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EDF want to broaden possibilities for civilian involvement

Reservists during a base defense exercise.
Reservists during a base defense exercise. Source: Headquarters of the Estonian Defense Forces/mil.ee

The Estonian Defense Forces and the Defense Resources Agency (KRA) have plans to expand reservist participation in Defense Force activities. The KRA calls for "job cuts" in the Defense Forces, the continued employment of retired members, and the permanent filling of some positions with people from non-military backgrounds.

"Whereas today reserve service is primarily provided for as a compulsory service through training sessions, we want to create a new type of service – voluntary reserve service," Anu Rannaveski, director general of the defense resources agency, told a press conference on Thursday.

"This would allow reservists to participate more fully in the activities of the Defense Forces and to serve as reservists rather than active duty personnel on short-term deployments, be they three-month, six-month or 12-month deployments," she said.

Rannaveski said that this gives reservists a greater opportunity to contribute to the national defense if they wished to do so.

"Whether it's investing in the training of conscripts or serving in units on permanent standby, the opportunities are there. Giving our reservists a bigger role and expanded responsibility."

The Defense Forces would like to open the Defense Forces Academy, the only military academy for both bachelor's and master's degrees for reservists in Estonia, she said.

This will allow us to improve the caliber of reserve officers while tying them more closely to the defense forces.

Another recommendation Rannaveski made was to separate rank and special roles in the Defense Forces, which would allow civilians to contribute to Defense Forces tasks without undergoing military training.

"There are sections in the Defense Forces that are covered by active military personnel, although the requirement for these areas does not necessitate military training or is secondary in these roles. And, because training active military personnel is resource-intensive, and there is no substantive requirement, we recommended that lower-level positions be distinguished from specialized duties," the head of the Defense Resources Agency, said.

In addition, the Defense Forces plan to change the use of reservists during exercises, their working hours and their pay during exercises.

There is also a plan to change the way how conscripts are called up for defense duties. While conscript participation in international military operations is prohibited, many of the naval vessels used for naval training are part of the Nato's rapid reaction force.

As another important issue, Rannaveski pointed to a change in the procedure for paying active-duty pensions to members of the Defense Forces, which would allow retired active-duty soldiers to continue their active service while receiving both a salary and a pension.

Rannaveski justified the changes by saying that the goal is to considerably expand Estonia's autonomous defense capabilities and defense preparedness by 2031, which will necessitate a significant rise in the number of active military troops.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has already forced the Estonian Defense Forces to nearly double the size of its armed forces, especially in the form of reserves.

"It is important to enable our reservists to increase their knowledge and competences outside the training sessions as well and for the Defense Forces to use these competences and skills," the head of the agency said.

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Editor: Mait Ots, Kristina Kersa

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