Cablegate: Bulgaria: Mladenov Brings Strategic Vision To

DE RUEHSF #0483/01 2381446
O 261446Z AUG 09

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 SOFIA 000483


E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/21/2029

Classified By: Charge d'Affaires Ordway for reasons 1.4 (b)/(d)

1. (C) SUMMARY: The new government is serious about
military reform and cleaning up the MOD. Prime Minister
Borisov picked 37-year old Nikolay Mladenov to carry out this
task. Mladenov is widely respected for his talent,
political savvy and work ethic. His lack of military
experience may be a plus in Bulgaria as he is not personally
beholden to entrenched interests inside the military
establishment. A fluent English-speaker who spent nearly
five years overseas, including stints in Iraq and
Afghanistan, he has worked for NDI, IRI and the Open Society
Foundation, is strongly pro-NATO and committed to continuing
Bulgaria's engagement in international security affairs. He
is eager to deepen U.S.-Bulgaria security cooperation and
increase the impact of Bulgarian overseas deployments. In
the short-term, he will be forced to devote his attention to
cleaning up the legal, structural and budgetary mess left
behind by the previous government. To accomplish this, he
has requested additional IMET or other funds for U.S.
advisory teams to assist in the formulation and
implementation of urgently needed procurement, accounting,
planning and professional education reforms. END SUMMARY.


2. (C) Mladenov takes charge of a military that is short on
funds and has habitually misallocated its limited resources.
The Bulgarian Armed Forces are reliant on outdated equipment,
some of which (particularly in the Air Force) absorb funds
while providing zero capability. It is also still adjusting
to a complicated merger of the MOD and Joint Staff and the
transition to an all-volunteer force. While his lack of
military experience could be an asset in overseeing wrenching
reforms, he has wisely selected three former officers as his
deputies and chief of staff who share his reform agenda, but
who also have the years of personal experience he does not.

3. (C) Mladenov tells us he is excited about the
possibilities of expanding the U.S.-Bulgaria security
partnership. This will only be meaningful if he can set the
MOD's house in order, a task that currently has his full and
undivided attention. The bottom line: Mladenov is the best
chance Bulgaria has had in a decade to turn its military into
a modern capable force. The looming budgetary crisis,
ironically, strengthens his hand in ending corrupt
procurement practices and re-focusing resources on
acquisition and mantainence of real capabilities that will
modernize the armed forces and support the country's
strategic needs.


4. (C) For over a year, the Center for Civil-Military
Relations (CCMR) based out of the Naval Post-graduate School,
has advised Bulgaria on defense transformation and prepared a
series of recommendations on structural reform, defense
planning, procurement and professional training. In line
with these U.S. recommendations, Mladenov said he intends to:

- realign the MOD bureaucracy to consolidate financial
management operations and reduce staff;

- institute a &capabilities-based defense planning model8
in order to link the acquisition of new systems to the
ministry's strategic requirements;

- completely overhaul the defense procurement process to
reduce waste and ensure transparency;

- amend or completely re-write the Defense Law to clarify
chain of command authority in peace and wartime.


5. (C) Unlike the previous Defense Minster, Mladenov is
prepared to fully implement the CCMR recommendations, but
emphasized that his ministry needs continued support from the
organization to ensure that reforms are successfully
implemented. The MOD has proposed a series of CCMR-led
workshops, training events, staff exercises and mentored
courses at its professional development institute to fully
develop and implement necessary policy, planning, budgeting
and educational reforms. Current OSD funding expires at the

SOFIA 00000483 002 OF 002

end of this fiscal year, making additional funds an urgent
priority. Mladenov commented that CCMR's work to date has
been invaluable in identifying the areas most in need of
reform and it would be a shame to end the program prematurely
at precisely the moment the ministry and CCMR's experts are
preparing to develop and implement solutions. In other
countries, CCMR has made use of end-of-year IMET funds to
extend or enlarge its programs. Post requests that if
end-of-year IMET money or similar resources are available,
Bulgaria be given strong consideration for supplemental

6. (C) COMMENT: Although Bulgaria has remained a strong
partner in international security operations (steadily
increasing its forces in Afghanistan despite public opinion)
and increased the scale and tempo of joint military
exercises, the previous government failed to implement
significant internal reform. Corruption and mismanagement
have drained the ministry's coffers and saddled the Bulgarian
Armed Forces, particularly its Air Force, with obsolete,
non-deployable and non-NATO interoperable systems. U.S.
assistance has helped, but in the past, lack of political
will prevented systemic improvement. Mladenov's presence
creates a rare window of opportunity for deep and enduring
reform, particularly on defense procurements. Modest
increases in U.S. assistance to Bulgaria at this crucial
juncture will have greater impact than ever, helping Bulgaria
to transform its entire defense acquisitions process and
begin proper allocatioQof its defense resources. For the
first time, political will exists to end wasteful and corrupt
procurements, terminate obsolete systems and bring planing,
budgeting and education practices up to NATO standards.
Mladenov seeks and deserves our support. END COMMENT.

7. (C) BIO NOTES: Although Mladenov did not serve in the
military, he graduated from King's College London with an MA
in War Studies and is a respected voice in Bulgaria on
international security issues. In the 1990,s he held
positions in Sofia as a program director for the Open Society
Foundation and as a consultant for the World Bank, NDI and
IRI. Mladenov entered the political scene at 28 and became
an MP for the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) in 2001. He
was seen as a protege of UDF leader Nadezhda Mihailova, a
previous Minister of Foreign Affairs. Through skill and his
ties with Mihailova, he rose quickly through the UDF ranks,
and was named Deputy Party Chairman in 2004. Mladenov
resigned his post following the resignation of party leader
Mihailova in 2005. Unlike Mihailova, however, he left the
UDF a year later to join Citizens for the European
Development of Bulgaria (GERB), then an unknown new political

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