Orchestra upkeep cost EDF €1.4 million yearly

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The Orchestra of the Estonian Defense Forces. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

The Orchestra of the Estonian Defence Forces (EDF) takes up some €1.4 million of the national security budget yearly and as a cost-saving measure, Lt. Gen. Martin Herem has decided to cut the group, starting September 1.

In addition, the EDF's chaplain's service will also cease to exist in its current form. The EDF currently holds 10 chaplains, but Minister of Defense Kalle Laanet (Reform) could not tell ERR what the exact cost of the service is. "The orchestra costs the EDF roughly €1.4 million a year," Laanet said.

The EDF chief's decisions have caused an uproar and plenty questions in the public. Laanet commented on the decision: "All in good time. Let's see how it is best to solve these situations from the state's perspective."

Laanet has given all defense ministry agency heads a task of reducing operating costs based on the government's approved state budget strategy. The respective plans have to be presented by June 4, after which the ministry will begin discussing possible cuts.

EDF chief Lt. Gen Martin Herem confirmed in a press release on Sunday that he will present a proposal to reduce the number of EDF staff from 5,000 to 4,800.

"The combat capability and readiness of the EDF should not suffer during these cuts. Resource cuts must be made through better organization, which is why cuts will focus on the reorganization of support services," Herem wrote.

Reorganizations will mostly be done in the centralization of referral, financial, personnel and legal services. Some areas, such as the chaplain's service and the EDF orchestra will cease to exist in their current form.

"Reducing the number of people does not always mean layoffs. We can also achieve the reduction by not filling the jobs that people are leaving this year," Herem said. "Cuts will affect all EDF structure units and both active and civilian staff. Salaries will not be cut to achieve savings."

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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