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Swiss army faces costly downsizing: minister

Switzerland will have to spend hundreds of millions of francs cutting staff and scrapping equipment as it dramatically downsizes its armed forces, Defence Minister Ueli Maurer said Sunday.

Earlier this month, the Swiss government gave Maurer a year to come up with a plan to reduce troop numbers from more than 184,000 currently to 80,000.

The government aims to cap defence spending at 4.4 billion francs (3.3 billion euros, 4.6 billion dollars) annually.

The downsizing would entail layoffs within the defence department and the army, and a corresponding decommissioning of excess equipment, Maurer said in an interview with German language newspaper Sonntag.

“This will cost a lot of money. We’re talking hundreds of millions” of francs, Maurer said.

“But we shouldn’t focus too much on the figures, which are only an indicator,” he said.

Maurer, who visited Israel on Sunday, defended the cuts as necessary, saying the army would be smaller but better equiped.

Switzerland has not been directly involved in an armed conflict since the 19th century.