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Army reforms given green light by parliament

Switzerland's army will be reduced by about 40,000 troops. Keystone

The Swiss army will be reduced in size but will receive more funding in the next four years, the Senate decided on Monday. It followed the House of Representatives in approving a CHF20 billion budget ($20 billion) for the military. 

By a vote of 30 to 10, the Senate chose to reduce the number of available troops from 140,000 to 100,000, setting a goal of having a well-trained force that can mobilise quickly. Parliament also prioritised being able to deploy 35,000 troops within 10 days. 

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. 

The CHF20 billion budget over four years represents an overall increase over the current budget of about CHF17.6 billion. Cabinet had suggested a budget of CHF18.8 billion over four years given the government’s tight financial situation, but parliament chose to increase that amount.

Defence Minister Guy Parmelin warned parliament that budgets would have to be cut in other areas if CHF5 billion per year over four years were spent on the army, adding that this amount of annual spending could only be achieved beginning in 2020.

Both chambers of parliament are set to formally approve the reforms in a final vote on March 18, expected to go through.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR