President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Colleagues! We are continuing the practice of holding on-location meetings of the State Council Presidium.
We will discuss just one topic today, but it is a difficult one, and one that is very important for our country: the challenges, current state, and improvement of our system of pre-conscription military training for young people.
I was just at the Airborne Troops Military Academy, at the regional call-up office. Everything there looks fairly good. The Academy looks fantastic, and everything at the regional call-up office looks good as well. But we know that preparation for the army begins long before conscription into the academy. In fact, preparation begins while young people are still in school. And this preparation concerns education and health – both physical health and moral health.
It is a well-known problem that there are not enough young people prepared for military service. Unfortunately, there are increasingly fewer of them as time goes by. Over the past 20 years, the number of individuals fit for military service fell by nearly one third. Moreover, over 40 percent of pre-conscripts do not meet health and physical fitness requirements to serve in the army.
Let me remind you that according to current military strategy through 2020, three out of four servicemen in the army and navy will remain conscripts. Their physical endurance, sense of responsibility, and education will determine whether or not they are skilled enough to use up-to-date technology, whether they can go through the hardships of military service and be ready for any threats that our country may face, to which the army must respond.
We need to create an efficient, modern system of pre-conscription military training for young people. To do that, we need complex, multi-aspect solutions. We need good coordination between federal agencies, the regions, local government, educational institutions, and public organisations.
I know that the State Council’s working group has done a thorough job of analysing these issues. But I would still like to outline our framework, our goals, and our main positions.
What must we do? First, we must work seriously on modernising the system of physical education and technical training for pre-conscripted youth. Here, we have our own, unique experience. It is not ideal, but it is unique, and it was created in our country.
Not so long ago, millions of people attended activities at DOSAAF (Voluntary Society of Assistance to the Army, the Air Force and the Navy) centres where they were taught and trained in military professions. Some of our finest pilots and engineers had their very first experiences in after-school clubs, making model airplanes. Unfortunately, over the last ten years, there was a 25-fold decrease in the number of young people practicing physical activities at the ROSTO (Russian Defence Sports-Technical Organization), the organisation that has succeeded the DOSAAF. So in other words, this work is no longer being done on an adequate scale, although this organisation has the technology and the facilities to train conscripts. It is true that we are lacking modern training resources, modern equipment, and simulators. But a great deal also depends on the efforts of those who are running these organisations.
Sports aviation is on the brink of collapse. I spoke about this not long ago. Gliding and skydiving are also on the decline. These are lost opportunities for our country and for our young generation.
I would like to bring this issue to the attention of the Defence Ministry and the Ministry of Sport [,Tourism and Youth Policy]. After all, for many young people the opportunity to practice military and technical sports for free may be both a springboard and a motivation to pursue pre-conscription military training.
It is also clear that given current financial crisis, it is difficult to tackle these problems, but we must address them nevertheless; we have no choice. I am therefore giving instructions to draw up a list of necessary governmental measures to support aviation and technical activities and applied military-oriented sports, which will then be approved by the [Russian Federation] Government.
Second, we need competent and thought-out decisions to address the issue of military and patriotic education for our youth. This is an age-old topic, but a very difficult one. It is no secret that many schoolchildren already have a negative view of military service. Often, they are actually afraid to go serve in the army or the navy. These kinds of attitudes must be changed, both during service (an issue that must be addressed in the Armed Forces) and before that, using media and other means. But most importantly, we must make real changes within the army, so that it does not frighten people.
I know that in many of our country’s regions, we have people with interesting and useful experiences of working in this area. I suggest that we develop and implement regional programs of pre-conscription military training for young people, partially financed through regional budget resources. Indicators of youth preparedness for military service can serve as criteria (among others) for evaluating the effectiveness of acting authorities. Because ultimately, this indicator will also reflect the health of our young people.
The third topic I would like to bring up is a key element in pre-conscription military training: teaching our young people the fundamentals of military service and military professions. This is particularly relevant given that with the recent reductions in mandatory service terms, there is not enough time to prepare specialists within the army. Currently, only 70 hours are being devoted to this in the basic school curriculum. Experience in several regions has shown that decent results can be reached even with limited time. We must work with school curricula, supplementing them with extracurricular activities.
I would also like to say that I am giving instructions to improve military technology equipment within educational institutions that provide pre-conscription military training for young people, and to include them in our nation’s federal general education standards.
I have outlined the general issues regarding the work ahead of us. Naturally, the creation of an effective system for military and patriotic education cannot be achieved in just a few days, or even a few months. Nevertheless, it is something that we must work on. We can all see the way this is done in other countries, not formally, but very effectively. In the past, we did the same. It is true that our past experience had a different ideological foundation, but overall, that experience was quite positive. Serving in the army and defending our Motherland are certainly values that we must promote and protect.
I think that we also need to discuss the development of a federal system of youth pre-conscription military training until 2020, and we should think about establishing a special inter-departmental commission to coordinate this type of work.
There are many suggestions, and we probably did not work out the details of all of them. Let’s discuss their expediency. I am ready to listen to new ideas and hear about the experience accumulated and available in many of our regions.