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Groundhog Day: Starlinger bemoans low defence budget
The Bundesheer’s continued tight financial situation prompted newly-appointed Minister of Defence Thomas Starlinger to join the ranks of those speaking out. An active general in a long row of civilians to occupy the post, his request for more funding does not come as a surprise. His claim that the Bundesheer will soon be forced to withdraw personnel from international peace support operations adds urgency to the issue as one infantry company is currently being withdrawn from Kosovo, where the Bundesheer is deploying between 400 and 500 troops as part of NATO’s KFOR mission. Minister in an interim government, Starlinger however stated that he will leave the decision to end the engagement in Kosovo to the next government.
Severe financial constraints will likely not only affect international missions, but also overall force readiness, disaster relief missions and the ability to bring Austrians back from abroad in crisis situations, maintains the minister. Aiming to manage this fallout, Starlinger has tasked the general staff to draft (yet another) assessment on the necessary framework to guarantee the protection of Austrian citizens into the future until September.
While the air show AirPower19 is slotted to go ahead in September, the minister on Tuesday slashed the annual 26 Oct public display, a measure he claims saves €2m. This is relevant because the public display has been rather popular despite the Armed Forces’ controversial public image.
Security-focused high school reemerges
Despite Starlinger’s decision to the contrary of two weeks ago, the military high school, focus of much debate in the last few weeks, is now scheduled to open in September. Upon his appointment, Starlinger decided to halt the project after reviewing its cost effectiveness, thriftiness and usefulness – constructing a new home for the school will amount to around € 30 million, to which furnishings, teaching and learning equipment and fixed expenses have yet to be added. Starlinger’s cancellation of the project sparked major criticism – especially by the former governing partners ÖVP and FPÖ -, backed up by a parliamentary vote in favour of going through with the project. While not legally bound by that vote, Starlinger gave in in what is seen as a nod to the current government’s interim character. Nevertheless, Starlinger himself remains opposed to the project, arguing that there will be little demand for its graduates – the ministries of defence, the interior and justice, all named as possible takers, were interested in applicants from diverse educational backgrounds rather than recruiting from one institution.
Update: Parliamentary Inquiry on the Eurofighter Deal
In a leaked draft of the third inquiry’s final report, its head states that no evidence could be established that any individual decision makers in the run-up to procuring the jets were bribed. Judge Rohrer criticised, however, that Eurofighter/EADS in their dealings omitted the fact that offsetting transactions, a major argument in favour of the procurement decision, had been assigned to a third party; this rendered monitoring compliance all but impossible. Furthermore, the report singles out then-ministers of Finance and Defence, Messrs Grasser and Scheibler, for acting counter the principles of expedience and thriftiness in pushing a decision for the airplane type. Grasser furthermore stands accused of overstepping the boundaries of his portfolio.
Header image: Flickr/Anthony Quintano
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