The Swiss government has named former banker Thomas Süssli, who currently heads the Armed Forces Command Support Organisation (AFCSO), as new army chief from the end of this year.
Süssli, 52, will take over from Philippe Rebord, who is leaving for health reasons. He is seen as rather untypical for an army chief, having worked in IT, run his own company and held high level positions in the banking sector.
Announcing the appointment on Wednesday, Defence Minister Viola Amherd said he had been chosen over three other candidates for his “great experience in directing complex projects and also his expertise in cyberdefence”.
Until a few years ago, Süssli was an officer under Switzerland’s conscription and militia army system, before acceding to the career officers’ corps in 2015. In 2018 he was named head of the AFCSOexternal link, where he is responsible for “the command and control capabilities of the armed forces and the national crisis management, cyberdefence and electronic operations”.
In civilian life, he trained as an IT specialist and financial analyst, and has held high level positions at several banks including UBS, Bank Vontobel and Credit Suisse. From 2001 to 2007, he directed a Zurich based company which he co-owned.
As head of the army he will have to tackle a number of big challenges, including the controversial procurement of new fighter jets to replace the army’s aging fleet and implementation of army reforms launched in 2018. The army also needs to do more to attract women and develop a supportive policy towards transgender people in its ranks.