Colonel General Vladimir Isakov, deputy defense minister and logistics director of the Armed Forces, says that logistics represent a connecting link, a kind of bridge between the country’s economy and army. The logistics system currently includes 12 agencies and services responsible for troop logistics (foods, uniforms, medical services, and so on). Logistics units account for approximately 17% of all servicemen of the Russian Armed Forces, or almost one in five soldiers and officers. In comparison to other countries this is not very much: in other countries logistics units account for about 25% of the total numerical strength of the armed forces. The logistics system accounts for half of the expenditures on personnel support in the country’s budget, and in the overall military budget it accounts for 20%.
Isakov says that despite all problems the Armed Forces logistics fulfills its tasks successfully. “We find reserves, develop science, study our past experience, and the experience of foreign countries. For example, on February 27 the first conference “The National Economy and Armed Forces Logistics” will be held in St. Petersburg,” says Isakov.
Over the last two or three years, the main steps for reform of the Armed Forces logistics units were associated with saving materials and resources for the Army. Thus, in 1997, the President issued a decree on purchase of materials for the Armed Forces at auctions. According to Isakov, this measure alone resulted in saving of 5-10% of assignments for these needs as a result of reduced costs. However, this is not the limit. The experience of developed Western countries shows that skillful auctions can save up to 25%. It is also not a secret that over the last few years the military budget was underfinanced because of the economic crisis. In these circumstances it was very difficult for military units to survive. For instance, over the last ten years the so-called clause nine was almost not financed in the troops. This clause represents assignments for general current needs. What can a commander do in such a situation” Isakov answered this question, saying that “We have come to the conclusion that it is necessary to legalize and strictly control freelancing of personnel. In the circumstances when money under different clauses come to the military unit irregularly, the commander needs to have his own fund from the so called 101 form (the commander’s fund for foods supply to soldiers). According to this clause money is regularly assigned to commanders, and if the commander finds ways to save money, to organize food supply, for example, with assistance of soldiers freelancing, this money is accumulated in the special commander’s fund. The commander can spend that money on current needs, and this is not illegal,” adds the General. He also says that according to the Defense Minister’s order the commanders are permitted to use up to 3% of the personnel for food and materials preparation. For example, if there is river near the military unit, the unit can buy a license and organize fishing. If there is forest with mushrooms nearby, the unit can pick them and pickle them. Such activities help in organizing food supply for soldiers. And as a result money will be saved. In 2000, the Armed Forces earned an average of 115 rubles per soldier by such means.
Thus, says Isakov, the reform of the logistics of the Armed Forces is not only a transformation of some commanding levels, but also reconstruction of the psychology of officers. Isakov agrees that freelancing by servicemen in the interests of the military units logistics is a provisional measure, but under conditions of permanent economic crises in the country and underfinancing of the troops, this is a way to make certain improvements in the situation. For example, China also uses such measures. However, the relevant system there is even more stringent. For instance, there the commander does not receive the money according to certain clauses. The commander only receives a plan stating how much the soldiers need to earn to feed themselves, and they are forced to earn the money. “We do not need such extremes. Our commanders do this if it is possible without negatively effecting combat training,” comments Isakov.
According to the General, at present there are 85 agricultural cooperatives in the Armed Forces. In each such cooperative employees receive stable wages, and the agricultural infrastructure is developing, which is important not only for the army logistics, but also for the region where the military cooperative is located. Military agricultural cooperatives help the troops solve many food-related problems. For example, when the antiterrorist operation began in the North Caucasus, the problem of additional food supply for soldiers arose immediately.
The daily need for lard alone totaled many tons. The military cooperatives helped solve the problem. The Armed Forces logistics also fulfills other priority tasks in Chechnya. Logistics units developed new dry food rations, premixes (peeled potatoes, other vegetables), as well as devices for warming food in the field conditions for soldiers.
A special service was also organized in Chechnya for evacuation of bodies of killed soldiers from the battlefield, and for their burial. A special military cemetery was opened at the Bogorodskoe Cemetery in Moscow for burial of unidentified bodies of dead servicemen.
According to Isakov, at present logistics units of the security agencies are separate. This means that, for example, although the troops station on Sakhalin are not so numerous, and will be further reduced, there are two independent logistics systems operating on the island, as well as two hospitals (one for the military, and one for the border guards). The situation in other regions is similar. Parallel duplicating logistics systems of the Defense Ministry and Federal Border Guards Service operate in Tajikistan and other remote areas. The General says that sometimes there are different commandants from the Armed Forces and Interior Forces sitting at the same railway station, and performing the same functions. On the same territories different security agencies organize separate auctions for food purchase at differing prices, damaging the country’s budget. The same happens in the system of officers education. The Federal Border Guard service for some reason decided to train medical officers for its troops in its own special institute. Why does it need this when Russia has the Military Medical Academy, which can train officers for other security agencies?
“We have to eliminate this drawback while simultaneously transforming the logistics system to fit with market requirements,” says Isakov. He adds that certain experience necessary for the country’s united logistics system has already been accumulated. At present there is a unified system of military trade for all security agencies, as well as a system for delivery of materials to northern territories. The Armed Forces also draft conscripts in the interests of all ministries and agencies which have their own troops. On the basis of resolution of the Security Council, the federal government issued a resolution creating the interagency working group chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov for organization of work for establishment of a unified logistics system for all security agencies of the country. In 2001, the working group will prepare proposals regarding organization of unified logistics system, and the relevant program for transition of all security agencies to such system. That program is to be approved this year too.
The government has prepared a draft resolution “On establishment of a unified agency or organization of military transportation of the Armed Forces.” In 2001, the territorial principle of unified logistics will be implemented in some regions (in the Far East and Trans-Baikalia). This means that food, fuel, and uniforms will be purchased at the unified auctions in the interests of all security agencies. Savings from unification of logistics systems of the Armed Forces and other security agencies will amount to about 10% of the country’s military budget.