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Italy - Military Personnel

"Currently, Italy is ready to reduce the armed forces from 190 thousand. Up to 150 thousand people. But it may not be sufficient. If the current financial trend continues, the optimum size will be 130-140 thousand men" according to the Italian military editor of the magazine Rivista Italiana Difesa Pietro Batachi in 2011.

In early 2012 Italy planned to cut defence spending by 28 percent, and troop strength from 183,000 to 150,000. At that time, the Army included 107,000 soldiers, the Navy 34,000 mariners, and the Air Force some 43,000 airmen. In February 2012 Defense Minister Giampaolo Di Paola said the country needed to cut the militarys size by about 30,000 troops and 10,000 civilians over the next decade. Civilian staff will be reduced from 30,000 to 20,000.

As of 2009 the Army intended to downsize to 112,000 volunteers organized in 11 maneuver brigades. In addition the Army continues to acquire modern, more deployable armaments and materiel. The sizes of the Italian Navy and Air Force are 34,000 and 48,000 personnel respectively. While the Navy strength should remain relatively unchanged, the Air Force will reduce to approximately 44,000. The Carabinieri is now recognized as a separate, full-fledged, branch of the armed forces. With its internal security counter-terrorism role and its massive external peace support mission, the all-volunteer Carabinieri will remain approximately 112,000 personnel (roughly the same size as the down-sized Army) as the other services reorganize and downsize.

The draft had multiplied the distance between the Army and the Country and contributed to the declining legitimacy of the Italian military Institution, by sending every year into the Society true 'negative communicators', tens of thousands of young men who had only known in the Army the most macroscopic disorders, the internal loss of organization, the unpleasant episodes of what was called 'nonnismo' and the absence of ideals of any kind. The state could no longer seek to legitimize the draft on claims that the Army provided important functions, such as socialization, and the formation of the character and education. These tasks had been assumed by other social structures.

The Italian Parliament decided to end conscription in November 2000. Originally, it was planned to end conscription by 2007, but the transformation process into professional armed forces went faster than anticipated. On 29 July 2004, Parliament finally approved Law 4233-B, relating to the "early suspension of compulsory military service and regulation of previously enlisted voluntary servicemen". Decree n. 226 of 23 August 2004 finally set the date for the transition to a fully professional military for 1 January 2005. Accordingly, young men born after 1985 were no longer called up for military service. The last conscripts were called up in February 2004 and since 1 January 2005 the Italian armed forces consist of professional soldiers only. Italian citizens who intend to repatriate in order to perform voluntary military service are not eligible for the benefits stated in decree 433/66, which governs repatriation procedures at the expense of the Treasury for the sole purpose of obligatory military service.

By abolishing the draft the MoD achieved two objectives: it increased the pool of professional troops available for out-of-country contingency operations and reduced overtime costs. Of course, a significant portion of the defense budget was used to provide incentives to achieve and maintain an all-voluntary force. Since this new regime was implemented, the number of applications for enlistment into the armed forces was by far higher than the available vacancies. This is a reflection of a high desire for young Italians to find employment in the armed forces. The low acceptance rate enables the military to be more selective regarding who serves on active duty, thus helping to increase the professionalism of the armed forces.

During the Cold War compulsory service continued to be reluctantly accepted as an inevitable part of national life. In earlier decades some young men emigrated to avoid military service, but those who remained generally took a positive attitude toward it. Until the 1960s there had been little sympathy toward conscientious objection to mandatory service; but, by late 1972 antimilitarist sentiment among some constituents had impelled the parliament to legalize conscientious objection and to specify alternative forms of service.

All major political parties, including the Italian Communist Party (Partito Communista Italiano PCI) had supported the mandatory conscription on the grounds that a predominantly conscript military system will mirror the political loyalties of the entire population and also reduce the possibility of any particular group being able to use the armed forces for political purposes. Among many Italians, military service was still viewed, in the mid 1980s, as experience helpful not only in overcoming deficiencies in education and vocational training but also in instilling a sense of patriotism.

Men become eligible for military service at the age of 18. In 1985 the tour of duty for the army and air force was reduced to 12 months and for the navy to 18 months. At the end of the required tour of duty, conscripts entered the reserves and remained eligible for mobilization until the age of 45. All reserves are subjected to periodic recall for brief periods of refresher training.

In the mid 1980s the armed forces were having difficulty retaining NCOs with scientific and technical training. There was some sentiment within the officer corps favoring an all volunteer service. Nevertheless, officers tended to oppose an end to conscription for fear that such a move would lead to reduced appropriations, as well as diminished power and prequisites.

Concern about the continued efficacy of the draft was reflected not only in the 1985 White Paper but also in the popular press throughout the early 1980s. The primary popular concern was that the draft was not cost effective. In an average year nearly 65 percent of the Italian defense budget was allocated for personnel costs salaries, housing, and training. Training 200,000 draftees annually and then returning them to the civilian sector reinforced the negative perception that the expense of training was not economically justifiable. The White Paper also discussed the difficulty of raising adequate manpower for the armed services. Because of a diminishing pool of draftable males (from 552,000 males born in 1964 to 319,000 in 1981), the White Paper stressed that the conscription system would need to be changed by the year 2000. Possibilities for change included an extension of the mandatory period of service, acceptance of an all volunteer military, and allowing women to voluntarily enlist in the armed forces, which in 1985 remained all male.




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