HELSINKI — Denmark’s center-left government has won cross-party support in parliament for a landmark national defense reform plan focused on unprecedented cost savings that not only will transform its defense capability, but also how defense is managed in Denmark.
The all-party agreement is spearheaded by a five-year (2013-2017) Defense Development Strategy (DDS) that will re-reorganize Navy, Air Force and Land Forces’ operations, and lead to economy-driven cost-reduction programs that will result in military unit mergers as well as garrison closures.
The major elements of the reform program include the centralization of materials procurement; the restructuring of the Army into fewer but larger and better-equipped battalions; the establishment of military cyber defense capabilities; a reduction in the annual intake of conscripts from 5,000 to 4,200; the reinforcement of Denmark’s military presence and capability in its Arctic territories; and the acquisition of nine new ship-borne MH-60R Seahawk type helicopters to support Denmark’s elevated Arctic defense role.
The tighter financial controls, and the new cost savings sought, are certain to be painful for the military. The government will require the military to find $445 million in new operational savings in 2014, $450 million in 2015, $455 million in 2016 and $380 million in 2017.
The end result will leave Denmark with a much slimmed-down Army, Navy and Air Force. These three core branches are to be restructured into more useable, rapid-deployment units geared to participating in international operations rather than traditional national territorial defense duties.
“This will be a hard pill for the military to swallow. It is hoped that the general savings that will be made can free capital to be redistributed to core areas within the Armed Forces. The whole concept is to create a stronger defense through modernization of equipment and the better use of resources. We all hope the government has got it right on its reforms,” said Lene Espersen, the defense policy spokesperson for the Conservative People’s Party’s.
The structural and fiscal reforms will enable Denmark to maintain a well-equipped, professionally trained armed force capable of participating in international missions, said Defense Minister Nick Hækkerup.
“Danish defense, in recent years, has transformed from a traditional mobilization format to a modern defense. It must continue to adapt and modernize for future tasks. The ending of combat operations in Afghanistan, the developments in the Arctic and in the cyberspace area requires adjustments to defense. The capacities of all services, including Special Operations forces, must be able to be deployed at short notice in a broad spectrum of operations,” Hækkerup said.
The shake-up in the Danish military will also affect how the Defense Forces Command (DFC) operates. It is proposed that the DFC’s command structure be dismantled and integrated into the Ministry of Defense’s civilian structure.
This transformation was influenced by a series of state financial management audits of the military since 2008 that criticized how the annual budget, which averaged $4 billion in the 2008-2012 funding period, was often inefficiently used by core sections of the military.
“We will still have a defense forces commander under the new system who will be the top military adviser to the defense minister. The military competences will be the same, only now they will be part of the ministry,” Hækkerup said.
The need to find new savings has produced a DFC proposal to merge the command structures of the three core areas — Land Forces, Air Force and Navy — into a single command organization. Work to establish a suitable unified structure is ongoing within DFC-appointed committees.
“The time is right to create one joint operational command for the military. This command will be better able to coordinate the actions of the three branches, both at home and abroad,” said defense chief Gen. Peter Bartram.
The unified command model will aim to preserve the unique characteristics and skills of the three core services. The new operating model will add a fourth service layer that will be responsible for overall coordination, planning and deployment of forces, said Bartram.
“The military’s reorganization plan is heading in the correct direction. It can’t be too top-heavy if it wants to modernize and operate with greater economy. Inevitably, there will be reductions in manpower in all ranks,” said Espersen.
As part of the search to find new cost savings, the DFC and the MoD are discussing possible annual savings of $90 million by suspending compulsory military service for 18-year olds.