New defence chief: Belgium’s military faces ‘gigantic challenge’
Share article:
Share article:

New defence chief: Belgium’s military faces ‘gigantic challenge’

Admiral Michel Hofman, chief of defence staff. © Belga

Belgium’s military faces major challenges in the coming years, including problems of recruitment, according to chief of defence forces Admiral Michel Hofman.

Admiral Hofman was appointed to the post for a four-year term in July, and yesterday gave his first public interview with selected media. In it, he set out the challenges facing the military as it implements the strategic vision for 2030.

The main problem facing the armed forces, he said, is recruitment. As in many other sectors, retiring personnel are not being replaced in sufficient numbers by new recruits. By 2025, the army is expected to lose 25% of its personnel to retirement.

Low unemployment is making the matter worse, making the military less of an attractive career choice for young people.

The rewards for a career in military service need to be reviewed, he said, in the light of comparison with civilian jobs. A new recruit takes home on average €1,500 a month, rising to €1,650 for an officer candidate.

Someone who starts work at the security company G4S will easily receive €1,800 or €1,900,” he said.

But while the shortage of boots on the ground is one problem, the loss of experience and know-how in the modern military is worse.

For many systems we only have one person who knows how it works,” he said. “If that person is missing, we reach a critical point of failure.”

Another problem is budget. The new De Croo government has promised to increase defence spending from 1.1% of GDP to 1.24%. That target is well below the 2% promised to Belgium’s Nato partners, and is not enough for the challenges faced, Hofman said. What is more, the increased figure is a target, not an actuality.

We haven’t reached the low point yet. The wheels have still to fall off the bus, although I don’t know where or how,” Hofman said.

We have already passed the critical point, but the engine continues to run. That is our can-do mentality. It plays tricks on us. We absorb a lot of the shock, but that comes at the expense of other things that we have to postpone, such as when we were asked to order face masks.”

The spending gap is exacerbated by the decisions made by the government of Charles Michel to purchase expensive fighter jets, armoured vehicles and ships.

It is very rare for a company to replace all of its production lines at the same time,” he said.

That is a bit like what is happening to us. Everything will undergo profound transformation in the next five to ten years. That will result in a complete reorganisation of our structures and a permanent search for balance between our various operations.”

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

Latest news

Thousands march in Brussels to raise awareness of violence against women
More than 3,000 people took to the streets of Brussels on Sunday afternoon for a national march to raise awareness of violence against women in ...
Efficacy of vaccines against new variant known in a few weeks, virologist says
The efficacy of the current coronavirus vaccines against the new Omicron variant will be clear in one to two weeks, Belgian virologist Marc Van Ranst ...
Scientists could have communicated better during pandemic, survey shows
The majority of Flemish people continue to trust scientists, however, only half of them feel scientists communicated understandably during the ...
Closing borders and new travel restrictions: Countries react to Omicron variant
As more cases of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus are being reported across the world, more and more countries are imposing tougher travel ...
Several rush hour train services to be scrapped from Monday
Up to ten peak time trains to and from Brussels will be temporarily cancelled starting from Monday, Belgian railway company SNCB announced this ...
Europe’s largest vintage clothes store is in Ghent this weekend
Europe's largest pop-up store for second-hand clothes is once again setting up shop in Ghent on Sunday, offering more than five tonnes of vintage ...
Animal welfare in EU’s pig meat sector: What’s wrong?
EU has put into place legislation to ensure that animal welfare conditions are respected in its agricultural policy but the breaches of its ...
‘Not feasible’: Doctors refuse to follow new testing strategy
Doctors have warned they will not follow the government's adapted testing strategy which would see vaccinated people who were in close contact with a ...
Flanders introduces ‘invisible’ speed cameras
New digital speed cameras that are essentially invisible to the road user are being introduced on various roads and motorways in Flanders, Flemish ...
Warnings issued for slippery roads across Belgium
Drivers have been asked to watch out for slippery roads from Saturday afternoon until Sunday evening, as snow and cold temperatures are expected ...
Testing rules following high-risk contact eased for vaccinated people
The coronavirus testing policy following a high-risk contact has been eased, meaning a vaccinated person who was in contact with an infected person ...
New measures announced for Belgian schools
Stricter rules are being implemented across a variety of sectors in Belgium to curb the rising number of infections and limit the damage as a result ...