, soldiers would receive other ways of gratification and compensation. In this case, we are talking about 23-24 years old person.
The gratitude would include a guaranty place at the university (how difficult is to study medicine in Poland) and/ or the double reimbursements of the soldier’s whole salary received during the 5-6 years of service, etc. And of course, after being retired the former soldier could receive a supplement (bot not a pension) to the pension. There are many options to consider; nevertheless, the main point should focus on three factors. A good training, which can be obtained in 5-6 years’ service perspective; possibility to provide training to as many as possible people in Poland, which is essential during the potential conflict in terms of replacement; and last but not least the saving made through this reform would free assets for the modernisation of the army.
I am not saying that the army should forget the soldiers after 5-6 years of training. The Territorial Defence which is now in the phase of a building could provide additional training to volunteers and ex-soldiers with a plenty of incentives. But how should look the Territorial Defence is a subject for another article.