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On the defensive

Is the Swiss army a force to be reckoned with?

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This week's terrorist attacks in Brussels call into question the role of a country's security forces to protect its citizens. In Switzerland, reforms to the army have people asking whether it can protect key installations from terrorist threats or catastrophes if troop numbers are cut. (SRF/swsissinfo.ch)

The Swiss army will be reduced in size but will receive more funding in the next four years. The numbers of available troops will be reduced from 140,000 to 100,000, setting a goal of having a well-trained force that can be quickly mobilised. 

Basic training will be reduced to 18 weeks followed by six refresher courses of three weeks each. Currently, basic training generally lasts 21 weeks, with certain roles requiring more or less. The army’s layout will also change, with three airfields, seven training grounds and dozens of firing ranges and other training facilities set to close. 

Both the size of the army and the amount of funding were hotly debated in parliament, with parties on the political Left originally seeking more troop reductions. The House of Representatives nearly tabled the legislation over the budget, which it found too non-binding. For this reason, the reforms will come into place beginning in 2018 instead of 2017.