military service


military service
   During the Franco regime, compulsory military service was seen as a way of inculcating the ideology of the regime, rather than training an effective defence force. There was no provision for conscientious objection, and refusal to serve in the armed forces led to severe penalties. Despite the increasing professionalism of the armed forces under the socialist PSOE administrations of the 1980s and early 1990s, the government was reluctant to abandon conscription, seeing it as a way of ensuring "social cohesion". In any case, the high cost of moving to a fully professional army provided a powerful disincentive to a socialist government committed to keeping defence expenditure down. In the mid-1990s defence spending, at 1.26 percent of GDP, was the second lowest in NATO, after Luxembourg.
   Despite the lack of resources, the idea of a fully professional army began to be discussed in political and military circles from around 1990. By 1993, the government had adopted a plan which envisaged that by the year 2000, 50 percent of the armed forces would be composed of volunteers. In December 1996, the government announced that compulsory military service would be abolished by 2002. After that date, the army would consist of professional soldiers, supplemented by volunteers enlisting for fixed periods, normally one year. The additional costs were estimated at $780m per annum.
   This scheme involved certain difficulties, outlined in a report by the Ministry of Defence at the end of 1996. The needs of national defence, as well as obligations to NATO and the United Nations, could be jeopardized by possible shortfalls in personnel, caused by the increase in numbers of conscientious objectors, which had risen some 22 percent in the previous year. In addition, nearly a million persons liable to call-up had successfully applied for postponement of their military service. If they were exempted, it could leave a serious deficit in numbers. On the other hand, the government was committed to increasing gradually the numbers of career professionals, which left proportionally less room for conscripts, and made it next to impossible to allow them to complete their service within the time remaining before its abolition.
   Possible solutions outlined in this report included extending the grounds for exemption, and reducing the period of service from nine to six months. A further incentive to complete military service was to give ex-recruits priority in appointments to state jobs.
   EAMONN RODGERS

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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