Minister of Defence held talks with the Chief of the General Staff of the Czech Army
On Tuesday, 21 December, the Minister of Defence Jan Černochová (ODS) had an introductory meeting with the Chief of the General Staff of the Czech Army, General Aleš Opata and other representatives of the Army command. This followed a meeting with President Miloš Zeman, during which they greeted Czech soldiers on four foreign missions - in Mali, Sinai, the Golan Heights and Lithuania. The priorities of the Czech Army, the deployment of our soldiers abroad and at home in the framework of the COVID-19 pandemic and the modernisation processes were the main points of the meeting.
Picture: Defence Minister Jan Černochová (ODS) attended an introductory meeting with the Chief of the General Staff of the Czech Army, Army General Aleš Opatou and other representatives of the army command on Tuesday 21 December. | Jan Zilvar | CZ Defence
At the subsequent press conference, the two above-mentioned officials confirmed the broad scope of the issues discussed. For the incoming Minister, it is about familiarising herself with the current state of the Armed Forces. She has previously dealt with the topic of the Ministry of Defence and the Czech Army as MP (vice-chair, chair) in the Defence Committee of the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament of the Czech Republic. The main points of this meeting were, in particular, the deployment of our soldiers in foreign operations and the outline of further activities of the Army, which will be discussed in the coming years by the Chamber of Deputies. They also mentioned possible legislative changes that complicate both the activities of the Army and, for example, modernisation processes. For example, a constitutional amendment that would simplify the deployment of soldiers to foreign operations, such as hostage rescue operations. Such an amendment would then help to deal more flexibly with, for example, the requirements for dealing with the situation on the Polish-Belarusian border. There was also talk of simplifying the acquisition processes, which today are often hampered by the current form of the Public Procurement Act.
A significant part of the meeting was devoted to the modernisation of the army, concerning both ground and air forces. The most immediate decision, however, must be made on the fate of the tender for the acquisition of IFVs, which is currently on hold. Here, Minister Černochová confirmed that she wanted to get acquainted with the opinions of all those involved, i.e. not only the team that prepared the tender specifications, but also lawyers, representatives of the General Staff of the Czech Armed Forces and the Ministry of Defence. She wants to get acquainted with these opinions as soon as possible, within a few weeks.
General Opata also informed the Minister about the involvement of soldiers in helping to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. So far, over 20,000 soldiers have participated in medical facilities or social services, vaccination sites and call centres, beyond their normal duties. The vaccination coverage of the army is approximately 88%.
At the press conference, Minister Černochová also reiterated her pre-election promise to implement the budget according to the government's forthcoming programme statement so that it would be close to 2% of GDP in 2025, thus reducing the deficit that has existed in the financing of the Army for a long time. Therefore, in spite of the planned savings of this Government, the funds, especially for modernisation, should not be reduced or cut in any way. If there is any room in the Ministry's budget, the new minister sees it in savings in current expenditure. Černochová also wants to communicate more with the services, military installations, the University of Defence and other military institutions. Therefore, she plans to visit the 7th Mechanised Brigade in the first week of January.
At the press conference, we asked the minister how quickly she will start amending the Public Procurement Act as a tool for the smooth running of the Czech Army’s acquisitions. "A material plan has been prepared, we discussed it yesterday with the Deputy Minister for Acquisitions, Mr. Lubor Koudelka. We want to discuss not only with lawyers, but also with the Office of Public Procurement, which is also a consultant for the Czech Republic in terms of European law," Jana Černochová replied. In her opinion, the law will be submitted as soon as possible. She then added that in addition to this amendment, she also wants to finalize a legislative proposal that would respond to crisis situations and threats. "Strategic enterprises that are important for our country should be ready for the Army to use them at such a moment." In the event of a crisis situation, the current model is set up to only allow the use of stocks from the state's material reserves.