Miloslav Lafek: Financial stability is a prerequisite for ensuring the build-up of the Army

 05. 08. 2021      category: Interviews
Přidat na Seznam.cz

General Miloslav Lafek is currently the director of the MoD's Strategic Development and Planning Section. In 2015-2018, he was the director of the operational planning department of the Joint Operations Center of the Ministry of Defense. In 2015-2016, he was also the commander of the Czech Army’s 12th Task Force - Resolute Support in Afghanistan. From 2011 to 2015, he held the position of Deputy Director - Director of the Operational Planning Department of the Joint Operations Center of the Ministry of Defense. Previously, he worked in the Force Development Section as a specialist, Deputy Director of the Department - Head of the Operational Planning Department. We asked the General a few questions about his current position.

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Picture: Director of the Strategic Development and Planning Section of the Ministry of Defense Major General Miloslav Lafek | Ministry of Defense of the Czech Republic

General, allow me to congratulate you on your recent promotion to the rank of Major General. First of all, I would like to ask what a layman can imagine under the term "MoD’s Strategic Development and Planning Section"? What is the purpose of this section?

The scope of the Strategic Development and Planning Section of the Ministry of Defense is very broad and can be divided into several interconnected areas. First of all, the Section is responsible for developing the Czech Defense Strategy to the Czech Army’s conditions, for managing defense planning tasks in the build-up and development of the Czech Army to ensure the Army's readiness to defend the Czech Republic, including basic planning documents such as the Concept of the Build-Uip of the Czech Army and the Medium-Term Plan of the Czech Army. It is a conceptual body in the field of planning the use of the Czech Armed Forces to defend against external attacks within the framework of collective defense. It ensures the process of planning operations at the strategic level of the Czech Army command, crisis management in the Czech Army, development of operational preparation of the Czech Republic, construction of the command and control system and development of operational art in the Czech Army.

Another area falling within the scope of the Section is the conceptual and systematic setting of combat and mobilization readiness of the Ministry of Defense, construction of military armed forces, implementation of selective replenishment and mobilization of the armed forces, including fulfilling tasks in the field of military service of Czech citizens.

Other tasks of the Section include the construction and development of the Active Reserves of the Czech Armed Forces, ie the involvement of Czech citizens who have voluntarily assumed their commitment and responsibility for the defense of our country. This is a very important issue, when we understand the Active Reserves as a fixed part of the Czech Army ready for operational deployment in peace or in crisis situations, and at the same time as a certain connecting link between the professional armed forces and the civilian public. After the handover of the regional military headquarters on January 1, 2021 to the subordination of the newly established tactical Territorial Commands, the Section provides professional and methodical management of these regional headquarters, especially in the area of state administration with a focus on military service.

Foto 1Picture: Army General Aleš Opata (right) and General Miloslav Lafek | Ministry of Defense of the Czech Republic

The subordination of the Section, as directly controlled units, includes four military districts (Hradiště, Boletice, Libavá and Březina District Offices). For these districts, the Section coordinates the performance of state administration in these territories and organizes their use. It is an executive body with nationwide competence for the exercise of rights and ensuring the fulfillment of obligations accepted by the Czech Republic by signing international military security documents or arising for the Czech Republic from international organizations in the field of disarmament, control of armed forces and their armaments, strengthening trust and security in Europe.

Part of your work is the concept of build-up of the Army of the Czech Republic. What does this concept set out in the long term from the point of view of achieving the capabilities of the Czech Army?

As I have already stated in the list of individual competencies of the Section, one of the main areas of fulfillment of tasks is the area of defense planning of the Czech Army, which includes planning of the life cycle of the Army's capabilities. The basic document in this area is the Concept of build-up of the Czech Army 2030, which defines the required state in the area of achieving capabilities to ensure the defense of the Czech Republic and fulfillment of international obligations on joint defense, to which the Czech Republic has committed itself. The concept known by the acronym KVAČR, as a strategic document, is developed on the basis of the Act on the Armed Forces and is approved by the Government of the Czech Republic.

The concept is based on the security interests and principles of ensuring the defense of the Czech Republic, which are set out in the Defense Act, the Security Strategy of the Czech Republic, the Defense Strategy of the Czech Republic and the Long-Term Outlook for Defense 2035. The concept further elaborates the commitments and recommendations from NATO and EU security and military strategic documents, including the capability building objectives adopted by the Czech Republic as part of the North Atlantic Alliance's defense planning process. It defines the main directions of development and describes the required state of the Czech Army in 2030, including the strategy of achieving this state within the gradual fulfillment of tasks and measures in two basic milestones, by 2025 and by 2030.

The concept is a living document. After four years, KVAČR is regularly updated or can be revised in the event of major changes in the security environment. Any revision may also be carried out in the event of fundamental changes to the source framework, which is allocated to the Ministry of Defense or the Czech Army. The concept is a public document and in 2022 its updating will begin.

On what basis does the Ministry of Defense decide on the priority of individual planned / implemented acquisitions?

On the basis of the KVAČR, projects are defined within individual milestones, through which the construction and achievement of the Army's capabilities is carried out. These projects are, in the sense of statutory standards, further developed in the so-called asset reproduction programs with the determination of their priorities. These priorities are set by the Minister of Defense and the Chief of the General Staff of the Czech Armed Forces and are based mainly on the fulfillment of international obligations, ie on the adoption of Capability Targets and the provision of vital defense capabilities in the Czech Republic.

Recently, the acquisition of SPYDER anti-aircraft missile systems and CAESAR self-propelled guns has been discussed due to the increased prices. To what extent can this fact jeopardize the successful completion of both purchases?

In accordance with KVAČR, when defining individual projects, the necessary financial calculations are made, which are planned to financially cover the planned acquisition of movable and immovable property. In general, any request for a price increase by a potential supplier presents a number of problems. The effort of the Ministry of Defense is to negotiate the most favorable price, ideally the price that was originally calculated. Any price increase has a negative impact on the medium-term planning of the resort as such. The General Staff must then make an overall assessment of these impacts, for example, the time frame for the acquisition of the weapon system may be adjusted, or measures may be implemented to adjust the repayment schedule or supplement some weapons system functionalities, including the necessary adjustment of other projects.

Price increases can generally have negative effects on other projects with a lower priority, where their implementation may be postponed in time and thus associated with an increase in the estimated financial costs of acquiring the movable or immovable property. Negotiations on the price of both weapon systems have not yet been completed.

You are responsible for the annual and medium-term plan of the Ministry of Defense. How much do you think coronavirus and the state budget (and associated defense spending) affected these plans?

Necessary prerequisite for ensuring comprehensive, systemic and long-term build-up of the Czech Army is primarily financial stability and a predictable resource framework for defense, which the Czech Republic will spend to ensure its defense capability, which is necessary for about 20% of the required costs to ensure the build-up of capabilities to cover and secure implementation of the measures set out in the Medium-Term Plan of the Ministry of Defense.

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Picture: A necessary precondition for ensuring a comprehensive, systemic and long-term build-up of the Czech Army is, first and foremost, financial stability and a predictable resource framework for defense (illustration photo) | Ministry of Defense of the Czech Republic

The build-up and achievement of the Czech Army's capabilities is a long-term process, where the preparation and implementation of individual orders is carried out in the order of several years. It clearly follows that it is undesirable for there to be an unpredictable reduction of the resource framework, which is calculated to ensure the construction and achievement of the necessary capabilities, as set out in the strategic documents of the Czech Republic and subsequently planned in the Medium-Term Plan. If this stability is not guaranteed, the Medium-Term Plan will always fall apart like a house of cards and will be constantly revised. This will significantly disrupt the strategy of achieving the required capabilities of the Army, which is being developed in KVAČR. The fair value of financial equivalents is also perceived, which primarily ensure the necessary stability to ensure the financing of the Czech Army in all directions of its existence and functioning.

The covid-19 pandemic has negative effects on the Czech economy, which has and is likely to have adverse effects on public finances in the future and thus on the state budget, including the chapter of the Ministry of Defense and its financial resources for the modernization of the Army. The Czech Republic's commitment to spend 2% of GDP on defense is significantly threatened. The pandemic also affected the fulfillment of tasks related to the annual plan of the Ministry of Defense, when part of the planned tasks and events had to be canceled or significantly reduced. This was reflected in particular in the reduction of troop preparation and training.

The Department of Defense and the Army were looking for other forms of fulfillment of the planned tasks. An example is the implementation of training of soldiers in Active Reserves, when due to the unfavorable epidemiological situation and the accepted restrictions within the state and the Ministry of Defense, it was not possible to call soldiers in Active Reserves for practical training. Therefore, a system of training soldiers in AR from home was created in the form of so-called e-learning. However, despite the unfavorable situation and the massive commitment of the Army to answer to the pandemic, most of the tasks were completed.

How difficult is it/will it be to take into account the financial situation in connection with what our Army really needs?

The Ministry of Defense and the General Staff of the Czech Armed Forces must work with what resources (financial resources) are allocated to it within the state budget for a given year and which can be counted on within the prediction and outlook of the state budget for the next period. To cover the needs of the Army (both in the area of current expenditures and expenditures to ensure build-up and development) it would be necessary to spend far more, optimally, the required 2% of GDP by the Alliance. But we must be realistic, we must take into account the economic possibilities of the state, and we must work with what is ultimately set aside to ensure the build-up of capabilities.

The management of the Ministry of Defense and the Czech Army Command perceives the complexity of the whole process and approaches it in such a way that the funds allocated to the Ministry of Defense are spent efficiently, effectively and economically. To this end, the Czech Army Command sets clear priorities where the allocated funds will be invested so that there is no decline in the ability of the Czech Army to perform its tasks in terms of laws and political assignments or socially necessary activities.

General, as the director of the "MoD’s Strategic Development and Planning Section", you are also responsible for processing the war structure and mobilization. Is it possible to state what such mobilization could look like in purity in theory today? Do you know the numbers of citizens able to serve, do you have overviews of the health status and physical condition of the population, etc.?

The implementation of a selective addition or mobilization of the Armed Forces is still planned at present. Within the Czech Republic, it is basically the only tool to increase the capabilities of the state or the Armed Forces to resolve the crisis, especially of a military nature. Unfortunately, given the sensitivity of the information and the degree of its secrecy, I can't be too specific. However, the Czech Army must respond to the development of the security environment and must assess the individual threats that affect the security and defense of our country. To this end, it takes adequate measures not only in the build-up of the capabilities of professional forces, but also in the build-up of the military forces, including the setting up of a system for mobilization. These measures include both the own profession of soldiers in the reserve, as well as the implementation of their training and the achievement of operational readiness to perform the set tasks.

Foto 3Picture: Deputy Commander of the Resolute Support mission visited Czech soldiers in Afghanistan, met with Colonel Miloslav Lafek | Ministry of Defense of the Czech Republic

The Czech Army has an overview of the number of citizens who are subject to military service, which is set in the Czech Republic from 18 to 60 years of age. Unfortunately, the current military legislation does not allow for peaceful military exercises of reserves, there is no conscription procedure, which includes an assessment of the health status of citizens. As we generally know, the health status and physical fitness of the Czech population is generally not at a level corresponding to the requirements for joining the Armed Forces. In this area, I see the need to amend the Czech defense legislation to meet the future security and defense needs of the Czech Republic, especially in response to adverse developments and dynamic changes in the security environment and expected response time to the emergence or development of crises in general.

To what extent is it even possible today to count in the event of a conflict with the population of the Czech Republic? Are there means, processes, or cases in which certain civilian assets and expertise can be used?

The defense of the Czech Republic is based on three basic pillars. First of all, on the responsible approach of the Government and other bodies to ensure the defense of the state. Furthermore, on the actionable Armed Forces and, last but not least, on the citizens of our country, where the defense of the state is a basic duty and at the same time a moral obligation.

Foto 2Picture: General Miloslav Lafek at the Active Reserves exercise | Ministry of Defense of the Czech Republic

The legal obligation of the citizens of that state to defend their country did not end even after the establishment of professional Armed Forces. The preparation of citizens for defense in peace is based on voluntariness, it is obligatory in a state of threat to the state and a state of war. To express a citizen to voluntarily take responsibility for the defense of our country, it is possible to use entry into the Active Reserves or to participate in voluntary military exercises organized by the Czech Army for the inhabitants of the Czech Republic. The involvement of a citizen in the defense of his own state is irreplaceable. There are a number of functional processes in order to increase the capabilities of the Armed Forces through the addition of personnel, including specialists, and through factual means such as civilian technology and equipment or the use of facilities for military purposes. To ensure these activities, regional military headquarters with territorial competence corresponding to the division of the Czech Republic into regional units are designated. To ensure the defense of the Czech Republic, the security system of the Czech Republic is created, respectively the defense system, and the citizens of the Czech Republic are a necessary and very important part of it.

 Author: Michal Pivoňka