The Supreme Commander calls for balance

"Reform of the Swedish Armed Forces has only just begun. A whole series of challenges remain to be faced. In the long term it is about ensuring a sustainable balance between tasks and resources." So said the Supreme Commander, General Håkan Syrén, in his address to the National Conference of Folk och Försvar (People and Defence) on Tuesday.

The Supreme Commander, General Håkan Syrén, in his address to the National Conference of Folk och Försvar (People and Defence) on Tuesday. Photo: Kim Svensson, Combat Camera

The Supreme Commander was first on stage and was followed by his Nordic colleagues, from Finland the Chief of Defence, Admiral Juhani Kaskeala, and from Norway the Chief of Defence, General Sverre Diesen.
"Our countries and our defence forces are facing challenges which have much in common in the context of security policy. The need, and indeed the possibilities, for closer and mutually advantageous collaboration have never been greater. I am a keen advocate of the intensive and very constructive dialogue on the subject of increased cooperation now being pursued in many areas", said General Syrén in his introduction, before embarking on a look back over the period since the Defence Resolution 2004.

"Aims achieved within budget"
"The Swedish Armed Forces have essentially met all the aims set by the Government for the period of this defence resolution, and we have done this within the budgetary framework laid down. In parallel with a radical restructuring of the organisation, the Armed Forces have been moving forward with a comprehensive reform of National Service training, personnel administration and materiel support."

"Much work remains", said the Supreme Commander, before turning later to the serious financial situation which has been the focus of attention in recent days.

Increased flexibility
We need increased flexibility in our defence planning, believes the Supreme Commander.
"Flexibility can be facilitated through financial planning which allows for unavoidable uncertainties, and through providing increased opportunity for financial redistribution between budgetary allocations and between years."

"In the longer term we need a sustainable balance between tasks and resources. It is no good making further cuts in allocations if we are not to sacrifice the versatility that our Armed Forces currently possess", stressed General Syrén.
"We are going to need more resources and new solutions if we are to maintain a defence based on modern, versatile Armed Forces."
"The mission based organisation that we now have is the minimum structure required to maintain our basic capabilities and to enable us to take part in international missions at the level we do today. We have insufficient resources to enable us in the long term to develop our units to the level needed if they are to fulfil their missions."

Different conditions
Finland’s Chief of Defence, Admiral Juhani Kaskeala, outlined the defence and security situation in Finland and the different conditions that apply, not least with regard to National Service training.
"Defence of the country is a strong feature of the Finnish psyche, and National Service is seen more as a right than as an obligation. We are currently training 25,000 national servicemen and 25,000 reserve officers, and we have 4,000 volunteers applying for the crisis management operations that we conduct."

Admiral Kaskeala foresees the Finnish defence forces having to make manpower reductions in order to absorb the increased costs.
"Today we have 350,000 soldiers. I think that we shall be forced to reduce this number by 100,000 over the next decade."

Norway’s Chief of Defence, General Sverre Diesen, spoke about the steadily increasing importance of the region, the development of our neighbour Russia and the new sea routes being opened up by the melting of the Arctic ice. He also drew attention to the need for increased cooperation between neighbour countries in the Nordic area.