President Saakashvili said on January 29 that he agreed with Defense Minister Irakli Alasania that current system of army conscription should be changed, but disagreed with the idea to move fully on professional army.
Defense Minister Irakli Alasania said earlier this month that Georgia should abandon conscription system and gradually move to fully professional army in a course of next four years.
“Of course existing system of conscription is unfair and I agree with the Defense Minister that this existing system should not be maintained,” President Saakashvili said while speaking to students at the National Defense Academy in the town of Gori in presence of Deputy Defense Minister Tamar Karosanidze.
“But in general society should not be completely separated from the armed forces. The existing system is unfair because most often those without patronage are being conscripted; that’s not fair. But the armed forces cannot [rely] only on professional component; every citizen of Georgia, no matter who their parents might be – president, minister, lawmaker, businessmen, should be involved with the military in certain form… at least for six or nine months or even more; every Georgian citizen should know how to handle firearm,” Saakashvili said.
“So existing system should be changed, but we should in no way create a system wherein a Georgian will live life without having any involvement with the army; it will be a huge mistake and I think we will not make this mistake,” Saakashvili said.
Georgia has now mixed system based on both contracts and conscription.
Term of compulsory military service was last time changed in early 2012 when it was increased from 12 to 15 months.
“We plan to move fully on professional army in four years. The term of compulsory military service will be gradually reduced to 12 months, and then we will fully move to a contract-based army,” Defense Minister Irakli Alasania said in early January.
In his speech at the National Defense Academy, Saakashvili also called on the new government to continue working on development of military industry and to maintain the military research-technical center Delta under the Ministry of Defense.
Delta currently unites number of factories, including Tbilisi Aircraft Manufacturing (TbilAviaMsheni or TAM), which were taken over by the state in 2010 as part of the previous government’s drive to develop domestic military industrial complex.
“It will be a huge mistake if Georgia says no to production of military hardware,” President Saakashvili said, adding that now it was no time for pre-election rhetoric and saying that armored and infantry fighting vehicles produced by Delta were “bluff” – a reference to remarks of PM Bidzina Ivanishvili who during his pre-election campaign voiced skepticism over Delta’s potential.
When asked about the future of Delta, Defense Minister Irakli Alasania said in an interview with the Georgian weekly newspaper, Kviris Palitra, in early January: “Delta now has a new management… I am sure that financial irresponsibility that was in place in Delta will be put to an end.”
Asked about PM Ivanishvili’s skepticism over military production in Georgia, Alasania responded that the Prime Minister was intending to visit Delta.
“It’s hard to believe in its potential if you don’t see it. I was doubtful too about whether we can produce military vehicles or not. We can, if we plan properly and if there is a right management in place. It depends on market, production cost and profitability. I hope we will be able to create military industry and to employ people,” Alasania said in early January.