Report criticizes top-heavy military

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Norway’s military is burdened by too many chiefs and not enough soldiers, along with excessive real estate holdings and unsuitable information technology, according to a highly critical report delivered this week to the defense minister. Billions reportedly could be saved in annual costs, at a time when the military itself is demanding more resources and tensions are rising.

Joint Viking, March 2015

Norway’s military mounted a major exercise in Northern Norway this week, but a lack of active duty soldiers is seen as one of the biggest problems facing the Norwegian military. PHOTO: Forsvaret/Mats Tveraaen

Newspaper Dagsavisen reported that the 200-page report by consulting firm McKinsey marks the first time a private consulting firm has been asked to study defense staffing and support functions. The goal was to find ways of saving money and making Norway’s defense operations more effective.

The timing of its release coincides with major military exercises in the Arctic and days of unusually candid complaints and admissions from military brass and retired officers, who have gone so far as to say that Norway’s military is not well-enough equipped to defend the country in case of attack or the outbreak of war. Top officials like General Major Robert Mood and the head of Norway’s officers’ organization, Rune Rudberg, have warned of a system collapse unless the military is beefed up.

“I know many soldiers who would do a heroic job, but the military as a whole needs months and years of recruitment and training in order to function as it should,” Mood told Dagsavisen on Wednesday. On Monday he had all but agreed with harsh criticism of military preparedness unleashed by retired Commander Jacob Børresen.

“We have high-quality soldiers and divisions, but we have very poor reaction capability and hardly any staying power because of low staffing,” Mood added. There simply aren’t enough active soldiers.

There are, according to McKinsey, plenty of leaders. The consulting firm thinks at least 300 of them could be eliminated. McKinsey reported 32 percent growth of top military jobs between 2006 and 2014, while the rest of the defense sector has grown by only 8 percent during the same period.

McKinsey also recommends selling off excessive real estate holdings that are no longer needed and expensive to maintain. The consultants compared the Norwegian military’s property holdings to those of other Nordic countries and concluded that Norway has considerably more real estate, buildings and other military facilities.

The military’s information technology, meanwhile, does not do the job it should, according to McKinsey. The sector chose an “unsuitable” organization model that pulverizes responsibility and fails to solve problems.

All told, McKinsey believes the military could save as much as NOK 4.6 billion a year if its recommendations are enacted. The report, released just as the government launches state budget negotiations, is sure to meet stiff resistance from defense officials suddenly forced to defend themselves. Defense Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide, already under pressure to beef up defense resources, says her goal is “to identify possibilities to get much more out of our resources, to increase operative abilities.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund