19:49 GMT +313 December 2017
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    A female army recruit attends a base training at the armored battalion in Setermoen, northern Norway on August 11, 2016.

    Two Birds With One Stone: Norway Hopes to Bolster Defense, Save Billions

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    Of late, Norwegian defense bosses have been scratching their heads over the future of the country's armed forces. The implausible master plan is to boost the nation's defensive capability while at the same time curtailing the expenditure. Incidentally, it also features a rehash of Cold War-era ideas.

    In short, Norway intends to make use of the somewhat controversial concept of "less is more." The drastic savings will be made possible through fewer conscripts and fewer employees.

    "It is fully possible to strengthen the Army and the Home Guard without breaking the economic framework of the Armed Forces," Brigadier Aril Brandvik told Norwegian national broadcaster NRK.

    A new conscription with fewer draftees, more assignments, special recruitment schools and experienced reservists could save the Norwegian state coffers up to 400 million NOK ($47mln) annually, which amounts to 8 billion NOK ($940mln) in a 20-year perspective, Aril Brandvik suggested.

    Brandvik is leader the work of the so-called Land Power Study, which is tasked with setting forth ideas for the Norwegian Army and the Home Guard to improve their responsiveness, combat power, mobility and endurance. The extra funds will be spent on strengthening the country's military power.

    Instead, a reform of conscription is on the menu. The key proposal is to enable a constant intake of new recruits, as well as re-establish old recruitment schools. Draftees will therefore be summoned several times throughout the year, thus providing the Armed Forces with a viable pool of recruits.

    "Before 1990 we had our own recruitment schools in southern Norway, which produced units that later contributed to the permanent forces in northern Norway. In essence, this is a variation of what we propose. We need to shorten the response time and therefore we look back at the system that existed prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall," Aril Brandvik said.

    Another key element is maintaining a well-trained reservist force available for battle within 48 hours. The objective is for the Armed Forces to take care of a possible adversary in at least one part of the country pending the support from allied forces, in particular NATO and the US.

    Yet another crucial provision for Norway is to execute its foreign obligations to its allies, even if they may temporarily weaken the country's military capacity.

    "If we expect our allies to stand up for us, we must also be able to stand up for our allies," Brandvik said, anticipating the dispatch of a Norwegian company from the Telemark battalion to Lithuania, as part of NATO's buildup in the Baltic States and Poland, which is largely ascribed to Russia's alleged "aggression."

    ​​The final report by Brandvik's working group will be presented in October as a separate proposition in connection with the state budget. So far, the possibility of a merger between the Army and the Home Guard has been ruled out.

    The Norwegian Armed Forces comprises around 23,000 personnel, including civilian employees, and have a full-mobilization combat strength of about 83,000.

    The Norwegian Home Guard is a rapid mobilization force in the Norwegian military founded after WW2. The Home Guard has a peacetime personnel number of 1,200, which can be expanded to 45,000 during wartime. Comprised mostly of locals, the Home Guard is divided into smaller units covering municipalities and is said to be suited for guerilla warfare and sabotage.

    In November 2017, Norway adopted a new Long Term Defense Plan, which focuses on four priorities: strengthening national defense and NATO's collective defense, contributing to international crisis management and developing the total defense concept.

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