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Russian Military Reform - Conversation (1)

“An effective system of outsourcing in the Armed Forces has not yet been formed” - E-mail interview with Aleksandr Perendzhiev1, Russian Association of Military Politologists, March 2012

Elisabeth Sieca-Kozlowski

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Dedication

Pipss.org is grateful to Anthony Zannino who translated this interview into English.

Author's notes

As part of the reforms of the Russian Armed Forces, since August 1st, 2011 a system of outsourcing has been introduced in all spheres pertaining to the everyday matters of the Armed Forces: food supply, laundry, heating, mending of uniforms and footwear, and the transport of recruits. The transfer of these functions to private contractors is designed to allow recruits to concentrate on military preparation rather than being occupied by secondary matters over the course of their term of duty, which has now been reduced from two years down to one. Outsourcing likewise concerns vehicle and aircraft maintenance and conveyance of equipment to Russia’s remote frontier regions.

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  • 1 Military expert, PhD in Political Science, Lieutenant-Colonel in the Reserve.

1PIPSS.ORG - What are the results to date of the transfer of these functions to private firms?

2Aleksandr Perendzhiev: First, in many cases these functions strictly speaking were not transferred to private firms; servicing functions continued to be carried out by the same organizations that were already doing so. Rather, the reforms affected the ownership of the service organizations themselves, as they were transformed from state corporations to joint-stock—but not private—corporations, in conjunction with ending military service in these organizations. In this way, these organizations became fully commercial enterprises, although 51% of the shares belong to the state. While their personnel were discharged from military service, the majority of the formerly military personnel remained in their current jobs, but as civilians. In this case I am speaking primarily about the organizations comprised in the joint-stock company “Oboronservis.”

  • 2 Chastnye Okhranye Predpriiatiia.

3Second, properly private firms have in fact assumed responsibility for security functions (ChOPy2) and cleaning services, but there are still cases in which military conscripts are employed for cleaning and other chores. Private security firms primarily are used for security on the premises of “Oboronservis,” and in rare cases for military organizations.

4PIPSS.ORG - What kinds of problems have arisen?

5Aleksandr Perendzhiev: The process of corporatizing the military’s “Federal State-Owned Unitary Enterprises” (FGUP) attracted many who hoped to make a profit—to “get rich (pogret’ ruki)”, as the saying goes. These individuals were generally directors of the enterprises who had the support of their superiors. For that reason, the corporatization process was accompanied by the exacerbation of social problems within these enterprises, such as unpaid wages, as well as by corruption scandals and attempts to bankrupt these organizations in order to transfer them outright into private ownership rather than to joint-stock companies as planned. That is, to carry out a covert corporate raid.

6Thus, today on paper there are many more service organizations within the military sphere than there are in reality. Their buildings are being prepared for sale. For example, the building of OAO “53 TsPI” belongs to OAO “Oboronstroi.” This is located in the center of Moscow, at the address Komsomol’skii Prospekt, building 18, unit 3 (on the premises of the Khamovnicheskii barracks of the Military University). On paper the organization exists. But in reality there are almost no personnel.

7In this way, firstly, the process of outsourcing was conducted in a number of instances in violation of the existing legislation and with ineffective expenditure of financial resources. Secondly, an effective system of outsourcing in the Armed Forces has not yet been formed.

  • 3 In the press, the Ministry of Defense has expressed general satisfaction, but several officers have (...)

8PIPSS.ORG - Has there been a satisfactory level of coordination between private firms and the Ministry of Defense? What were the conclusions from the testing in the framework of the “Tsentr 2011” military exercises?3

9Aleksandr Perendzhiev: The fact of the matter is that many in the Armed Forces perceived the development of outsourcing to be a process of “commercialization” of the army, meaning that the priority for the reorganized service companies was to pursue quick, large profits, rather than to establish high-quality services. With that, there is reason to believe that all the enterprises and organizations permitted to work in military units have paid and continue to pay bribes. In essence, the level of corruption in the relations between the Ministry of Defense and the maintenance firms is so high that it may be called a “hostile takeover.” In one particularly notable example, the current Defense Minister Serdiukov serves simultaneously as the chairman of the board of directors for OAO “Oboronservis.”

10PIPSS.ORG - In freeing soldiers from secondary tasks, has outsourcing not burdened commanding officers with the additional time- and labor-consuming tasks involved with the full administration of these civilian firms? What might the consequences be for the command system?

11Aleksandr Perendzhiev: On the one hand, for the commanders the current system will be much easier. They simply remunerate the civilian firms for their services without getting involved in the details. They are only responsible for the end result. On the other hand, there are always the attendant risks associated with civilian firms performing military-training tasks. Indeed, the personnel of these firms are not yet being trained in conformity with the regulations of the Armed Forces. But for the moment, as I mentioned, former officers for whom there is nowhere to go are still working in the majority of civilian enterprises, and for this reason, the system is still more or less functional; however, it may fail as soon as there is a natural change of personnel in the event of wartime and military actions.

12PIPSS.ORG - How were these firms selected? Were they simply recruited, or was there a bidding process?

13Aleksandr Perendzhiev: All the firms officially enter a bid for tender, but the vast majority does this only as a formality, especially when the tender is “backdated.” In selection process the “system of sponsorship” is at work; that is, people inquiring on behalf of others, as well as through family connections.

14PIPSS.ORG - During my stay in Moscow last October, one military journalist told me that a large quantity of these markets (tenders) were won by those firms whose directors were close to the superior officers (through generals’ wives, relatives, etc.). In soldiers’ internet forums, certain participants are convinced that the firms that win are those which make the lowest offers. What could you say about that? Are they trying to establish transparency in this area?

15Aleksandr Perendzhiev: To their credit, those in charge of the outsourcing system have done an outstanding job of providing informational guarantees and PR support - they are adept at concealing their personal profits from us through conversations about the general good. Our soldiers do not come from the most affluent and educated strata of society, so on the one hand not all soldiers know how to use a computer, while on the other hand military units’ Internet access is tightly controlled by their commanders. Certainly, participation in soldiers’ forums is limited to trusted individuals who exercise certain privileges in the unit.

16PIPSS.ORG - If this were not the case, is there no danger that corruption would take over in this area as well?

17Aleksandr Perendzhiev: Corruption has long taken over this area, from the moment it was established. And now its lush flowers are in full bloom.

18PIPSS.ORG - It is said that outsourcing will affect medicine as well. Military doctors would acquire civilian status, and civilian doctors would be enlisted in the army. Is this scenario not fraught with the possibility that these doctors could refuse to participate in training exercises, to serve on submarines, or simply to be present during training exercises (as has already been the case with workers in the sphere of food supply) or during military operations?

19Aleksandr Perendzhiev: Of course such a scenario is fully possible. Indeed, similar problems are confronting all NATO countries in Afghanistan. But these problems might be avoided with the creation of a system of material and moral incentives for recruiting doctors to work in the conditions of military actions; at the moment, there have not yet been any attempts to create such a system. Most likely, everything will unfold according to the Russian saying: “Until thunder strikes, a man won't cross himself.

20PIPSS.ORG - Besides the abovementioned spheres, is there a list of other services performed by private firms in the Armed Forces?

21Aleksandr Perendzhiev: Services are likewise provided in the areas of communal-housing; engineering, construction, and maintenance of buildings and facilities; instruction in driving automobiles; conducting lessons in physical training and military-oriented varieties of sport; advancing the qualifications and further training of the cadres; psychological support for military personnel; and ceremonial/religious services.

22PIPSS.ORG - It seems to me that many of these other services that you have just mentioned fall within the purview of ROSTO-DOSAAF. Is this still the case?

23Aleksandr Perendzhiev: While the quite recently reestablished DOSAAF does provide automobile training, physical education, and other instructional services, its clients are not military personnel but civilians of draft and pre-draft age. In the current environment of developing outsourcing in the Russian army, there is nothing stopping the leadership of any military administration, with the support of superior command, from making similar arrangements with any auto school, sports club, or training facility (the establishment, as a rule, will be headed by a relative of someone from the military authorities, or by a former high-ranking officer). However, I acknowledge that such cases are ultimately still rare and only temporary.

24PIPSS.ORG - What is the current status of ROSTO-DOSAAF? If I am not mistaken, some of its roles have been changed. Could you describe these changes?

25Aleksandr Perendzhiev: DOSAAF services became urgently required due to the reduction of the duration of military service terms for draftees from two years to one, as the need arose for training Russian citizens in military-occupational specialties not at the time of their military service, but before draft into the Armed Forces. This is now precisely the main task of DOSAAF, which now is not a civic organization, but a civic-state organization. Its supervisory council includes representatives of the Presidential Administration; the Security Council; the government; the Ministry of Education and Science; the Ministry of Defense; the Ministry of Sport, Tourism, and Youth Politics; and the Ministry of Economic Development.

26PIPSS.ORG - What percentage of these services [above mentioned] does ROSTO-DOSAAF encompass?

27Aleksandr Perendzhiev: No more than 1–2%. ROSTO-DOSAAF generally is not a competitor of OAO “Oboronservis.” They have different resources and responsibilities, especially now that one of the main problems faced by DOSAAF is the restitution of forfeited assets for all of the post-Soviet period. In essence, the organization is still in the process of reestablishment and organizing anew.

28PIPSS.ORG - Will the roles of the other organizations be changed?

29Aleksandr Perendzhiev: Absolutely. It is possible that in a short time there will no longer be a need for such OAO companies as “Voentorg” and “Slavianka” to be part of OAO “Oboronservis.” They might respectively become part of such organizations as OAO “Oborontorg” and OAO “Oboronstroi,” or they might generally leave to become separate, private firms. Other organizations that provide services in the military sphere likewise will alter their structure, staff composition, and range of services provided.

30PIPSS.ORG - In the West, military commanders increasingly receive aerial surveys and situation analysis reports from private firms. Are there plans for this in Russia?

31Aleksandr Perendzhiev: As yet, this function is still performed by the military-topographical administration of the General Staff of the Armed Services of the Russian Federation. In this case, already there has been talk of creating companies that would provide military services—private military companies. Experts from the Association of Military Political Analysts are writing and speaking on the necessity of their creation in Russia. Then our organizations could also become legally incorporated private military companies for providing intellectual-analytical services. As of yet these companies are outside the law in our country, but this does not preclude their appearance in the near future as a result of the transformation of the political system of society as well as the sphere of national security.

  • 4 Vladimir Putin, “Byt’ sul’nymi: garantii natsional’noi bezapasnosti dlia Rossii”, Rossiiskaia Gazet (...)

32PIPSS.ORG - Vladimir Putin, in a February 2012 Rossiiskaia Gazeta article dealing with questions of security and defense4, announced the expansion of measures for privatization and the creation of private companies in the sphere of defense. What is the position of the General Staff on this question?

33Aleksandr Perendzhiev: Our General Staff does not have its own position. People are appointed there on the basis of demonstrated loyalty and prompt obedience. They may express their opinion on any narrow military questions. But the question of the advent of private military companies is an exclusively political question. On political questions, the only opinion from the General Staff is that of the highest military-political leadership.

34PIPSS.ORG - What limits have been placed on the outsourcing policy by the General Staff? Are they in contradiction to the new measures announced by Putin?

35Aleksandr Perendzhiev: I will clarify once more: over the course of several years, since the time of the dismissal from office of the chief of the General Staff Anatolii Kvashnin, the supreme leadership implemented terms ensuring that the General Staff would not be independent, but would serve as the completely controlled and loyal “brain of the army.” At present, on principle there cannot be any political policies emanating the General Staff. For this reason there can be no contradictions between the leadership of the General Staff and the supreme political leadership of the country. The General Staff is always oriented to performing its responsibilities as established by the Ministry of Defense and the Supreme Commander-in-Chief.

36PIPSS.ORG - What is the cost of outsourcing? How much has it already cost to date?

37Aleksandr Perendzhiev: I think that for any Russian expert, this is a complicated question. For me it is difficult to name any precise figure. I would suggest that we are talking hundreds of billions of rubles.

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Notes

1 Military expert, PhD in Political Science, Lieutenant-Colonel in the Reserve.

2 Chastnye Okhranye Predpriiatiia.

3 In the press, the Ministry of Defense has expressed general satisfaction, but several officers have come forward with their concerns regarding the difficulties in hiring catering personnel. Officers have had to resort to field canteens and rations. Dissatisfied private firms had supposedly demanded exorbitant prices for participation in those exercises [E.S.K.’s note].

4 Vladimir Putin, “Byt’ sul’nymi: garantii natsional’noi bezapasnosti dlia Rossii”, Rossiiskaia Gazeta, 20 February 2012, available at http://www.rg.ru/2012/02/20/putin-armiya.html [E.S.K.’s note].

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References

Electronic reference

Elisabeth Sieca-Kozlowski, « “An effective system of outsourcing in the Armed Forces has not yet been formed” - E-mail interview with Aleksandr Perendzhiev, Russian Association of Military Politologists, March 2012 », The Journal of Power Institutions in Post-Soviet Societies [Online], Issue 14/15 | 2013, Online since 20 July 2012, connection on 23 June 2017. URL : http://pipss.revues.org/3935

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Elisabeth Sieca-Kozlowski

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