Armed Forces Headquarters move to Olomouc

Czech army, photo: CTK

Towns and cities around the country have been dreading the process of transforming the Czech Army. They expect major losses as dozens of army bases are to be abandoned and hundreds of civilian employees will be laid off. But one town in Moravia has something to look forward to. On Monday, the Army began restructuring its command centres and moved the Czech Armed Forces' Operational Headquarters and some 450 new inhabitants to the town of Olomouc.

Czech army, photo: CTK
The Czech Republic's former system of command was based on three independent operational headquarters - one for land forces, a second for air forces and a third for specialised forces. With plans to transform the Army into a smaller professional force by 2005, a decision was made to merge the three main headquarters and other command centres around the country into two main headquarters; one for the Armed Forces and another for Training and Support Forces that will begin operating in the East Bohemian town of Mlada Boleslav. The aim is to optimise leadership, management, and make the use of Army resources more efficient. Defence Ministry Press Officer Andrej Cirtek about the new headquarters in Olomouc and the effect this change in the system of command will have on unemployment in the rest of the country:

"The Joined Forces Headquarters which came into existence on December 1 this year is the supreme operational headquarters of the Army of the Czech Republic. It includes the command of land, air and specialised components of the Armed Forces. With a bit of simplification, it can be said that all combat units come under the command of this headquarters. For example, the mechanised brigades, air force bases, artillery units, the anti-aircraft brigade, and so on. In general, until the end of this year, approximately 3,000 soldiers and 2,300 civilian employees will leave the Army due to the dissolution of several units, including the former headquarters that we are talking about. Their care is based on special payments that they receive when they leave the Army. In the case of civilian employees, it will depend on the number of years they had served the Armed Forces. They can get up to ten times their average monthly salary."

But one town that is undoubtedly benefiting from the Army's restructured system of command is Olomouc. Andrej Cirtek:

"The positive impact is natural a financial one because Olomouc can count on the presence of five hundred well paid people and their families who need housing and other services. The existence of headquarters of this rank in the city also benefits the cultural and social life. Olomouc will host official visits from abroad and there will be various ceremonies. It will certainly improve the status and the importance of the city."

The final version of the Army's reform plan was approved by the government in November this year. By 2005, the Army is to be fully professional, expected to have 26,200 soldiers and a civilian staff of 8,800 by 2011.