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Personnel, Conscription, Training, and Reserves

Figure 13. Major Military Installations, Planned 1995

Source: Based on information from Jane's Defence Weekly [London], 17, No. 4, January 25, 1992, 117-24.

Until 1971 Austrian males were obligated to serve nine months in the armed forces, followed by four days of active service every two years for training and inspection. In 1971 the period of initial service was reduced to six months, followed by a total of sixty days of refresher training in the reserves. In the early 1990s, about 45,000 conscripts completed their initial military training every year, and 80,000 reservists participated in some form of exercises each year.

Reducing the mobilization strength of the army to 120,000 under the New Army Structure plan is to be accomplished in part by limiting initial training of recruits to six months, followed by reducing the period allotted for refresher training from twenty years to ten years. Each reservist is to receive training over a twelve-day period every second year during his first ten years of reserve duty, generally not extending beyond the time he reaches his mid-thirties. The reduced need for conscripts corresponds to a lower pool of young men because of a declining birth rate. The existing availability of about 40,000 fit trainees annually as of 1993 is expected to fall to barely 30,000 by the year 2000 and to 26,000 by 2015.

Conscripts can choose to serve seven months instead of six and have a shorter reserve obligation. Some may serve their full obligation of eight months at one time and have no reserve obligations, but this may occur only at the army's discretion. Under a 1974 law, conscientious objectors can be assigned work as farm laborers, medical orderlies, or other occupations in lieu of military service. Exemptions from service are liberally granted-- in 1992 about 12,000 persons were exempted, a great increase over the 1991 total of 4,500. The increase occurred after a new law, valid only for 1992 and 1993, no longer required young men to present their objections to the military in a credible way. Previously, that had not been the case. In 1990, for example, two young men rejected by the alternate service commission on the grounds that they did not present their beliefs in a credible manner were sentenced to prison terms of three months and one month, respectively.

Conscripts usually attain the rank of private first class by the completion of initial training. Those with leadership potential may serve a longer period to obtain noncommissioned officer (NCO) status in the militia. Those volunteering for the career service can, after three to four years, apply to attend the NCO academy and later a senior NCO course to qualify as warrant officers. Both regular and militia officer candidates undergo a one-year program of basic training. After a further three years, regular officer candidates attending the military academy at Wiener Neustadt and militia officer candidates undergoing periodic intensified refresher training qualify as second lieutenants. The reserve obligation of conscripts generally ends by the time they reach their mid-thirties; NCOs and officers usually end their reserve status at a later age depending on their rank and specialization. By the early 1990s, some 1.3 million men had completed their initial service and refresher training obligations and had no further active-duty commitment.

The military personnel system is an integral part of a comprehensive civil service system. The nine officer ranks from officer candidate through general correspond to grades I through IX of the civil service system. The highest grade, IX, may be occupied by a section chief (undersecretary), a career ambassador, or a three-star general. A grade VIII position may be held by a departmental counselor, a career minister, or a brigadier general. Salary levels are the same for both civil and military personnel in the equivalent grades, although various allowances may be added, such as flight pay or hazardous-duty pay.

Promotion is not based solely on merit but on position attained, level of education, and seniority. Officers with advanced degrees (for which study at the National Defense Academy qualifies) can expect to attain grade VIII before reaching the retirement age of sixty to sixty-five. Those with a baccalaureate degree can expect to reach grade VII (colonel), and those without university training will retire as captains or majors. Career NCOs form part of the same comprehensive personnel structure. It is common for NCOs to transfer at some stage in their careers to civilian status at the equivalent grade, either in the Ministry for National Defense or in the police or prison services after further training.

The system of promotion in the Austrian military, which offers no incentive for early retirement, means that the military is top-heavy with senior officers. The New Army Structure, which is intended to result in many fewer active-duty and reserve commands, compounds the difficulty. Personnel changes can be implemented only gradually, as the surplus of officers shrinks by attrition. As of 1991, the army had four officers of general rank, fifty-nine at the rank of brigadier general (one star), 155 colonels, and 254 lieutenant colonels. The education of career officers is conducted at the Maria Theresa Military Academy at Wiener Neustadt, thirty kilometers south of Vienna, which was founded in 1752. Young men who have completed their university entrance requirements are eligible to compete for places. The three-year course graduated 212 students in 1990. At the National Defense Academy in Vienna, which has a curriculum comparable to those of the National Defense University and the Army War College in the United States, operational and troop commanders of fieldgrade rank study for three years in preparation for general staff and command positions. The NCO school is located at Enns near Linz. Troop schools provide continuous specialized courses for officers and NCOs in artillery, air defense, armor, combat engineering, communications, and the like.

Women have never been accepted for service in the Austrian armed forces. In a public opinion survey in 1988, about 66 percent of those polled approved of opening the military to voluntary service by women; only 9 percent favored obligatory service. Although consideration had been given to opening certain specialties to female volunteers, the question is apparently in abeyance in an army already facing retrenchment.

According to data published by the United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, Austria had 5.6 persons in uniform in 1991 per 1,000 population. Two other neutral countries of Europe, Sweden and Switzerland, with populations comparable to that of Austria, had 7.3 and 3.2 persons in the standing military, respectively, per 1,000 population. However, the mobilization strengths of both countries were far higher than that of Austria: 700,000 for Sweden, and 625,000 for Switzerland.

Data as of December 1993

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