Army of the Future: Who and how will run the Armed Forces?

Author : Iryna Sampan

Source : 112 Ukraine

So far, theoretically it may just look as a dream army, but the reformation of the Ukrainian army on the NATO-driven J-structure basis should take place in not such a far future – until late 2020
22:45, 10 November 2017


Who will be responsible for running things, and how the Armed Forces abandon the Soviet model of management, accepting the NATO model instead?

As we continue with the topic of reforms in the Defense Ministry and the General Staff, experts consider reforming the material and technical staff to be the most complicated stage of the reform. Repairing the old (80 percent of Ukraine’s motor pool) or buying the new vehicles is expensive; all the more the vehicles do not just remain there in combat units, they are widely used in Donbas conflict. But it’s much simpler with the hardware, while with the people, it’s always a major headache. Like one of Marine battalion commanders said, ‘unfortunately, when our Armed Forces seceded from the former Soviet Army in 1991, our officers inherited only the worst from it – bureaucracy, paper chase, negligence, the unhealthy service relations and so on.’ Commanders have always been afraid of making decisions – what if it appears to be wrong? In this case, they would be reprimanded by the superior officer, who, in turn, would take his lumps from his commander, and so on. It looks like some fancy hierarchy of kicking people. This is why there has actually been no initiative in making decisions.

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry and the General Staff should complete this considerable reform of the management system by late 2020. NATO experience shows that such system allows commanders of all levels more self-sufficiency in making management decisions. The most notable upgrade they want to achieve with such reform is to separate management of troops from the army’s training and supplies mechanisms.     

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The recipe of success of defense formations across the globe is the following: act according to your clearly defined functions and be responsible for them! Besides, it is necessary to pass the authority to the lowest possible rank, so that the superior command can focus on the most important things.  It’s best when the low-ranked servicemen can be sure that their commanders put their efforts into planning, instead of embezzling the military property, while the commanders are sure that the subordinates perform their duties conscientiously.

NATO member countries choose different structures for their defense authorities. However, the Alliance organized and delivered the model, which was adopted by the allies – in terms of the military management, the so-called ‘J-structure’, civilian control and so on. So let’s look into this J-structure, and then we’ll get to what’s already been done in Ukraine’s Armed Forces in this area. 


So far, theoretically it may just look as a dream army, but the reformation of the Ukrainian army on the NATO-driven J-structure basis should take place until late 2020, which is not exactly the far future. In order to command operations most effectively, NATO developed a special standard, the ideal management mechanism, which resembles a sort of construction set – the J-structure.

Under the NATO criteria, J-structure consists of the following basic elements:

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Traditional functions of NATO’s J-structures, which spread over all HQs, are the following:

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Why do they need such division?

Every officer knows what he’s responsible for; such kind of organization allows avoiding dualities, focusing more efforts on combat training, supporting combat readiness and logistics. Such kind of division makes clear difference: here, they train troops, and there, they plan and conduct operations.

‘Carrying out these panned measures will let us create the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces, which would act under the NATO-improved principles; its activity will be based on effective procedures and mechanisms of planning the state’s defense. Tasks and functions of the Staff’s divisions will be balanced properly, and authority will be granted to the lower managing ranks and allocated rationally,’ reads the official statement by the General Staff.    


Currently, Viktor Muzhenko is both the Commander-in-Chief and the Chief of General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces.  By 2020, these two offices should be separated and be occupied by different officials.

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The Commander-in-Chief will become the highest military official, subordinate to President and Defence Minister; he will enjoy full authority in managing Ukraine’s Armed Forces. He will command such structures as the army’s General Staff, the army’s Joint Operative Staff, HQ’s of separate armed services and service arms, as well as other military authorities.

Chief of the General Staff will be subordinated to Commander-in-Chief; his functions will be the following:

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Editor-in-Chief of ‘Military Courier’ newspaper Oleksandr Surkov: ‘The Defense Ministry and the Armed Forces should be fully separated by 2020. Just like president has his own administration, the Commander-in-Chief should have his own staff. For illustrative purposes, we use the U.S. model, where troops are managed by Committee of Chiefs of Staffs. Currently, Viktor Muzhenko is the Commander-in-Chief; so he manages troops, while the rest of his functions are secondary. Chief of the General Staff, in turn, should be training combat units, not managing them. Back in the Soviet times, Minister of Defence was also the Commander-in-Chief; it is ineffective. Currently, we are encountering the problem of transition period. For instance, weapon and ammunition stocks are subordinate both to the Ministry and the army administration; the medical service is officially subordinate to the Defense Ministry, but because of the ongoing Donbas conflict, it has been performing duties as part of the Armed Forces. This is a huge Soviet monster, which was not disturbed until 2013, actually. All they did was embezzling and spreading corruption.’   


Whats been done already?

In one of our stories about NATO standards in the Ukrainian army, we mentioned the Matrix of achieving strategic goals and completing the major tasks of the military reform. This is the document, which includes all remarks about the current status of reforms. Management reforms are described in Articles 1.1 though 1.3.4. One can find out that currently, there is a lot of paperwork on respective laws, amendments et cetera.

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One of the notable conclusions is that ‘formation of the Joint Operative Staff and other military authorities of the Armed Forces of Ukraine are complete (before late 2016).’ The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces is now also undergoing significant changes, with its division reorganized and merged – for more effective control and command.


Personnel policy

Some officers (about four percent of the officer corps in Ukraine’s Armed Forces) occupy jobs, which do not foresee any career growth. What does this mean? These are the jobs, which do not offer promotion in the same military occupation specialty (MOS).

For instance, currently, a senior aircraft engineer who serves as Army Captain cannot be next promoted to Major or Lieutenant Colonel.  The military reform foresees that by 2020, such jobs will be replaced by the jobs associated with sergeants and other non-commissioned junior officers.

Another initiative in the personnel policy taken by the Ukrainian military leadership is to cut the number of colonel corps by almost twice the current number. By 2020, the General Staff also expects to increase the share of Majors and Lieutenant Colonels in the strategic and operative command divisions of Ukraine’s Armed Forces.  The General Staff promises to not sack the active servicemen in the rank of Colonels; this is a natural process, they say.   

Related: NATO standards as a heal-all for Ukrainian army

‘The order of conducting military service by the officer corps foresees that they are reserved or retired for certain reasons – such as expiry of their contract, reaching certain age of service in the military, due to family commitments and other reasons. That is, there will be no compulsory resignation due to the cutting of a certain part of the staff.  After all, the turnover of labour is a natural thing in any community, including the military’, says the official response from the General Staff.

The reform foresees that by 2018, the Defence Minister’s office should go to a civilian, not the military serviceman. Deputy Ministers, the State Secretary and leaders of subdivisions and branches of the Ministry should be also recruited among civilians.

Two years left till 2020, and they are about to become the toughest period for the army, which is now undergoing this whole transition period. There are careful hopes that 2020 will become the point of no return.

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