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Argentina - Military Personnel

Military conscription was abolished in 1995. Pertinent to the lack of cohesion among the Argentines was the great social distance between officers, NCOs, and conscripts. The latter served one year or less in the army. NCOs had little responsibility within the Argentine Army excluding administrative duties. They did not train recruits or soldiers. Their duties focused solely on the physical care of the soldier such as ensuring that the soldiers were adequately clothed and fed.

In addition, there was an enormous social gap between the officer and the noncommissioned officer that detracted from vertical bonding and cohesion between officer and NCO. This social distance and lack of vertical bonding produced a rigid, hierarchically organized army which de facto is incapable of flexibility and creativity under stress.

The implementation of a voluntary army was a historical milestone for Argentina and the greatest challenge in the 1990s. The idea was to address the formation of the soldier of the future, defense needs, resource availability, and demands posed by society. Its adoption led to profound changes, both cultural and structural, ranging from education and training volunteers to the operation of units, equipment, personnel practices, legal developments, etc.

The possibility for individuals to voluntarily choose to join the army as an officer or noncommissioned officer is an innovative and invaluable recruitment alternative not previously employed in Argentina. Another remarkable change is the fact the army decided to offer women the same recruitment opportunities as men, opening a series of positions which will be gradually expanded as the system is consolidated.

Before the administration of Alfonsin, the law regulating the national system of obligatory military service had been changed little since its creation in 1901. According to the Ricchieri Law named for Minister of War Pablo Ricchieri, the official responsible for its creation and promulgation all male citizens aged 20 to 45 were required to perform military service.

An amendment to the organic statute several years later established a lottery system for selection and the terms of service as one year for those who chose to enter the army and two years for those entering the navy. Under the 1912 Senz Pea Law, all male citizens were required to register for service at the age of 18. The same registration list was used for the voter registration roles. After 1945 air force conscripts were obligated to carry out one year of service. Youth were also eligible to perform their service in the National Gendarmerie, the Argentine Naval Prefecture, or the Federal Police.

Most young men, by age 22, had completed their service, after which they became members of the first line of military reserves until age 29. The National Guards was the second line of reserves and consisted of men aged 30 to 39. The Territorial Guard, made up of men aged 40 to 45, composed the third and final group of reserve forces. In the early 1980s the National Guard was composed of some 200,000 men and the Territorial Guard, 50,000. No estimates of size were available with respect to the first line of reserves.

In his 1983 inaugural address, Alfonsin made clear his intention to reorganize the conscription system and stated that the elimination of compulsory military service during peacetime was his administration's long-term goal. The principal motivation behind the president's policy was said to be economic.

The maintenance and administration of the conscription system was known as one of the largest expenses in the military budget. The conscription system had also come under political attack because of allegations of the poor performance of most conscripts in the South Atlantic War.

In June 1984 the government announced that it would cut the total number of conscripts which then numbered over 100,000 by 12 percent and that it would furlough another 40 percent before the regular training cycle ended. By mid-1985 the number of conscripts had been cut by more than 50 percent, to an estimated 45,000 to 50,000.

The army, which had traditionally absorbed the largest numbers of conscripts, was the service most affected by the reductions, and the air force, the least. By mid-1985 the three service commands continued to support AlfonsIn's policy to reduce the number of conscripted personnel, yet other active-duty officers privately voiced their concerns regarding the severity of the cuts.

Data regarding the salaries of army personnel in December 1984 indicated that an army sergeanta noncommisioned officerearned some 42,288 pesos per month; an army captain, 74,220 pesos per month; and a general, 188,000 pesos. It was not specified whether the rank was that of brigadier, major, or lieutenant general. The percentage of salary increases granted tended to be inversely related to one's rank. An August 1984 pay raise gave sergeants an increase of close to 19 percent, and a major general, only 1.5 percent.

It was unlikely that, even considering other benefits provided to the armed forces, a military officer could maintain his standard of living in the face of the high rate of inflation which, in early 1985, was running at more than 1,000 percent annually. In 1985 some maintained that officers ranking as high as lieutenant colonels were unable to get by on their salaries.

Medical benefits, special moving allowances, and housing assistance were also provided to military personnel. Housing assistance was noted as an especially appealing benefit of military service during the 1960s, given the shortage of vacant units and the scarcity of funds for the construction of new homes that had persisted for decades. When military personnel were stationed abroad, a differential pay allowance was also granted. In addition, special pay was given for hazardous duty. Time in grade required for promotion or retirement could be reduced through military service during a declared war or state of siege.

Full pension benefits were given to those who had completed a minimum of 20 years of service and who voluntarily sought retirement. Officers with a minimum of 10 years of service who retired because they failed to make promotions were also granted benefits. Those who were cashiered, regardless of their rank or length of service, were not eligible for retirement benefits. Their dependents, however, were entitled to apply for pension benefits. No minimum term of service was required for benefits granted to officers who sought retirement for reasons of disability.

Between the 1940s and the mid-1980s, retired military officers were able to augment their benefits by employment in military industries and had played a key role in the development of those enterprises. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the highest body within the military's separate judicial system, was composed exclusively of retired officers from each of the three branches of service. Former military officials, who no longer risked dismissal, were also known for their participation in Argentine political affairs.

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Page last modified: 09-01-2015 18:31:48 ZULU