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Interim Government: New Minister of Defence Starlinger
Following Austria’s political woes in May, an interim government was sworn in on June 3. Chancellor Brigitte Bierlein is the first woman to assume the office. At the same time, MAJGEN Thomas Starlinger, formerly adjutant to President Van der Bellen, was named the new Minister of Defence. Born in 1963, he is a career soldier like his predecessor LTGEN Johann Luif.
Between 1987 and 2009, Starlinger underwent multiple overseas deployments; in 2007, he assumed command of an infantry brigade. Starting in 2012, he joined the Multinational Joint Headquarters Ulm (GER) where he served as Deputy Chief of Staff. Van der Bellen made him his adjutant in 2017, a position Starlinger is assumed to return to after his stint in the caretaker government.
The incoming minister has already faced strong criticism from representatives of the army reserves; an opponent of Austrian conscription, he favours a system of military career paths lasting a mere four years for enlisted soldiers, nine for NCOs and twelve for officers, similar to the current system in the German Bundeswehr. Along with this ‘professionalisation’ of the armed forces, he is an outspoken critic of the Bundesheer’s civil-servant-heavy organisational structure.
Update: Military High School Scrapped Before Opening
In light of the tight budgetary situation the MoD is facing, Starlinger’s first act in office was to review about 80 ongoing projects regarding their cost effectiveness, thriftiness and usefulness. The most prominent project to be scrapped as a consequence of that review was the new military high school. Due to open in September, the school was to replace the now-defunct military secondary school and prepare its students for serving in the army, public service and international organisations. For the 53 students already accepted the end to this project obviously comes at short notice.
While the project had already faced criticism by the finance ministry and the opposition due to its generous budget, both former government parties, ÖVP and FPÖ, have expressed their regret about the end of the project. What has caused additional irritation, especially within the Bundesheer, is the fact that, in contrast to the high school, the AirPower event, an air show co-hosted by the Bundesheer, the county of Styria and RedBull, is taking place. This is happening even though the review highlighted that the event was not budgeted for within the current defence budget and now has to be funded by diverting funds originally designated for training purposes.
Header image: Austrian Armed Forces/Horst Gorup
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