Defence minister unveils major reform of Swiss army

Defence minister, Schmid, told the conference that "Army 21" will have an annual budget of SFr4.3 billion Keystone

The defence minister, Samuel Schmid, has unveiled plans for a new, streamlined army designed to cut costs and boost efficiency. The move will substantially reduce troop numbers and allow women into the ranks.

This content was published on February 28, 2001

Unveiling the new defence policy, known as "Army 21", on Tuesday, Schmid said the army would be streamlined into a single, reactive unit, removing traditional distinctions between various divisions and regiments.

He said the annual defence budget would be SFr4.3 billion ($2.56 billion), despite ongoing pressure from many parliamentarians to reduce it further.

Under the new proposals, the total number of military personnel is to be cut from the current 360,000 to 120,000 with 80,000 reservists.

The army will have just one chief of staff, and many traditional military units, such as veterinary services and cyclists' battalions, will disappear.

The head of the military will be in charge of both the army and air force, and as before will only assume the title of commander in chief by parliamentary decree in the event of war. The number of serving majors will be reduced from seven to three.

The Group for a Switzerland without an Army announced that it was disappointed with the new defence proposal. "In reality, the army has been neither slimmed down nor made any more cost effective."

As well as streamlining the military, "Army 21" is also designed to attract more women to the armed forces, who will now be eligible to work in all military personnel categories. Military service for women will not, however, be made compulsory.

swissinfo with agencies

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