Cyprus Editorial: Time to rethink the army’s role

19 February, 2014 | Posted By: Financial Mirror

Defence Minister Photis Photiou had some very interesting things to say in recent comments about reforming the National Guard which, alas, were simply not appreciated by the general public. All that interests people nowadays is the reduction of national service and not the longer-term role and nature of the army.
What Photiou and the current administration have in mind is probably one of the most radical moves ever announced about the five-decades old army, as the plan is to move on from a defence-oriented armed force to a semi-professional standing army. This means new career opportunities for many young people, as well as the development of new services.
Already, Photiou has talked about outsourcing non-essential services, while the restructuring will result in fewer troopers, hence, the need for fewer barracks and facilities. On the other hand, there will be a growing need for a regional security role and the use of hi-tech monitoring, as well as search and rescue operations, all of which derive from the development of the energy sector and the fact that Cyprus is the EU’s vital outpost in the region as regards migrants and illicit trafficking.
Actually, despite a smaller size, the army’s budget should be increased, with investments made in the areas of new technology and education.
The US Marine Corps traditionally undertook the higher education of its brilliant men and women, while the British Army has encouraged degree-holders to apply for service to become career officers.
Israel, on the other hand, has probably the best model that Cyprus could adopt, perhaps even copy-paste it.
Due to the Jewish state’s unique security needs, the Israel Defence Forces have always invested heavily on new technology for monitoring, weapons accuracy, telecoms, etc. As a result, over the past decades, senior officers or researchers within the IDF’s various divisions are the new ‘hot properties’ of the present hi-tech industry, with their vast and practical knowledge transferred to the startups that are the cornerstone of the country’s unique incubator programme.
It’s nice for Mr Photiou to board big, bright and shiny vessels mooring in our ports. But perhaps what he should do is take a team of willing and enthusiastic young minds and embed them within the IDF for six months or so and learn from the best.