BERN, SWITZERLAND – Switzerland’s citizen militia is gradually getting smaller and the number of young people called up will at some point in the near future fail to supply the legally required number of soldiers, army officials say.
Figures published 10 September for the army in 2012 show that the potential pool will not be adequate, and any current political debates on the future structure of the army need to take this into account.
“In general, the army staff has concluded, after evaluating figures obtained from calculations based on mathematical models that include demographic and social data, that the current structure of the army can no longer be supplied with sufficient numbers, medium- and long-term, given current conditions: legislation, model of service delivery, behaviour with respect to service time, for example.”
The 186,143 soldiers currently serving are just 2 percent over the legal limit for the country to meet its military needs, under current legislation that calls for a citizen army of 182,693 soldiers for the population of nearly 8 million. The 2005 reforms, approved by the population in 2003, cut the legally required number of active soldiers in half.
The number of soldiers has fallen by 32 percent since 2005, when the reorganization left the military with a surplus. This has gradually disappeared as older soldiers completed their duty and newer regulations reduced the number of soldiers coming in. But the totals hide an important shift: while the number of new recruits is 120 percent of what is called for by law, the number of reserves is only 47 percent.
The surplus of new recruits is due to a larger number of soldiers starting their obligatory military service at a later age, and making up for lateness in completing their annual duty. Swiss soldiers generally serve three weeks active duty a year until about age 34, with some variation.
An additional issue is a shortfall in the number of officers, the new figures suggest.