Soldiers during the "Baltic Piranha" mission in 2015.
The government plans to overhaul the priorities and recruitment of the army.
This was revealed during a parliamentary debate this week on reforming the country’s defence infrastructure.
A report issued last year by the Cour des comptes (comptroller and auditor general) had identified numerous failings, from the absence of any strategic planning and transparency, to bad investments, to dilapidated barracks. The white paper on defence, prepared in 2013, was deemed outdated by the defence minister, Étienne Schneider, in 2014.
Francine Closener, secretary of state for defence, presented the new framework to parliament on Tuesday 14 March:
as the army grows its competencies, it needs new infrastructure;
the army needs to fulfil a useful role for the EU and Nato;
defence spending needs to have economic benefits for Luxembourg;
its values need to reflect Luxembourg--reliable, dynamic and open;
it needs to be more innovative and improve competencies in communication;
recruitment needs to be intensified and more diverse; and
the social role of army must be preserved and developed.
These guidelines will flow through the upcoming white paper on defence, which will lay out a strategy up to 2025.
The government has pledged to increase defence spending from 0.4% to 0.6% of GDP by 2024. While Luxembourg does not pour the required 2% by Nato in defence, its investments in capacities are above average. Closener said that it was impossible and even irresponsible for Luxembourg to raise its defence spending to 2%: “Our army cannot grow that fast.”
Closener also emphasised that the army needs to become more attractive for young people. The government plans to improve the career chances for voluntary soldiers. It also wants to hire more cyber security experts, train future pilots and flight personnel.
Perhaps most importantly for the soldiers, they will receive new weapons (theirs are 20 years old), and barracks will be renovated.
With the defence department, a new organisation chart has been put in place to improve communication between the army and the ministry, and help manage the recruitment that is still taking place.
The defence department manages increasingly complex and costly projects and needs to recruit more project managers. Closener said that the creation of an “agence nationale de l’investissement capacitaire” (national capacity planning agency), similar in form to the Luxdevelopment agency, is an interesting option.
The biggest announcements include acquiring new ISR technologies (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance), such as drones (only for surveillance), new investments in air transport, a medical crisis centre for defence, and looking for new opportunities in satellites. The need for secure military satellites grows constantly.
Luxembourg had ordered the ill-fated A400M turboprop military transport plane back in 2005; after many delays it is scheduled to arrive in 2019. Closener announced that there will be a study on public-private partnerships--for example with Cargolux, Luxembourg Air Rescue or the airport--where a military zone could be established. The government is also considering buying some helicopters, especially to help with transporting wounded soldiers and do reconnaissance.
A new programme on military medicine will be developed, which would benefit Nato, the EU, and the population of Luxembourg. This programme specialising in trauma surgery will need dedicated staff and equipment. When these people are not on a military mission, they will work in a hospital here in the grand duchy.
The second team would focus on contagious diseases. The third element is a “centre médical de crise de la défense” (military emergency medical centre) which would provide more hospital beds for military personnel, and its staff would be trained to deal with a national crisis.
CORRECTION: Due to an editing error, a previous version of this article misidentified the type of engines used by the A400.