Cablegate: Bulgarian Military Modernization Plan Positive But


DE RUEHSF #0087/01 0420842
O 110842Z FEB 08

C O N F I D E N T I A L SOFIA 000087



E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/11/2017

REF: A. A) 07 SOFIA 1122
B. B) 07 SOFIA 1219
C. C) 07 SOFIA 1271

Classified By: Ambassador John Beyrle for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

1. (C) Summary: A new Bulgarian Ministry of Defense plan
for military modernization calls for a reduction of 3,000 to
5,000 service members, elimination or closure of certain
unnecessary weapon systems and facilities, and the
integration of the Ministry of Defense and the General Staff.
The full details of the plan have not been made public, but
information provided to the Embassy reveals a more positive
and ambitious plan than expected. It is likely, however,
that the Minister of Defense will not force difficult reforms
on the services, and as a result, some recommended measures
will be watered down and cuts may be made on the basis of
political expediency rather than strategic rationale. The
reduction in troops, for instance, may be achieved through
attrition rather than targeted cuts of obsolete systems.
Integration of the top-heavy and stove-piped General Staff
into the Ministry of Defense is also likely to be only
cosmetic (or skipped entirely) due to the Minister's
reluctance to challenge the generals. The plan notably
avoids taking a position on controversial procurements such
as French Corvette-class ships or multi-role fighters. A
delegation led by Deputy Minister of Defense Sonya Yankulova
will travel to Brussels for meetings with NATO defense
planners on 11 FEB. This is an important opportunity for the
alliance to encourage Bulgaria to continue on the right track
and to push for meaningful and targeted reforms, rather than
unfocused cost-cutting. End Summary.


2. (C) Mid-level MOD experts involved with the development
of the plan have told us that approximately 9,000 positions
will be eliminated as a result of the reforms, with around
8,300 of these cuts coming from the uniformed military and
the bulk of these from the Land Forces. (Bulgaria's current
armed forces number approximately 37,000 with the Land Forces
comprising around 20,000.) The majority of the positions to
be cut are currently unfilled. In other words, although
9,000 positions may be cut, only 3000-5000 actual service
members would be let go.

3. (C) What is most significant is where these cuts will
fall. The Embassy has made a steady push (Ref A, B) for
Bulgaria to end its wasteful legacy programs such as
submarines, coastal defense systems and out-dated air-defense
systems that are incapable of differentiating between allied
and enemy aircraft. Our understanding is that some of these
programs will be cut back in the course of the reform effort
but there is the danger that the majority of the cuts in
personnel will simply be achieved through attrition. This is
particularly problematic since our sources indicate that
higher rates of attrition will occur at lower ranks,
exacerbating an already top-heavy military structure.

4. (C) The integration of the Ministry of Defense and the
General Staff is the most ambitious portion of the MOD,s
plan, drawn from, its authors say, the best practices of
other nations, particularly the United States and New
Zealand. Clearly, a great amount of waste and redundancy
could be reduced through this merger and the tremendous
divide in culture and operations that currently exists
between the two organizations could be narrowed or
eliminated. According to the plan, a procurement office and
an audit office/inspectorate would be kept independent, while
other offices from the two organizations such as
communications, travel, protocol, human resources, planning,
policy, etc. would be merged. The new hierarchy is designed
so that decision-making authority and consensus could be
reached at lower levels. The State Secretary for Defense (a
civilian) and the CHOD would be equals and would represent
the two highest ranking officials beneath the Defense
Minister and a single Deputy Minister. Predictably, the
General Staff has opposed this plan, since it is seen as
reducing the CHOD,s status in the Ministry. The transition
to a structure with a single Deputy Minister (versus six in
the current format) also ruffled feathers since many DepMins
would be forced to accept a demotion in name if not any
actual reduction in authority.

5. (C) Wisely, the authors of the plan did not make
specific procurement recommendations in their plan, but

rather focused on what capabilities Bulgaria needed to
possess in order to be an effective participant in
international security operations. The stated goal is for
40% of Bulgaria's forces to be deployable, with six to eight
percent deployed at any given time. (A rough estimate of
Bulgaria's current situation is that two percent of its total
or approximately 3.6% of its Land Forces are currently
deployed overseas.) The planners suggested that Bulgaria
ultimately wants to be able to deploy a full battalion and
one company, and to do this estimates it needs a Land Force
strength of five battalions.


6. (C) Prime Minister Stanishev ordered a revision of
Bulgaria's "Plan 2015" for military modernization in October
2007. The public rationale was to re-energize the defense
reform process and to update the five year-old plan which was
seen as increasingly irrelevant. But behind the scenes, it
was clear that Stanishev ordered the review with an eye
toward reducing the share of GDP allotted to defense and
buying time to respond to mounting French pressure on
Bulgaria to purchase an over one billion dollar package of
French ships. For the moment, it appears the PM has been
successful in holding off the French. In December 2007,
Bulgaria bought two used frigates and a minesweeper from
Belgium instead, and Defense Minister Bliznakov said publicly
that the Corvettes were not in Bulgaria's near-term plans.
Still it was made clear to MOD,s defense planning team that
recommendations for transformation must involve troop cuts
and base closures and should plan for shrinking resources.
In its current form, the authors estimate the new plan will
save approximately 70-120 million USD.

7. (C) Bulgarian planners (reporting to DepMin Yankulova)
prepared a surprisingly ambitious plan which calls for
substantial troop cuts, an integrated MOD and General Staff
(based on a hybrid of the US and New Zealand military
organizations) and a move away from decade-spanning,
procurement-centric planning toward a shorter-term,
capabilities-based planning model. While full details are
not yet public, the thrust of the plan is forward-leaning and
in line with Embassy advice to focus on interoperability,
deployability, reducing waste, avoiding mega-procurements and
maintaining niche capabilities.

8. (C) Although the authors of the plan continue to lobby
for full implementation of their work, they have expressed
doubt that Defense Minister Bliznakov (who has drawn the ire
of his party's leadership and is perennially rumored to be
replaced in the next cabinet reshuffle) has the will to push
forward with far-reaching reforms. Others involved in the
creation of the new plan suggest that, although Bliznakov is
loath to make waves or push too strongly against the General
Staff, he is also anxious for the plan to be viewed as a
success. The concern is that "success" will be judged by top
political decision-makers solely in terms of finances,
without regard for the long-term consequences for the


9. (C) A delegation led by Deputy Minister of Defense Sonya
Yankulova will travel to Brussels for meetings with NATO
defense planners on 11 FEB. The following week the plan will
be discussed in a Defense Council meeting of all Deputy
Ministers and senior generals. Depending on the degree of
friction within the Ministry, the plan is expected to proceed
to the Council of Ministers for final approval in March.

10. (C) COMMENT: While the thrust of the Bulgarian plan is
positive, the measure of its success or failure will depend
on the specifics of where troop reductions are made and which
capabilities are maintained. The MOD appears to have
internalized consistent embassy engagement on improving
interoperability and deployability, reducing waste, avoiding
mega-procurements and maintaining niche capabilities, as
these themes are all echoed in the new plan. We strongly
recommend that these priorities be reinforced during Deputy
Minister Yankulova's visit to Brussels this week. Further
embassy and NATO engagement will be necessary to present the
strategic rationale for targeted cuts and to ensure that the
positive measures outlined in the plan are not made
meaningless or even counterproductive through poor
implementation. END COMMENT.

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