The Armed Forces needs more employees, and a staffing must take place quickly. A united opposition, from Frp to SV, stands behind the demand. So does the new Chief of Defense, General Eirik Kristoffersen.
– I believe that the Armed Forces is able to man up faster than what is assumed, Kristoffersen says to VG.
– But it’s on the finances. We have lots of people who are willing to work in the Armed Forces. We get an average of 10 applicants for each position that we advertise. But within the financial framework, there is no room for the increase in staffing, he adds.
In the Solberg government’s new version of the long-term plan for the Armed Forces, which was sent to the Storting on Friday, there are 550 new man-years in the first four years, plus 700 conscripts.
The government’s new long-term plan for the Armed Forces: Not a penny extra
A larger increase has been included in the plan between 2025 and 2029, when the Armed Forces intends to have 2,200 more employees and 3,300 more conscripts than today.
But here Chief of Defense Eirik Kristoffersen and Minister of Defense Frank Bakke-Jensen (H) deeply disagree:
– I have no problem saying that we would like to increase staff more. But that presupposes that we can offer education to them, and that we have the money to equip them, he said Bakke-Jensen to VG earlier Friday.
But there is no doubt about who the opposition is listening to of the two:
– The Armed Forces has a very great need for more people now, says Anniken Huitfeldt (Labor Party), chair of the Storting’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, to VG.
– The new plan is more concrete, but it also shows the weaknesses. In the state budget for 2021, there are only 57 new man-years. The Armed Forces now has an unused opportunity to bring back former employees who have been trained in the Armed Forces, pilots, mechanics and seafarers who disappeared because wages may have been better in the civilian sector, she adds.
Morten Wold, FRP’s defense policy spokesman, is completely in line:
– There is too little increase on the personnel side. That worries me, he says to VG.
But at the same time, the FRP is open to negotiating the largest possible majority for the plan:
– We have to go a few rounds here before we have an agreement. There should be a broad consensus in the Storting behind the defense of Norway. I hope we can have good negotiations and that we can agree in the end, says Wold.
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SV leader Audun Lysbakken says in a written statement that “The Armed Forces needs more people, and the most important weakness of the government’s proposal is still the lack of a plan to ensure increased staffing in the Armed Forces. Without more people, new investments will be worthless. “
Sp believes that the government through the long-term plan downgrades the Armed Forces.
The party’s defense policy spokeswoman Liv Signe Navarsete points out an annual undercoverage of one billion kroner, compared with what the chief of defense thought was a minimum of commitment.
More personnel are also high on the wish list of the organizations that organize the officers in the Armed Forces:
– WE risk a weakened defense compared to the Storting’s decision in 2016, writes Torbjørn Bongo, leader of the Norwegian Officers’ Association, in an SMS to VG.
May: The government receives the Armed Forces’ long-term plan in return from the Storting
Pays on old investments
In May, the four major opposition parties formed a majority to send the Armed Forces’ long-term plan back to the government with a number of points they would have concretized.
The plan, which is now back in the Storting, however, has the same financial framework: NOK 16.5 billion more for defense over the next eight years.
– We have not put more money into the starting point. We believe that the plan was a really good plan. We now spend a lot of money to pay on investments that have been decided earlier, while the bills are coming now. We still pay for fighter jets we ordered more than 10 years ago, and we are starting to pay for a lot of submarines that will arrive in a few years, says Prime Minister Erna Solberg (H) to VG.
She reminds that the long-term plan will have a real increase of an average of two billion kroner annually over the next eight years.
– And then we actually start with three billion kroner in increase this year, Solberg adds.
PS: Chief of Defense Eirik Kristoffersen also points out that he would like to see a strengthened air defense against missile attacks on the large air bases that are being built up on Ørland and Evenes.
– We are facing some new threats. Russia is modernizing and developing its missile capabilities very rapidly. I would like long-range air defense to come earlier, but within the plan I do not see any possibility of that now, says Kristoffersen.