Vienna/Austria (7/1). After much deliberation a new Minister of Defence was appointed by the youthful Sebastian Kurz. The security policy site announced with that Klaudia Tanner, 49, will be the next Minister of Defence and the first female in this role. What stands out is the new head was waiting in the wings since 2017.
Mrs Tanner has no prior experience in defence policy, but is reported to have already been shortlisted for the ministerial post in 2017.
And she is the head of the Farmers Association Mrs. Tanner will need all the tools of her political trade to operate the already party colored army.
She is credited with knowing how to handle a rebellious base as well as the ability to quickly absorb and act on detailed subject matter expertise. Furthermore, she has a track record of pushing through demands against resistance, a skill sure to come in handy in her new job.
Her law decree will come handy while making decisions about the poor state of the Austrian army. The list is long. Poor equipment, understaffed, reshuffling of top heavy leadership. The Austrian army has so many Generals they could form their own Brigade so a standing joke goes. Barracks dating back to the German Army or older, and political infighting what Equipment should be purchased.
The deep penetration of the Army by the Russian Igor Egorovich Zaytsev how was the case officer for a Austrian Colonel in charge of structural planning department (material, personnel, troop equipment) in the Ministry of Defense was another reminder of the naive attitude adopted by political elites in Austria needs rethinking.
But reforms need more than just changing attitudes. Some of the personal equipment goes back to 1970’s and are simply outdated. The much praised introduction of a yellow-coloured camouflage scheme raised eyebrows. The much liked patch-camouflage is still in use could have seen an digitized upgrade and would do the trick. Most likely half the price.
Whereas other EU armies reform and modernize the Alpine republic weed itself off the heavy equipment phasing possible artillery or tanks out. The question will be how will be skills trained for future generation. At the final analysis the army kills, it does not do gardening regardless what the lefties want. A kinder, softer army still requires more lethality, better intelligence and good leadership. This is somewhat in contrast with the Greenies.
The United States Army made this bitter experience after the Vietnam war and during the Clinton presidency. Critical skill sets were lost in favour of an over dependence on technology. A balance must be struck.
The Air Force and Air wing debate is an endless pickering on what Aircraft to use. Favored SAAB fans were forced to accept the Euro-fighter.
How this climate will be improved within the Green coalition which has undermined the Army as long as anyone can remember remains to be seen.
“The army lacks vision, purpose and strategy.”, said a officer interviewed. “The security school was one of such example of ideological pickering trying to kill it off after the right-wing government was kicked out by Kurz.” A firestorm by the parents and the army forced a U-turn.
“The army lacks voices”, he continued, “Voices that stand up and defend the army from the political bell weathers. Some of the debates are simply silly”.
The legendary General Entacher was an exception. He faced off with a socialist Minister Darabos of abolishing the conscript service who opted for the alternative civil service instead of the uniformed branch. How the army is going to react another social experiment is yet to be seen. Entacher remains highly respected, Norbert Darabos largely forgotten. A stark warning for the incoming minister.
Re-reform, paper shuffles of substance?
‘You have only two types of armies in your country. A foreign one or your own’ is a long forgotten slogan coined by the former master architect of the Austrian defense policy, General Emil Spannocchi. His defense in depth doctrine was abolished after the collapse of the Soviet Union but in recent years is given by an variety of countries within NATO attention.
The defense concept was taken seriously abroad, as can be seen from the documents published by the former potential opponents. At that time, the Hungarians were not prepared for an advance in the key areas as the guerrilla units weared feared.
The Austrian governments since 1979 have consequently bled the army to death. Inclusive the greens who are now in government. “The new Defense doctrine of the Army is a defender of “climate change” is, no offense, laughable.”, Dr. Winkler from the Central European Defence Institute, a private think-tank said. The concept first introduced by the Clinton and Obama administration caused all sort of strange abomination in U.S. defense policy, he added.
The Clinton administration viewed civil society as an extension of U.S. defence policy. Much to the dismay of the U.S. Chief of Staff the Obama administration played along but since the Republican administration took over these social experiments of a greater society went to the rubbish pin.
The army lacks the depth of the infantry, is torn between the European Union commitments and domestic defence, suffers a deep financial crisis to be addressed by the new minister immediately, need to address structural reforms and modernization, and rebuild the reserves and the combat militia and commando units.
Maybe the time has come that the army is built on lethality, improved technical and intelligence capability and better protection by anointed officials and favorites of the youthful Sebastian Kurz. It is an opportunity for Mrs. Tanner to make history.
It is yet to tell how the new minister will fare in a complex and dynamic environment. She will be tested. But one thing is certain, Business As Usual is no longer accepted.