Two Weeks in Austrian Defence | Oct 8

In Blog, English by Bernhard Völkl

Border security deployment likely to continue >>> Boat accident: Criminal investigations closed >>> New reserves’ association formed >>>  Crumbling infrastructure

TWIAD is your bi-weekly, English-language briefing on national security and defence affairs in the alpine republic. The most relevant news reports, press releases, articles and announcements are recapped and, where necessary, put into context for greater accessibility. Feel free to get in touch and leave us your feedback and thoughts, ask questions in the comments or join the #TWIAD raucity on Twitter!

Border security deployment likely to continue

Following Germany’s announcement to extend controls at its Austrian border for another six months, the Austrian Bundesheer is all but certain to remain engaged in border security operations itself. Measures taken around this supposedly temporary suspension of parts of the Schengen agreement have cost the Ministry of Defence EUR 169m since their inception in 2015. In this timeframe, the Bundesheer has apprehended 4,350 people who have illegally crossed the Austrian border; on average, apprehending one person thus amounted to EUR 38,823.68.

Year 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019* TOTAL
Cost in € m 16.27 50.66 38.76 43.87 19.32 168.88
Persons apprehended 2,16 1,06 884 250 4,350
Cost per person, EUR 23,465.49 36,667.93 49,627.83 77,284.00 38,823.68

*2019 figures YTD; figures for cost and count of persons apprehended are taken from MoD

The Bundesheer’s deployment at Austria’s borders is an assistance mission to support police efforts after the sudden influx of refugees and migrants in 2015. Currently, 860 Bundesheer personnel are deployed to Austria’s southern borders. Whether tasking the Bundesheer with this mission was proportionate or not is up to debate (critics have long bemoaned the high costs, while supporters like to highlight that security simply has its price). What these numbers do tell us, however, is that there is indeed money available for the Bundesheer – if only there’s also political will.

UPDATE Boat accident: Criminal investigations closed

A little over a year after an engineers’ boat capsized on the Danube during a recruiting event for girls – two attendees were permanently injured – all investigations have been closed. The main defendant, a soldier commandeering the vessel, has paid a fine for alleged negligence but not been convicted.

The Bundesheer meanwhile has tightened its regulations and operating procedures around the use of watercraft; measures in the event of capsizing will form a larger part of the curriculum for those steering such craft, and no events with external guests will be conducted without rescue divers on site.

New reserves’ association formed

Since July, reserve soldiers can join a new interest group, the Milizverband Österreich. Positioning itself as being ‘independent and cross-party’ in an effort to delineate itself from the existing reserves’ association called Bundesvereinigung für Milizverbände, this newly established association points at internal conflicts of interest.

Crumbling infrastructure

Vienna’s Vega-Payer-Weyprecht barracks have made the news for the desolate state of its buildingsa decade after the current commandant’s predecessor called it the ‘forgotten barracks’ and stated that it ‘looked like Stalingrad’. 

The barracks, erected in 1900, are currently housing the Bundesheer’s logistics school. Then among the monarchy’s most modern military installations, they are listed as a historic ensemble; the troops based there will no doubt attest to the same.


Header image: Austrian Armed Forces/Andreas Jordanich

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About the Author

Bernhard Völkl


Bernhard is a reserve officer in the Austrian Armed Forces and works in e-commerce.

About the Author
Chiara Libiseller

Chiara Libiseller


Chiara Libiseller is a doctoral candidate and Teaching Assistant at the War Studies Department, King’s College London. Her research traces the evolution of contemporary military concepts to understand broader patterns and fashions in the ways Anglo-American scholars and military professionals study and understand war. Her broad interests include military strategy, military history as well as Austrian and European defence.