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Outgoing defence head calls for new army jobs

Defence Minister Jussi Niinistö says that the military needs hundreds of new professional career personnel.

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Image: Jarkko Riikonen / Yle

Described as a "farewell wish" before April's parliamentary elections, Defence Minister Jussi Niinistö has called for the creation of 605 new career jobs in the defence forces, largely in information technology.

"The change in the security environment has required the development of preparedness and the creation of new capabilities, one of which can be mentioned is cyber [capability]," Niinistö told the opening of a national defence course in Helsinki on Monday.

In addition to expanded capabilities in intelligence gathering, Niinistö also mentioned the need for more investment in basic operations such as conscript training and reserve exercises.

Budget increase needed

According to Niinistö, changes in surveillance legislation will increase staff needs in the military, as will expanding international cooperation.

Trained personnel is not expected to be immediately available, but the Defence Ministry and general staff estimates look to filling hundreds of new positions by the mid-2020s at a price tag of around 45 million euros.

"This will require additional funding so that personnel, operational, and material costs remain in balance," stated the defence minister. "The issue will have to be raised by the next government."

Without more resources, Niinistö argued, national defence cannot maintain credibility.

Swords into buildings

The commander of the Finnish Defence Forces, General Jarmo Lindberg, also took up funding issues on Monday, and growing costs for facilities. At present, 10 percent of the military's operational budget is spent on real estate related costs. In practice, these payments are made to the state-owned Senate Properties company. Lindberg complained about costs rising even though the number of facilities rented by the defence forces has declined.

According to Lindberg, the current model is even degrading the operational efficiency of the defence forces, since more money is going into rents at the expense of training, preparedness and material acquisitions.

"We are beating swords into buildings," is how Lindberg expressed it.

Lindberg added that rental charges for state-owned facilities should not be tied to market prices, rather directly to costs. Other security organisations are also wrestling with the same problem, he said.

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