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Belgium to create younger, fitter military

14 July 2006

BRUSSELS — The Belgian government aims to create a younger and fitter military in which every soldier will be available for operational missions.

By 2018, the military will have just 27,727 soldiers in service and 10,000 civilian public servants. The superfluous soldiers will be given another career.

All tasks such as maintenance, administrative work or highly specialised functions within the military will be transferred to civilian staff.

Defence Minister André Flahaut will present the proposals to the Cabinet next week. Unions have already examined the plans.

The plan is the final element of a long-term restructuring scheme which Flahaut hopes to complete prior to his departure in 2007.

The aim is that after 10 to 12 years, every soldier will have to make a career choice: either to stay in the army as a public servant or soldier or move to the private sector.

In the coming period, 350 soldiers will need to stay on each year, 350 will need to become a public servant with the Defence Ministry and 500 will need to leave the military.

The exact number of staff to leave the military is yet to be determined, but the Defence Ministry hopes to reduce military wage costs by 50 percent.

Of the 10,000 public servants, 7,750 will have first served 12 years in the army, while 2,250 will be recruited from the private sector.

The group of 27,725 soldiers will consist of 2,000 young recruits, 17,500 who are serving their first 12 years and 8,825 soldiers who have chosen after 12 years of service to remain in the army until their pension.

Unions ACOD and ACMP said the transition will be gradual. According to their figures, only the youngest soldiers, aged 18-32, will be immediately transferred from 2008 to the new plan. There are 6,904 soldiers in this group.

The group of 32-46 year-olds, which has 13,493 soldiers, will be given a choice of remaining a soldier or becoming a public servant.

The largest group with 15,286 soldiers consists of all those aged older than 46. They will be allowed to serve out their time until pensioned at age 56.

Discussions still need to be entered into about the figures.

[Copyright Expatica News 2006]

Subject: Belgian news