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Od 25 maja 2018 r. obowiązuje w Polsce Rozporządzenie Parlamentu Europejskiego i Rady (UE) 2016/679 z dnia 27 kwietnia 2016 r. w sprawie ochrony osób fizycznych w związku z przetwarzaniem danych osobowych i w sprawie swobodnego przepływu takich danych oraz uchylenia dyrektywy 95/46/WE (ogólne rozporządzenie o ochronie danych, zwane także RODO).

W związku z powyższym przygotowaliśmy dla Państwa informacje dotyczące przetwarzania przez Wojskowy Instytut Wydawniczy Państwa danych osobowych. Prosimy o zapoznanie się z nimi: Polityka przetwarzania danych.

Prosimy o zaakceptowanie warunków przetwarzania danych osobowych przez Wojskowych Instytut Wydawniczy – Akceptuję

Investment in Our Safe Future

With Mariusz Błaszczak, Minister of National Defense, on how the Homeland Defense Act will influence increasing the defensive capabilities of the Polish Armed Forces, talk Paulina Glińska and Magdalena Kowalska-Sendek.

After some intensive work, which accelerated within the last few days, the President signed the new Homeland Defense Act (HDA). Why was it necessary to introduce such a comprehensive set of changes in ministerial regulations?

Up to now, we have been functioning in an archaic labyrinth of legal acts, unadapted to the current reality, often created in the distant communist times. It might come as a surprise to some, but the Act on the Universal Duty to Defend the Republic of Poland was approved in 1967. The military environment has for years been talking about the need to update these regulations. Therefore, we took on the difficult task to introduce one, primary document, whose provisions would be adjusted to the current challenges. We had been working on the project long before the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, and the analyses lasted for several months.

It is a comprehensive document, which on the one hand organizes the regulations concerning the Polish Armed Forces and the shape of the Polish defense, and on the other hand introduces new mechanisms and solutions that are to update our defense system. We are talking about virtually every aspect of the Polish defense system. Implementing such an act is a great responsibility and we must be sure that every issue is addressed, and that the proposed solutions are beneficial and long-lasting. Life has shown us that our army and our homeland needs this act right now, in the middle of ongoing events that are crucial to our security.

A little over a year ago, you said that the act will be based on three foundations: modernization of the Polish Armed Forces, increasing the attractiveness of military service, and introducing the concept of universal defense. Were these priorities maintained?

The act had been prepared by the Committee of the Council of Ministers for National Security and Defense Affairs and the Ministry of National Defense, in close cooperation with the military environment. Our main concern was increasing our armed forces’ defensive capabilities and efficiency. This is the foundation of this initiative, but in order to reach this goal, we need a quick and effective technical modernization of the army, we need to increase the number of soldiers and strengthen universal defense. Considering our geopolitical location, we can’t take the risk of having insignificant armed forces against such an aggressive, cynical and unpredictable adversary. We must have a lot of military units with a large number of soldiers equipped in armament advanced enough to respond to modern threats. The situation in Ukraine painfully shows that the only right direction is to arm and prepare to defend ourselves. The new act creates and offers entirely new possibilities to the Polish Armed Forces. We are doing this in order to have one of the stronger armies in NATO.

During the work on the HDA, you decided to increase the budget for defense. Next year, it will already reach 3 per cent GDP. Will it continue to rise in the following years?

We are taking that into consideration. Now, the most important thing is to raise the defense budget to the mentioned level of 3 per cent of GDP. This is a leap increase in comparison to the plans that had been made in the not so distant past. We had anticipated the level of 2.5 per cent of GDP, and with this rate we would still be one of the leaders among NATO states with the highest defense budgets. The current situation is extraordinary and it requires brave, uncompromising decisions and actions. We are strengthening the army with the most advanced aircraft, tanks, artillery, drones, and this requires large investments, which are in fact investments in our peaceful life and future. Poland’s security is priceless.

Talking about investments, we need to mention the new mechanism of financing the army – the Armed Forces Support Fund established at BGK (Bank of National Economy). How will it function?

The Fund will be financed by, among other things, treasury bonds, government-secured bonds issued by BGK, and the state budget. It will allow for signing new contracts and armament agreements. We have already managed to do a lot to modernize the Polish Armed Forces, but there are still many challenges ahead of us. Therefore, every additional zloty which can be allocated to support our army is our common investment in the safe future of Poland.

Increasing deterrence capabilities also means increasing the size of the army. How many soldiers are to ultimately form the Polish Armed Forces?

The defensive and deterrence capabilities depend on several interrelated elements. On the military level, it is mainly our own potential. The important things are: the number of soldiers, the equipment they use and their combat readiness. On top of that, there is the potential arising from our NATO membership.

I will do my best to reach 250,000 soldiers at operational units, supported by 50,000 territorial defense soldiers. These numbers are dictated by the needs of Poland as a flank state, and now a front state. Our right and obligation is to create new units, not to liquidate the existing ones. I will support this statement with the example of the 18th Mechanized Division, whose formation I ordered already several years ago. At the time, there were people who criticized that decision. However, the division was formed after all, and today its main task is to protect our vulnerable eastern border. Now, no one claims it was wrong to create it. When the threat from the east has become real, we must rely on the strength of our army to stop the enemy at the very border. We must develop the army east of the Vistula, and our units located there must regularly exercise and cooperate with allied armies. In this way, we can really ensure security and build deterrence potential – and that’s what Poland needs the most right now. Maybe more than ever before.

The HDA introduces many new solutions for people who want to put on a uniform, for example voluntary basic military service. What will that be like?

I need to emphasize that we are not planning to return to suspended compulsory conscription. This service is voluntary and will consist of two phases: a 28-day basic course and an 11-month specialist course. The details concerning the locations of courses and their characteristics will be adjusted to the needs of the army, commanders in particular. They are the ones who know what type of soldiers they need the most and how they can prepare them for service. The basic course will lie with units and training centers, and the 11-month specialist course will depend on the units alone. A soldier in voluntary service will earn as much as a professional private, that is over 4,000 zlotys a month.

What opportunities await those who decide to join this service?

If a volunteer completes only the 28-day basic training, they will be able to apply for service in the TDF or active reserve, and if they complete the full cycle, they will be able to join the professional army. I want to point out that the act significantly simplifies the system of forms and types of military service, which in turn offers better opportunities to all candidates for service, regardless of its type. Now, you can become a professional soldier, a TDF soldier, a reserve soldier, or a soldier in voluntary basic service. What’s more, we now offer financial incentives as well as opportunities for development and promotion. We hope that in this way we will be able to increase the number of soldiers and the potential of the army reserves.

You didn’t mention the soldiers of the national reserve. What will happen to them?

They will join the ranks of the active reserve. Those of them who will want to serve as professionals, will obviously be able to apply. I said it many times during the “Become a Soldier of the Republic of Poland” campaign – anyone who wants to become a soldier and meets basic requirements, will find their place in the army.

You talk about active reserve which is to function alongside the passive reserve. What will be the difference between the two types of service?

The difference is fundamental and refers to the will to serve. In the new system, the inactive reserve is made up of people who have undergone the military classification process, but without taking the oath, and the people who have completed military training and taken the oath, but are unwilling to serve. The active reserve, on the other hand, will be made up of people who have completed training and taken the oath, and who want to continue their service in the army.

The question of personnel reserves had been long neglected, just like the issue of training reserve soldiers. Suffice it to say that there were years during the rule of the previous government when such trainings were not organized at all. This will change now. We will restore our reserve potential, we will increase its numerical strength and raise the morale. Their service is of great importance to us.

The act also introduces changes to the officer cadet service. What are they?

Officer cadets in their first year of studies will be in voluntary basic military service, and later they will transfer to professional service, taking on the rights, but also the responsibilities of professional soldiers. Depending on their rank, they will also receive remuneration equal to this of professional soldiers. As we want to keep the education process running smoothly, the changes will cover all officer cadets except for those who are in their last year of studies on the day when the act enters into force.

The new regulations also mention a scholarship program for civilian students and expanding the Academic Legion.

In order to receive the scholarship, student volunteers studying at faculties indicated by the Ministry of National Defense will have to sign a contract with the ministry and commit to at least five years of military service after finishing their education. During studies, they will take part in exercises and military classes, and later, after completing an officer course, they will join the army ranks. The participants of the Academic Legion will also undergo training, and after completing additional practice and exercises, they will be awarded an officer rank. Both programs are based on the idea to take advantage of the earlier unrecognized potential of students who see their future in the army. Such mechanisms have for years worked well in other countries. They help the army to gain officers with unique skill sets, as well as rare, but very desirable competences. Therefore, alongside strengthening the area of military education, I will also create more opportunities for civilian students who want to join the army.

The changes arising from the new act also apply to military administration. During legislative work, due to the situation in Ukraine, you decided not to limit the number of local military administration. Why?

That’s true. The original plan assumed that instead of 16 provincial military staffs and 86 military draft offices, there would be one Central Military Recruitment Center with 16 provincial branches. In the current situation, however, we must be very careful when dealing with various issues in crucial areas of our military capabilities. The stability of the security system is key to its efficiency, so I decided to maintain the existing number of local military administration organs.

On the basis of provincial military staffs and military draft offices, we will create military recruitment centers. We are keeping their structure, we guarantee employment of the personnel, but apart from mobilization tasks, we also give military administration new ones – connected with recruiting candidates for service. It is a very important matter, as from now on the military recruitment centers will be the organs responsible for increasing the number of soldiers in military units.

The tasks of provincial military staffs connected with crisis management will be taken over by territorial defense forces (TDF). Why?

Because they have been handling these tasks very well. TDF coordinated the operations of supporting the civilian health system during the coronavirus pandemic. They passed the test with flying colors, as well as others, such as fighting with the consequences of natural disasters or protecting the border during the migrant crisis. Now, they are supporting the system of taking in refugees from Ukraine.

A lot of changes have been made in military pragmatics. One of the novelties is a performance allowance for professional soldiers. Will the act influence the finances of the soldiers in any other way?

The act regulates the questions of the so-called soldiers’ social security. These provisions are to encourage people to enter service and to stay in service for as long as possible. We propose, for instance, that soldiers with over 25 years of service receive 1,500 zlotys per month, and those with over 28.5 years of service get 2,500 zlotys per month. On top of that, the act introduces beneficial solutions as regards the housing allowance. Soldiers will be able to decide on their own on the period of service for which they will take the allowance. Since I became the head of the MoND, salaries in the military have been increased systematically. This year I have also succeeded in raising the soldiers’ remunerations by 677 zlotys gross on average.

Another important change is the introduction of linear promotions. It will enable soldiers to reach a higher rank without the necessity to change their position. Where did that idea come from?

Currently, a military rank is assigned to a certain post. If a soldier wants to get a promotion, they have to change their post, and often even their cell, specialty or institution where they serve. This leads to disruptions in personnel continuity and loss of naturally acquired competences and experience. We wanted to eliminate such situations by assigning several military ranks to a given post. This solution will enable development of experts in their field, who at the same time have opportunities for promotion, as well as better use of experienced soldiers’ competences.

There is a new military rank – private first class specialist. What was the reason for its introduction?

Private first class specialist will be a rank assigned to key positions in the corps. It is to motivate soldiers to improve their skills and raise their qualifications, at the same time ennobling them and encouraging development among privates.

A revolutionary change is accepting people with disabilities in military service. What positions will they be able to fill?
There are some specialist posts in the military which can be filled by people with disabilities. For example, the cyber area, and the IT sector in general. In these fields, it is crucial to be highly competent, and someone’s level of mobility, for instance, has no influence whatsoever on the quality of executed tasks. That’s why we are creating a development path for disabled people in the army. Even more so since we have created a new component of the armed forces: the cyberspace defense forces, and we are currently hiring people for the new structures.

The act eliminates contract service and equalizes the status of all professional soldiers. What are the changes in conditions for soldiers who worked under contracts?

On the strength of the new act, contract soldiers will transfer to professional service for an indefinite period. It’s a good change for them, as it offers new opportunities for development and a career in the military. This translates to a feeling of stability and belonging to the environment. I think it will positively influence the soldiers’ morale.

The new regulations further simplify the volunteer recruitment process. What are the new incentives?

Military service already offers a lot of attractive incentives, which we have further developed in the new regulations. We simplify and shorten the recruitment process, so that the candidate knows the date of training and drafting. There will no longer be glass ceilings, as we are offering perspectives for professional development and promotion. We are opening doors for ambitious and dynamic people. We offer many benefits and a whole catalogue of specialist courses. Soldiers have guaranteed health care and social security coverage. They are offered security of employment and a feeling of stability in life. The new regulations further strengthen these aspects of military service, which are crucial in executing their daily work.

Talking about the new Homeland Defense Act, we must mention the international influences on the final phase of the legislative work. What is your outlook on the level of Poland’s security in the context of the war in Ukraine, and the support of the US Army on NATO’s eastern flank?

Russia’s attack on Ukraine undoubtedly started one of the greatest security crises in Europe since the end of WWII. Our country is in direct vicinity of the war-stricken territory, and we need to realize that we find ourselves in a completely new reality. However, I want to calm my compatriots down – we believe in our soldiers, and the Polish army is strong and motivated. On top of that – which is equally important – we are not alone. We have been a part of NATO for 23 years. We can trust the guarantees offered by Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, which guarantees collective defense of any NATO member by the remaining member states. The effectiveness of this mechanism is confirmed by the steps that have already been taken by the Alliance since the beginning of the war in Ukraine. The eastern flank has been reinforced, and our largest ally, the United States, has sent over 5,000 soldiers to south-eastern Poland. The Alliance is unanimous, united, and responds firmly to the evil and cruelty inflicted on Ukraine by Russia.

What kind of armament and equipment have we already transferred to Ukraine? Are there any more planned supplies of defensive weapons?

The help offered to Ukraine is an expression of our solidarity and responsibility for building and strengthening security in the region. The engagement of Poland is multi-dimensional – we had dynamically engaged in projects aimed to transform the Ukrainian security sector even before the war, which also included training activities. Since Russia started the war, there has been a continuous flow of help provided to Ukraine. We transfer armament and ammunition, drones, helmets, bullet-proof vests, and other tactical equipment. For safety reasons, we don’t disclose detailed information concerning this help.

We cannot forget about the extensive and constantly increasing humanitarian help that Polish people provide to the refugees. TDF soldiers also offer their support.

The tragedy of war in Ukraine leaves its stamp mostly on innocent people. About 2.5 million Ukrainians who have found refuge on the territory of Poland are provided with assistance by state institutions responsible for it, but mainly by Polish people. The scale of these activities is adjusted to the scale of the challenge we are forced to face – Europe has not seen such level of migration since WWII. The armed forces also actively participate in helping the refugees. Currently, almost 6,000 TDF soldiers provide assistance to those who need it. They work at reception points, help in organizing temporary accommodation or transport. Also military logisticians and officer cadets from all military schools are actively engaged in helping Ukrainian refugees.

Paulina Glińska, Magdalena Kowalska-Sendek

autor zdjęć: Leszek Chemperek/CO MON

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