Czech Army to lay off 1,500 personnel in 2013

Foto: Jolana Fedorková, Archivo del Ejército checo

Next year, the Czech Army will see 1,500 members of the military, especially high-ranking officers, laid off, part of necessary changes in a period of strict austerity measures and budget cuts. As part of the plan, the army will close headquarters in both Olomouc and Stará Boleslav, following up on the layoffs of almost 3,000 military and civilian personnel three years ago.

Photo: Jolana Fedorková, Czech Army
In tough times, the Czech Army itself has little choice but to adapt; increasingly stretched to the limit and having to scramble for funds, it has made clear layoffs next year are an unavoidable option. Under the plan, some 1,500 of its personnel will be let go, a decision to be implemented by the end of January. Affected, for example, will be some 500 soldiers currently serving at command headquarters to be terminated in Stará Boleslav and Moravia’s Olomouc: some will be let go, others will be offered to stay on at headquarters in Prague reorganised under the General Staff. Nobody knows yet, who will stay and who will lose their job.

Jolana Fedorková serves in Olomouc: she told Czech TV that even though she was paying off a flat bought four years ago in the Moravian town, if there was a chance she could stay on in the army – she would:

“If there is a possibility to stay on and I am chosen to serve in another unit or facility, I will leave Olomouc behind.”

Petr Pavel, photo: Czech Army
Hundreds of others serving with Ms Fedorková, face an equally uncertain future. Those who kept on will serve under a unified air and ground forces command directly under the General Staff in the Czech capital. But of 500 officers serving, only 100 will remain, Czech TV confirmed.

Major-General Petr Pavel, the head of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, explains the continuation of current staff levels was simply not feasible:

“There is no way we can maintain the number of staff in the army now, while retaining both a high level of expertise and high quality of weaponry and gear.”

Next year, the Czech Army will also see its number of high-ranking officers reduced, both in the number of serving generals and colonels: out of 27 generals this year, 19 will remain. The number of colonels, of which there are now 430, will be reduced to almost half. Major-General Petr Pavel again:

“The aim is to get closer to a more ideal proportion within the army, which means that higher-ranking officers should account for around 20 percent, 30 percent should be warrant officers and 50 percent non-commissioned and regular personnel.”

The Czech Army, under current conditions, has a proverbial knife at its throat. Defence Ministry spokesman Jan Pejšek explained that if the situation were to continue, a full 70 percent of its 42 billion crown budget would go only to pay for salaries. We have to restructure, he told Czech TV, to prevent burning though the allotted budget.

In terms of other cuts, it has been suggested that additional savings could be found by closing the military airport in Přerov - a decision which of course can only be taken by the government.