Poland’s Supreme Audit Office (Najwyższa Izba Kontroli) recently published a damming report on the readiness and capability of the Polish Armed Forces. The Polish military or Siły Zbrojne Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej currently numbers 140,000 personnel, 111,000 professional (split between land, air and naval branches) while a further 29,000 are part of the WOT territorial reserves.
Below is one of the most critical sections of the report:
“The system of training for enlisted man and non-commissioned officers in the Polish Armed Forces is unwieldy and ineffective. It does not allow to train 33% of soldiers in a need for courses and the remaining 66% is being schooled on outdated equipment, lacking basic means of combat, accompanied by a lack of tutors. The Supreme Audit Office marks that military training units were at the disposal of outdated and prototypical gear, which is far (in terms of its quality and technical conditions) from the gear actually used by the army. The consequence of such a state the skills gained during a training course is not sufficient for the demands of a modern battlefield.”– from the Supreme Audit Office Report on the training procedures in the Polish Armed Forces.
The capabilities of the Polish Armed Forces in terms of training and exercises for troops are reaching an alarming state of inefficiency. Soldiers and units do not have the opportunity to obtain up-to-date knowledge of their equipment and are forced to resort to outdated training methods.
In its report, the Supreme Audit Office offered a series of recommendations to Poland’s Chief of General Staff to:
1) Provide necessary up-to-date equipment for training and combat simulation in all training facilities
2) Deliver ammunition and pyrotechnics, essential for the exercise purposes
3) Establish a new education program to the training facilities in order to properly educate NCOs and other members of the armed forces
4) Modify the report system in order to obtain reliable information on the state of training facilities and their needs
5) Introduce effective means of control inside of the Ministry of the National Defense
The Numbers Say It All
The report gives some insight into how severe the issue of maintenance of the armed forces. The numbers speak for themselves. For example:
“In 2018 the Training Center of Logistics in Grudziąc reported to the Armed Forces General Command on a need of tuition for 13,033 soldiers. The training facility accommodated only 7,553 members of the armed forces. Only 58% of students were able to participate in courses which, according to the Supreme Audit Office were outdated and performed on obsolete equipment.”
Later in the report, the situation on the teaching staff is presented. It states that in terms of training facilities between 2016 and 2018 the Polish military did not have enough instructors.
On average between 2016 – 2018 less than 80% of the necessary instructor positions were filled. While during the same three year period the National Reserve Service tutoring staff had 94%, 91%, 92% of its instructor positions filled.
MoND defends itself
The Minister of the National Defense (MoND), Mariusz Błaszczak, responded to the report briefly during an interview, stating that:
“It is only a piece of everything. The entirety looks completely different. The Polish Armed Forces develops in large numbers. When in 2015 the Law and Justice party took the power, there were 95 thousand members of the armed forces. Now there are 107 thousand and 24 thousand members of WOT. […] Polish Armed Forces changes for the better. Military drills with the US Armed Forces are the example.”
Additionally, in a more direct response the Vice-Minister of National Defense, Sebastian Chwalek, stated that there is no possibility to accomplish demands on training equipment declared by Supreme Audit Office. He instead said that equipping the new 18th Mechanised Division is the priority for the MoND.
It is difficult to distinguish between the political fight between the Supreme Audit Office and the Law and Justice party in government. The current president of the Supreme Office, Marian Banaś, is openly hostile towards the ruling party, due to a conflict that sparked in late 2018. However, the Office’s report presents the situation from the period before the new president took office. On the other hand, the Ministry of the National Defense seems to deny any issues, claiming that the problem does not exist and everything is a huge party political success.
In the end, the only victim of those quarrels and discussions is the end-user of equipment and drills – the soldier himself. Whether the Ministry decides to deny or accept the report, systemic issues with outdated equipment and education will not vanish. Real actions are needed. But is the Ministry finally ready to act instead of talk?