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Defense Spending

The high cost of maintaining a credible military establishment in an age of rapidly changing technology has required heavy expenditures by the Ministry of National Defense in relation to other demands on the government's revenue. As a result, the Turkish government has allocated funds to defense in disproportion to widely acknowledged needs for social and economic development. In the decade between 1981 and 1991, defense was the largest category in the national budget, averaging in most years close to 20 percent of total government expenditures and 4 to 5 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP--see Glossary). The next largest budget category--education--commanded little more than half of the resources earmarked for defense.

Until the mid-1970s, the military budget covered only the domestic cost of maintaining the large armed forces establishment; most equipment costs and much of the expense of training military specialists were borne by the United States. A sharp increase in defense spending by Turkey itself was necessitated by the 1974 intervention in Cyprus. The immediate cost of the Cyprus operation, estimated at between US$350 million and US$700 million, was overshadowed by the burden of compensating for the embargo on military assistance imposed by the United States until 1978.

The Defense Industry Support Fund, which is separate from the regular defense budget, finances a US$15 billion military modernization program with earmarked taxes and assessments. The modernization fund is supplemented by a so-called Gulf Fund of grants from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States to compensate Turkey for the cost of maintaining the embargo against Iraq and the lost income from the closing of the Kirkuk-Yumurtalik oil pipeline. By 1993 the Gulf Fund had accumulated more than US$4.8 billion (see Domestic Arms Industry, this ch.).

According to NATO estimates, personnel expenditures constituted almost exactly 50 percent of total defense expenditures in 1993. Equipment expenditures made up 25 percent of the total, infrastructure expenditures 3.2 percent, and other operating expenses the remaining 21.6 percent. The share of the budget going to personnel was lower than in most NATO countries, although higher than in the United States (38.6 percent in 1993). Low-paid conscripts who make up the bulk of the armed forces accounted for only 11 percent of overall personnel costs.

Equipment purchases absorbed 9.2 percent of defense outlays from 1980 to 1984 and 18.2 percent from 1985 to 1989. Such expenditures rose to 25.6 percent in 1993 because Turkey was obliged to assume an increasing share of the cost of new armaments, munitions, and supplies.

United States and German aid has been indispensable to Turkey's efforts to introduce advanced weapons systems. United States assistance has enabled Turkey to continue its modernization program in spite of the weakness of the Turkish lira (for value of the lira--see Glossary). The aid reached a high level during the Persian Gulf crisis, but tapered off with the end of the Cold War, its basis shifting from grants to concessionary loans.

The Military Balance, 1994-1995 has estimated the Turkish defense budget at US$4.1 billion in 1992, US$4.5 billion in 1993, and US$4.6 billion in 1994. Based on the NATO definition of military spending, the 1992 budget was US$6.1 billion, the 1993 budget US$7.1 billion, and the 1994 budget US$7.3 billion. Separate data published by the United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) depict moderate real growth in Turkey's actual defense spending during most of the 1980s, from US$3.19 billion in 1981 to US$4.13 billion in 1989 (both expressed in constant 1991 dollars). Expenditures rose sharply to US$5.2 billion in 1990 and US$5.7 billion in 1991, largely as a result of the Persian Gulf War. The shrinkage of the armed forces was expected eventually to produce economies, but the initial effect was an increase in the defense budget to acquire and support more advanced weapons.

The country's economic sacrifice in building a strong defense establishment has been greater than that of its more affluent NATO partners. In 1991 Turkey's military expenditures were 5.4 percent of gross national product (GNP--see Glossary); this was roughly the same proportion as a decade earlier, although defense spending had dropped to as low as 3.9 percent of GNP in 1988. Military spending constituted 20.3 percent of total central government expenditures in 1990 and 17.9 percent in 1991 by ACDA's calculations. The budget of the Ministry of National Defense, which excludes some defense-related costs, was 10.4 percent of the entire budget in 1993 and was scheduled to fall to 9.4 percent in 1994. Within NATO only the United States expended a larger percentage of government outlays on defense, and only Greece spent as high a share of GNP on defense. However, Turkey's defense expenditures per capita, amounting to US$97 annually, were the lowest among NATO countries.

Sources and Quality of Personnel

As expressed in Article 72 of the constitution, "National service is the right and duty of every Turk. The manner in which this service shall be performed, or considered as performed, either in the armed forces or in the public service, shall be regulated by law." The required period of active-duty service has been scaled back periodically, from two years to eighteen months and, in 1992, to fifteen months. Male citizens who pass a physical examination are called up during their twentieth year, but induction can be deferred until completion of an education program.

University and college graduates may fulfill their military obligation as reserve officers with an eighteen-month period of active service following some previous preparation at their education institution. Four months of the service period consist of cadet training, followed by fourteen months of service in the branch to which the individual is appointed. With the dwindling need for reserve officers, complete professionalization of the officer corps is contemplated. Most university graduates would serve as conscripts in the regular army, but their active duty would be limited to nine months. An exception would be made for graduates of technical universities who could be called up for longer periods of specialized service.

Reserve officers seem not to be held in high esteem in the services, being regarded as less dependable than regulars, lacking in motivation, and inadequately trained. Regulars are reluctant to accept reservists as equals in personal and social relations. Reservists, on the other hand, tend to look down on regulars as narrowly educated.

After completing four months of basic training, conscripts are sent to their assigned units for more training and unit exercises. Recruits who have graduated from senior high school are eligible to serve as sergeants after NCO training. Promising but less educated recruits can become corporals after a two-week training course. In 1993 a program was introduced to increase the number of career NCOs. The intent was to enlist 100,000 regulars as privates and corporals in the course of the first year. As inducements, the maximum age of enlistment was raised from thirty to thirty-five, and new financial and social benefits were introduced.

The period of active service is an important educational experience for many young men. In addition to mastering weapons, they learn personal hygiene, table manners, and the basics of social conduct. They receive a wholesome diet and, in most cases, better medical and dental care than they will have at any other time in their lives. Literacy classes were formerly an important feature of military training, but by the 1980s fewer than 5 percent of recruits needed to be taught to read and write.

Many conscripts are taught useful skills, such as truck driving and machinery repair. The army's training of technicians and artisans may rival the contribution of civilian technical secondary schools, which produce only about 100,000 graduates a year.

Draft evasion apparently had become a serious problem by the mid-1990s, perhaps because of young men's reluctance to risk their lives against Kurdish insurgents. In December 1993, the chief of staff said that 30 percent of all men of draft age had deferred their service (in many cases in order to complete higher education), 22 percent were evading conscription, and 7 percent were medically unfit. The total of those who had avoided conscription came to about 250,000 but, as the chief of staff pointed out, the armed forces did not have facilities to induct all these men even if they were available. Desertions were also said to have increased, although military leaders were unwilling to confirm this fact.

After completing their active-duty obligation, conscripts are subject to recall in periods of national emergency until age forty-six if physically fit and not otherwise exempted. In practice, it is only for a few years after discharge that conscripts are considered part of the reserve system with specific unit assignments. In 1994 the number in this category was reported to be about 952,300 (831,700 in the army, 55,600 in the navy, and 65,000 in the air force).

Turkey has always had an ample supply of personnel to meet its military needs. In 1994 roughly 3 million men were between the ages of eighteen and twenty-two. The annual call-up for all branches totaled about 300,000 but was likely to shrink rapidly with the reduction of the army complement and the effort to enlist more regulars. Nevertheless, in January 1994 all discharges were frozen for three months to ensure that the army had enough trained soldiers for operations against the Kurdish guerrillas.

Military discipline is strict. Turkish officers are taught to believe that softness is a sign of weakness, which soldiers will quickly take advantage of. Discipline is considered necessary to ensure quality performance and to prevent the slackness that officers feel pervades the civilian labor force. Corporal punishment is strictly prohibited under the Law of the Armed Services. Yet beatings and slappings, although not common, appear to be accepted forms of punishment. NCOs and sometimes second lieutenants are those most likely to employ corporal punishment for acts considered disruptive of discipline. The alternative is to institute legal proceedings for minor offenses. Such proceedings can be delayed so long that they have little deterrent effect; they may also be perceived as reflecting poorly on the effectiveness of the officer involved. Major offenses, such as theft, desertion, or prohibited ideological activities, are normally the subject of courts-martial.

From the squad level up, soldiers engage in daily training exercises. The armed forces hold a number of combined exercises and participate in several NATO exercises each year. Nevertheless, in the mid-1990s Turkish observers felt that the quality of training still suffered from shortcomings. They noted, for example, that training often has a theoretical quality, traceable in part to the need to conserve ammunition, vehicles, and aircraft.

Since 1955, when the government opened certain military specialties to women, moderate numbers have volunteered for active duty. Recruitment of women was suspended for a time but was resumed in the early 1980s when some female university graduates were again taken in as pharmacists, doctors, dentists, and administrative or communications specialists. No women were accepted in the enlisted ranks or for assignments that could expose them to combat or hazardous duty. In 1992 access to military service was increased when 154 women were allowed to enter the service academies, half of them as army cadets.

Data as of January 1995

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