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Georgia’s Defence Transformation

Wednesday, February 12
"Today our military servicemen contribute to the security of Georgia and the world. All professions deserve to be honored, but the military calls for special respect. It is our duty to praise our mil¬itary and create all the necessary conditions for them to be able to fulfill their mission successfully. These are the principles behind the 2013-2014 priorities of the Ministry of Defence. Although we will not be able to solve all of our problems in the next two years, the efforts undertaken in this time will lay a solid ground¬work for strengthening Georgia’s armed forces and continuing to maintain their honor and dignity." - Minister of Defence of Georgia, Irakli Alasania.

The reforms initiated and carried out by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) of Georgia in 2013 and the changes planned for 2014 are in line with the priorities set forth by the Minister’s Vision 2013-2014 and the Strategic Defence Review (SDR) document 2013-2016.

These reforms have impacted on every element of the military service and have included institutional development, increases to civil control and transparency, improvements in defence capabilities, advances in human resource management and professional development, and enhanced support to the military personnel and their families. The objective has been to lay a solid groundwork for successfully transitioning from a mixed (compulsory plus contract-based) military service to a fully professional one in 2017 and creating the necessary conditions for the Georgian military servicemen and servicewomen to fulfil their duties effectively and with dignity.

Each reform builds on the experience gained in past years, a thorough analysis of the existing threats and needs, and a clear understanding of present-day military capabilities. They significantly improve Georgia’s defence system and therefore its security, foster its integration into NATO, and increase its ability to contribute to global peace and stability.

The efforts of the MoD to transform and modernize Georgia’s defence system have had a significant positive impact on the attitudes of the general public and serving military personnel toward this system. The public opinion polls conducted in 2013 put the Georgian army on top of the most trusted institution list alongside or right after the Georgian church. 90.6% of military servicemen and servicewomen expressed a desire to serve second terms. This is a 20% increase compared to the previous years.

Institutional Reforms

The MoD institutional reforms aim at enhancing its democratic decision-making and accountability, streamlining its internal management and control systems, and increasing interagency coordination among the security sector institutions. They entail developing and adopting strategic documents, refining internal procedures, reshaping organizational structures, and applying new technologies.

- Strategic Documents: The MoD has developed the Minister’s Vision 2013-2014, the SDR 2013-2016, the SDR Implementation Plan, the National Military Strategy (in final draft), and a number of strategic and conceptual documents outlining its reform objectives in different areas connected to defence. The MoD engaged the Parliament and civil society organizations (CSOs) in the process of developing these documents and made them publicly available through its website and print publications.

- Structural Changes: Per SDR suggestions, structural changes have been carried out in the Georgian Armed Forces (GAF). Land and air forces have been merged into land forces and West Georgia and East Georgia operational commands have been formed. The Joint Staff has been restructured and renamed the General Staff. J4 has been transformed into J4/8 and put in charge of participating in forming the defence budget. J5/9 has been created and made responsible for military policy planning and coordination. The Combat Readiness service has been established to inspect combat readiness of military units on a regular basis.

- Decision-Making Structure: In order to ensure that its decision-making processes are participatory and well-informed, the MoD has refined its internal decision-making system. Internal thematic working groups composed of the MoD and Joint Staff’s mid- and lower-level representatives have been established to develop and review reform initiatives within their respective fields and submit them for consideration to a higher-level decision-making body, the Management Board. The Management Board is composed of department heads. Once it reviews the developed reform initiative, it passes it on to the Decision-Making Board, composed of the Minister, his deputies, and the Chief of Defence (ChoD) and his deputies (DCHoD). The final decisions of the Decision-Making Board are approved by the Minister by official decree.

- Reform Plans: Among the most important reform plans developed by the MoD in 2013-2014 are the Action Plan for Moving to a Fully Professional Force in 2017 and the Action Plan for Transforming from a Pay-by-Position to a Pay-by-Rank System starting from 2014.

- Internal Control:

Civil Control and Transparency

Transparency, accountability and civil control are of a high priority at the Georgian MoD. Reforms in this area have increased parliamentary oversight, aided in the de-politicisation of armed forces, improved interaction with the media and civil society, and increased transparency. In 2012 Transparency International UK put Georgia in the D- category alongside Ghana, Rwanda, Bangladesh, Russia, and Belarus for its low transparency and high corruption risks. In 2013 the MoD received a special recognition award from a Georgian CSO for significantly improving public access to information. In 2013 Georgia joined the NATO Building Integrity (BI) initiative and in January of 2014 received high praise from the BI peer review team for the strong commitment to building integrity and implementing successful anticorruption reforms. NATO called on Georgia to share its experience and good practice with other countries.

- Parliamentary Oversight: The MoD actively engages with the Parliament to support an effective legislative oversight over its plans and activities. The MoD and the Joint Staff leadership regularly participate in the committee hearings and inform parliamentarians about the recent developments in the MoD, its future initiatives, and its cooperation with strategic partners (i.e. NATO-Georgia relations, USA-Georgia Defence Cooperation, ISAF, etc). At the end of 2013, the Minister presented to the Parliament a detailed report on MoD activities and expenditures.

- Working with Civil Society: The MoD has established three thematic working groups composed of CSOs and subject matter experts to encourage their participation in developing and monitoring defence reforms. These are the Transparency and Human Rights working group, Defence Transformation working group, and NATO Integration and International Operations working group. The MoD meets with the working group members on a regular basis and solicits their input into the draft legislation and reform strategies and action plans developed by the MoD before they are finalized. In 2014 the MoD has already held three of such discussions with the working groups.

- Building Integrity: Georgia joined the NATO BI initiative in 2013. It completed the self-assessment questionnaire and hosted the BI Review Team in the same year. In January of 2014 the Review Team sent its final report, which was overly positive. It highlighted the increased use of electronic procurement systems, enhanced relations with civil society, establishment of the Citizens Reception Office, improved work of the military promotion boards, independent testing of civilian personnel, and introduction of an online asset declaration system to prevent corruption as especially successful and innovative reforms undertaken by the MoD. Acting upon the recommendation of NATO to share its best practices with other countries using NATO and SEDM tools, the MoD is in the process of establishing a national Defence Institution Building Unit to specifically focus on exporting Georgia’s reform experience. The MoD is also in the process of developing an internal Action Plan to further strengthen its integrity and a national BI course to provide continued anticorruption training to its military and civilian personnel.

- Procurement Transparency: The MoD has made notable progress in promoting the transparency of its procurements. In 2013, it signed over 1000 contracts at a total value of 168 million GEL. Of these, only 149 were classified at a total value of 42 million GEL. In comparison, in 2012, 78% of defence procurements were classified. In 2011, 88% were classified. The increased transparency has led to increased competition and as a result, the MoD has saved over 6.6 million GEL. These funds were used for new infrastructural projects. Additionally, the MoD initiated legal changes requiring it to notify the Parliament about its planned high-value procurements in advance.

- Depoliticisation: One of the most visible achievements of 2013 was the so-called depoliticisation of the armed forces. In order to better guarantee the freedom of choice at the Presidential elections of 2013, over 70% of military personnel were able to vote in regular polling stations according to their places of residence as opposed to the previously applied practice, when not only all military servicemen, but also all civilian personnel of the MoD, were compelled to vote in special polling stations set up specifically for them.

- ISAF Communication: The MoD has placed a special emphasis on improving the providing of information to the public about Georgia’s participation in the ISAF mission based on the ISAF communication strategy. This has included supporting regular visits by media to Afghanistan to meet with deployed units and report about their day-to-day lives and the mission as a whole.

- Media Outreach: The MoD holds regular press-conferences and presentations to inform media and thus the public about its work. In the framework of the Georgian Government - Open Initiative, the Minister holds bi-annual in-depth discussions with the media to update them about planned and completed reforms and respond to any questions related to the MoD.

- Assisting Citizens: In November 2013, the MoD established a Citizens’ Reception Office to provide citizens, veterans, family members of former and acting military personnel, and other interested parties with easy access to the MoD. The Office staff assist citizens in submitting official queries, letters, and complaints to the MoD, arranging meetings with the responsible MoD officials, acquiring necessary information, etc. During weekdays, one of the Deputy Ministers or DCHoDs spends at least one hour at the Citizens’ Reception Office to personally meet with citizens and respond to their questions and concerns.

In the framework of the Georgian Government – Open Initiative, the Defence Minister holds regular press-conferences for the representatives of media to inform them about the past, ongoing, and planned activities of the MoD and respond to questions.

Defence Capabilities

In order to respond to national and global security challenges, Georgia must develop mobile, combat capable, and NATO interoperable armed forces. The reforms launched by the MoD target this goal. In 2013, immediate efforts were made to enhance the combat readiness of the GAF, optimize command and control systems, and refurbish critical infrastructure. The following priority plans set out in the SDR have already been implemented:

- East and West Operational Commands have been established to streamline command and control functions.

- Detailed Combat Engineer, Air Defense, and Artillery Development action plans have been developed.

- SOF capabilities have been improved with the focus on optimization, training requirements, and doctrinal bases.

- CBRN capabilities have been developed by establishing, training, and equipping the CBRN Company.

- Command and Control have been improved through introducing new Command Post vehicles equipped with modern communication and information systems.

- The rotary-wing fleet development plan has been implemented with the aim of modernizing UH-1 helicopters and replacing the old soviet helicopters with western models.

- Infrastructure rehabilitation plan has been developed and is in the process of being executed. In 2013, the MoD initiated over 100 infrastructure projects to renovate military barracks and bases.

In the future, the MoD and the Joint Staff will focus on improving operational planning and standing operating procedures, strengthening Special Forces capabilities, refining combat and logistical support systems, and meeting other objectives set in the SDR and its Implementation Plan.

Human Resource Management Reform

The MoD continues making improvements to its Human Resource (HR) Management System in order to ensure that the best possible personnel are recruited, trained, and retained within the military services and the MoD. The reforms in this area have focused on institutionalizing the system, developing clear and objective criteria and procedures for selecting and promoting personnel, offering need-based and effective professional development opportunities, and providing equal opportunities to men and women serving Georgia’s defence sector.

- Institutionalization: The HR Department has been expanded and reformed to place more emphasis on HR policy development and oversight as opposed to its earlier prime function of day-to-day administration of personnel issues. The Department has developed the HR Management Concept Paper, which has been approved with the Ministerial Decree, and the new templates for writing up structural unit by-laws, employee job descriptions, and qualification requirements. Currently, it is drafting civilian and military HR strategies to set comprehensive framework for the MoD and the Joint Staff personnel management. The activities of the Department follow the annual action plans developed by it at the beginning of the respective year.

- Selection: The MoD has put in place a new transparent, rigorous, and merit-based system for selecting new personnel. Civilian positions are announced on the central government and the MoD website. Applicants undergo a written examination administered by an independent examination center and a job interview conducted by a special commission of the MoD. CSOs and independent experts are invited to attend the interviews and the results are thoroughly documented. Military selections are administered by centralized selection boards composed of the Joint Staff and the MoD representatives. Selection is based on a clear and objective criteria widely disseminated among the GAF.

- Professional Development: The continuous professional development of its personnel is high on the MoD agenda. Georgia has accumulated a large pool of people who have graduated from various high-level courses and programs in Europe and the US. More than 500 employees of the MoD are graduates of military and defence education institutions of the US under the IMET program. Simultaneously, the MoD is working actively on developing its own education and training capabilities. The National Defence Academy (NDA) and the Professional Development Center (PDC) have been actively engaging with the NATO DEEP and PDP programs to advance their internal management and education programs to fully meet the new requirements of the MoD.

- Gender Equality: The MoD has developed an annual action plan aimed at supporting the implementation of the UN Landmark Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security. It actively cooperates with the National Council on Gender Equality composed of the state institutions and headed by the Vice-speaker, and with Georgian and international CSOs active in this area. With their assistance, the NDA has developed a gender awareness raising module that has been added to the curricula of the NDA bachelor program and the MoD military schools. It should be noted that at present over 45% of the MoD personnel and over 5% of military are females, 40% of senior positions are held by women. Currently, the MoD is negotiating with the Allies to join the multinational Smart Defence Initiative in which Female Leaders in Defence and Security is one of the key projects.

Supporting Military Personnel and Their Families

The MoD and the Georgian government are strongly committed to duly recognizing the service of Georgia’s military personnel and honouring that service by providing support to and care for its wounded warriors and the families of those killed in action. To that end, the government has increased the financial support provided to the families of fallen and improved the rehabilitation and reintegration programs targeting the injured.

- Financial Support: In 2013 the state increased the one-time financial aid provided to the families of the military personnel killed in international missions from 15,000 GEL to 100,000 GEL. Starting from January, 2014 the families of those military personnel who have fallen in the fight for Georgia’s territorial integrity and independence are getting a 500 GEL monthly allowance. From 2015, this amount will be increased to 1,000 GEL. The MoD annually allocates funds from its budget to provide additional financial and medical assistance to its servicemen on duty, as well as to wounded warriors and the families of fallen on an as needed basis.

- Health Insurance: The MoD has significantly improved the health insurance package of its military and civilian personnel. Previously a GAF private had a 6 GEL insurance package, while the Minister had a 120 GEL one. In the new system, a private and the Minister have a similar package.

- Apartments: In 2013, the MoD gifted apartments to over 850 military servicemen. Among the apartment recipients were wounded warriors and the families of the killed servicemen. The apartments of the military servicemen with lower limb amputations were adapted to their special needs.

- Rehabilitation: With the assistance of its US partners, the MoD is developing a high-standard Rehabilitation and Prosthetics Center to provide both physical and psychological treatment to the military personnel in need. Additionally, the MoD has put into use a new recreation center offered to military servicemen and their family members free of charge. In 2013, the MoD sent 19 military servicemen with above the knee amputations of the lower limbs and general amputations of upper limbs to a private clinic in the US to get high-end bionic prosthetics and undergo subsequent rehabilitation treatment. All costs related to their treatment are being covered by the MoD.

NATO Interoperability and International Cooperation

NATO membership is a key foreign and security policy priority of Georgia. Georgia makes an effective use of all mechanisms available to foster its NATO membership, namely, NATO - Georgia Commission (NGC), Annual National Plan (ANP), Planning and Review Process (PARP), Military Committee + Georgia Work Plan, NATO Trust Fund, Professional Development Program, Defence Education Enhancement Program, Building Integrity Program, Smart Defence Initiative, and Connected Force Initiative.

As the MoD plays one of the key roles in the integration process, all of its efforts are directed at enhancing NATO interoperability and defence capabilities. The reforms undertaken by the MoD in 2013 were evaluated as positively exceptional by NATO in the most recent ANP annual assessment. Georgia is a significant contributor to international security and stability. To date, more than 11,000 Georgian military have participated in the ISAF mission and thus gone through trainings under the supervision of the US Marines.

Currently, Georgia is the largest non-NATO troop contributor to the ISAF mission with two battalions deployed in Afghanistan without any national caveats. Georgia will keep its two battalions until the end of the mission. Following completion, it will also contribute to the NATO Resolute Support mission with an Infantry Battalion (PAX 750), Special Forces, Mobile Training Teams (MTT), and military medics. Georgia has also expressed readiness to offer full transit capacity for the retrograde movement from Afghanistan. Furthermore, it is exploring bilateral cooperation avenues with Afghanistan to help develop capabilities of the Afghan National Army.

In 2015 and 2016, Georgia’s infantry company will be included in the NATO Response Force, thus making the GAF part of NATO’s most elite, highly ready and technically advanced multinational force made up of land, air, maritime, and special operations forces that can deploy quickly wherever needed.

Georgia seeks to further enhance its defence capabilities and NATO interoperability through robust bilateral defence cooperation with NATO Allies and partner countries. Besides, Georgia has expressed a commitment and readiness to participate in the EU and UN led peace operations.

On the open discussion front, Georgia annually hosts the Georgia Defence and Security Conference (GDSC), the only regional forum where national and international senior policy makers, defence experts, representatives of foreign governments, CSOs, and educational institutions address trends and challenges in defence and security. In 2014 the GDSC is provisionally scheduled to take place in the last week of June.