NEWS BRIEFS

Defence Minister outlines armed forces reform

The Defence Ministry and the General Staff of the Slovak Army will soon be one integrated body rather than two separate divisions, according to an army reform plan introduced by Defence Minister Pavol Kanis on September 21.

The union will save on manpower, eliminate the duplication of activities, and improve communication within the army, he said. After technological improvements are made, the final number of employees at the joint command will be lower than the number of present staff members in either the general staff or the defence ministry, he added.

Kanis said he expects the integration of the two bodies to take place beginning January 1, 2000. The union is part of a complete package of reforms which also includes a reduction of the total number of men in arms to 35,000 by next year and to 30,000 by 2002. Compulsory service for conscripts may be shortened from the present 12 months by January, 2001.

The current level of defence funding is 1.7 to 1.9% of GDP, well below the 2.3 to 2.5% which is the average in NATO countries. Next year, the ministry will demand a defence budget of at least 2% of GDP. Fulfilment of the reform plan is expected to make Slovakia a more attractive NATO candidate, Kanis said.

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