The Estonian government on Thursday approved a proposal of Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur to partly extend the duration of conscript service to up to 12 months in order to better prepare for the deployment of Estonia's new military capabilities.
"Arising from the need to develop new defense capabilities in Estonia, it is also necessary to expand and modernize the training of conscripts. The current definition of the duration of conscript service by specialty no longer meets the current training and service organization needs," Pevkur said.
The normal duration of conscript service will continue to be eight months, except for specialties that require extensive military training or practice. Then the length of conscript service will be 11 months.
"The slightly longer conscript service or 11 to 12 months is intended for those conscripts who in addition to acquiring a specialty requiring extensive military training or practice are assigned during conscript service to a wartime position in a unit on permanent standby," the minister added.
The length of conscript service can be determined by the commander of the defense forces in accordance with the organization of training and readiness in the designated specialties.
"Due to the security situation and Estonia's national defense needs, Estonia has acquired or is acquiring weapons systems the combat readiness of which must be at the same level as units equipped with professional troops. Like the Estonian Special Operations Force or the Scouts Battalion," Gen. Martin Herem, commander of the defense forces, said.
"New weapons systems include, for example, medium range air defense or anti-ship missiles. Assembly of these units using only active military personnel is a very big challenge, especially in terms of finding the necessary number of people. However, since we partially assemble these units with reservists to be trained during conscript service anyway, it makes sense to keep a certain volume of units combat-ready on the basis of conscripts. In order to ensure combat readiness throughout the year, we need up to 12 months of conscript service. By calling up those eligible twice a year, we constantly have one part in combat readiness and the other part in training," Herem added.
The draft does away with a list of specific specialties, the training of which requires 11 months of conscript service, and instead establishes a general principle of 11 months of training. As a result, the units' combat readiness will improve and up to 12 months of conscript service will allow critical military capabilities to be kept in permanent readiness.
The persons eligible to be drafted are assigned to a specific unit, which means that the conscripts will find out whether they will be conscripted for eight, 11 or 12 months before they start conscript service.
Longer conscript service affects those persons eligible to be drafted who have not yet received an invitation to conscript service and who are assigned to a specialty that requires longer service. The decision does not affect conscripts in service today and those eligible persons who have been issued a conscript service invitation.
The volume of conscripts called up for conscript service, at 4,000 conscripts per year, will not be changed.