By Sgt. Kerensa Hardy
First published in
SFOR Informer#111, April 18, 2001
Camp Butmir - The Armed Forces in BiH currently
have about 34,000 professional soldiers. Even after having reduced
its personnel by 30 percent, still more downsizing must be done
to make the force affordable for the country.
The Joint Military Affairs branch located at Camp Butmir is, in
great part, responsible for providing guidance to the armed forces
to help them achieve this and many other goals.
"The whole SFOR is responsible for ensuring a safe, secure
environment in this country," said Dutch Army Brig. Gen.
Peter Van Uhm, JMA assistant chief of staff. "My branch is
looking at the armed forces in this country and we convey the
messages that COMSFOR wants to send to (them)."
Three sections within JMA work directly with the forces: control,
the Inspector General and restructuring.
The control section looks after all the training within the Armed
Forces in BiH. Any training or movement must first be approved
by JMA, said Austrian Maj. Michael Krauland, control section.
Training exercises or movements within an MND are handled by the
respective MNDs. The JMA takes care of all activity that crosses
an MND boundary.
The control section receives an analysis of the training from
the MNDs. Another responsibility of the control personnel is keeping
track of all the forces' equipment, where it is stored and how
it is stored. If the location of the equipment is changed, SFOR
also has to be informed of this.
Factories that produce defence industrial or government goods
are monitored by JMA. All goods that are produced, transported,
imported or exported must be cleared through SFOR JMA. The facilities
are also inspected regularly.
The Inspector General section consists of an American colonel
and major who oversee a Bosniac, B-Croat and B-Serb colonel and
major. They are inspector generals over the Armed Forces in BiH
- not for SFOR. They work in a building just outside Camp Butmir,
as the local officers work with them.
"They look to (make sure) the local armed forces behave in
an ethical, proper manner, that they stick to values and ethics
and that they have proper leadership," Van Uhm said. The
IG has authority to conduct inquiries into the actions of the
One of the more difficult tasks JMA has is the restructuring of
the armed forces.
"This year a plan will be decided and the Armed Forces in
BiH will have a totally new structure and doctrine - a common
doctrine for everyone - common training and education systems,"
Van Uhm said.
At least another 14,000 professional soldiers must be cut. The
current size of the armed forces is about 34,000 but the maximum
the budget can support is 20,000. And that may be too many.
"Looking at the economic situation at the moment, they just
can't afford 20,000 professional soldiers," Van Uhm explained.
"So we have to downsize even more."
The current defence structure is a burden for the country, downsizing
the armed forces will greatly reduce this load. This process should
be completed at the end of 2005.
One might wonder how an army that can't support even 20,000 soldiers
is currently employing 34,000. Van Uhm said the answer is that
some of the soldiers don't get paid. "The situation is that
A positive sign is that the country understands that change is
needed, he said. "They know they need an affordable army
and they know if they want a stable environment, they must be
a member of the international community."
Although planning started almost a year ago, working groups will
be established and under way by the end of this month, said Finnish
Army Lt. Col. Timo Terasvalli, chief of restructuring.
Van Uhm said that the situation has changed greatly. Yugoslavia's
new government and the fact that Croatia is now a member of Partnership
for Peace are part of the reason for the change.
"Now is the time to make progress," Van Uhm said. "It's
a window of opportunity and you never know when it will close."
He said he realises that it's not easy for people who were at
war five or six years ago to get rid of military assets because
they see the armed forces as a guarantee for their personal safety.
But Van Uhm encourages the people of BiH to look forward and not
"I'm not telling the people in this country that they should
forget the past
learn from it and use it to reach a better
They have to have short-term pain for a long-term gain."
As part of the restructuring process conscription will be reduced
to six months, Van Uhm said. Under the current structure, all
men and women ages 18-60 can act as a reserve soldier and can
be called to serve in times of conflict.
At the end of 2005, Armed Forces in BiH will have a lower number
of professionals and conscripts and smaller reserve force; conscription
will end and result in an all-volunteer force.
"The purpose for the forces will be to protect the sovereignty
and integrity of their country, to have peace support operations
capabilities," Van Uhm said. "And they have to learn
to be a force for the good for their own country."
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