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Axe falls on military personnel and bases

The armed forces have not escaped government budget cuts

(Keystone)

The defence ministry has announced the first wave of sweeping cuts affecting both the army and the air force.

The army is to lose 564 professional posts, with a further 1,100 to go by the end of 2005. Twenty-five logistics bases will close or be scaled down.

Defence Minister Samuel Schmid and army chief Christoph Keckeis on Friday unveiled the “first phase” of a rationalisation programme of Switzerland’s regular armed forces.

The minister said the job cuts were painful but necessary in the light of recent financial pressure.

The ministry said its anticipated budget of SFr4.3 billion had been trimmed to less than SFr4 billion.

The cuts to Switzerland regular armed forces follow plans for a major overhaul of the country’s militia army approved in a nationwide vote in May last year.

Under the Army XXI reforms, the militia army will be reduced by a third, from 350,000 to 220,000 soldiers (including 80,000 reservists). Obligatory military service will be reduced from 300 to 260 days.

Land forces first

The cutbacks will hit the country’s land forces first, but a total of 2,500 military posts will disappear by 2010.

In the coming weeks, 167 people will lose their jobs and 1,391 former border guards will be transferred to other military posts.

The army’s logistics division, which manages weapons dumps and transport depots, will have to shed 600 posts by the end of 2005.

The air force has been granted a temporary reprieve, but it has been directed to cut 235 personnel by 2011.

The defence ministry said it would also close four of the five airbases located in Alpnach, Buaochs, Dübendorf, Emmen and Mollis.

It said airfields in Payerne, Sion, Meiringen, and Locarno would remain operational.

Eighteen logistics bases will close and seven others will be downsized.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

The army will close 25 logistics bases (including weapons dumps and transport depots).
Of the nine military airfields, five will remain open, including Payerne, Sion, Meiringen and Locarno.

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In brief

The Swiss defence ministry will cut 1,100 jobs by late 2005, and 2,500 by 2010 in the largest defence cuts to date.

Bern is the hardest hit of the cantons.

Announced in February by Defence Minister Samuel Schmid, the restructuring began two months ago but plans were only outlined in detail on Friday.

end of infobox


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