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A New professional Army for France

A New professional Army for France

The Terms of Professionalisation (Part 15)

Over a period of several years, the French Armed Forces have been engaged in a process prefiguring the developments that the Head of State has decided to instigate.

The more recent Defence budgets are the proof of this process :

  • a progressive reduction in size based, in particular, on the fall in the number of conscripts

(- 38 000 in 1992 - 1993 ; - 2902 in 1995 ; - 3378 in 1996),

  • a regular increase in the number of staff likely to be engaged in action abroad,
  • an increase in the officer rate.

This proves that the progressiveness required for the success of the reform which has just been decided upon has already produced certain effects.

Henceforth, this movement is to be pursued and intensified throughout the transition phase intended to enable:

  • a progressive change in structures,
  • the replacement of certain conscript specialists by professionals (the department of health in particular),
  • the social support for the professional changes that certain categories of military staff will need to undergo (regrading within the new types of national service, within the civil public service, incentives to join the private sector). There will not be a bill cutting down the number of officers, the local economic support for the disbandment of units, especially by the enforcement of regional reconversion conventions both in terms of military and armament industry restructurations.

Professionalisation entails costs essentially in terms of salaries. These extra costs will be progressively financed, within the framework of the overall Armed Forces envelope which will itself be reduced, throughout the various stages of the programming bill by:

  • the reductions made in the size of the Armed Forces, especially by the concomitant reduction in the number of conscripts,
  • the elimination of structural and operational costs obtained through the closure of unit sites and rallies.

Following appraisal of the respective constraints linked to these different stakes, it has been estimated that the transition to professionalised Armed Forces should be effective within a six-year period.

During this period, it will also be necessary to set up a recruitment system adapted to the needs of professional Armed Forces and to transfer civil staff to jobs, within the Armed Forces, which to date have been carried out by conscript or enlisted military staff.

Finally, the transition to professionalised Armed Forces supposes the reorganisation of the reserve forces which, formerly intended to significantly increase the size of the Armed Forces in the wake of a major threat, will in certain circumstances have to occupy a limited number of highly specialised jobs.

The impact of these changes on staff, whether civil or military, will be assessed and discussed by the competent authorities : the Higher Civil Staff Council and the Higher Military Staff Council.

Sources: French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Defence

French Embassies in London and Washington.

For more information, go to French National Defense.


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).