Georgia’s new reserve forces system will be oriented towards encouraging “broad involvement” of the civilian population in “territorial defense” measures, according to the new draft concept.
The eight-page document, laying out key principles of the new system, was discussed in the Parliament on April 27 during a joint hearing of seven parliamentary committees.
“Taking into consideration Georgia’s security environment and the country’s geographic peculiarities, Georgia’s self-defense planning is based on the principle of Total Defense’,” the document (in Georgian pdf) reads. “The priority is to develop such system, which, in case of war, will be capable to carry out task for defense of territory and population and, in case of natural disasters, provide help to the civilian authorities.”
The new system will be based on voluntary and existing compulsory reserve service, which will make two components of the system – Land Forces Reserve (LFR) and Territorial Defense Reserve.
LFR, or self-defense force, will consist mainly of compulsory reserve personnel (although volunteers may also be included) tasked to provide assistance to the armed forces and, if needed, to replace them in combat operations. LFR will be under the command of the land forces of the Georgian army.
The Territorial Defense Reserve, composed of volunteers, will be in charge of civil protection during the wartime. The volunteer reserves will be recruited locally based on their place of residence. In the peacetime, like LFR, volunteer reserve will also be used at times of emergencies. The Territorial Defense Reserve will be under the command of the National Guard, according to the draft concept.
There have been number of attempts to redesign reserve troops as the system which was in practice before the August war was deemed as flawed. A concept of the new system was tabled in late 2009; after that a relevant law was amended in summer, 2010. And in October, 2011 the Defense Ministry announced about the plan to form system of “voluntary reserve forces”, designed for those who were willing to be enlisted in the reserve forces, but were not eligible for compulsory reserve service.
In early March, 2012 Parliament amended law on reserve service, according to which a person over age of 18 will have the right to voluntarily enroll for reserve service; the same amendment also removes upper age limit for those willing to serve in voluntary reserve. Compulsory reserve service applies only to those between the ages of 27 and 40 (those with rank of a senior officer are eligible for being called in the reserve troops before the age of 65).
The voluntary component has already been launched in a form of, as the authorities’ say, “pilot project” to see how it works.
During the hearings in the Parliament on April 27, Deputy Secretary of Georgia’s National Security Council, Batu Kutelia, said that so far 13,000 volunteer reservists have been recruited and trained. He said that 0.9% of Georgia’s 2012 defense budget, or GEL 6 million, had been spent so far for that purpose.
The Georgian army officers are meeting locals in the villages, calling on them to enroll into the reserve troops to form local units, which can be used in case of emergency or self-defense in the event of aggression. After Samegrelo region in western Georgia, such meetings were held recently in some villages of the Kakheti region in eastern Georgia.
Kutelia said that the Defense Ministry was developing strategy and doctrine, which would lay out in more details all the aspects of the planned system, which would then be reflected in relevant legislation.
He said that that concept would also be discussed with NATO in frames of NATO-Georgia Commission.
President Saakashvili said on April 11, that by this summer Georgia would have 70,000-strong well-trained “volunteer reserve” troops and the number of increase to 150,000 by next year. He said that the system would provide “each village” in the country with its local unit for self-defense in case of foreign aggression.