New bill to allow employment of civilian advisors by General Staff

May 09, 2012, Wednesday/ 15:24:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

A new bill submitted to Parliament by the government on Wednesday suggests vital changes to the organization and structure of the military, including allowing civilian experts to serve as contracted advisors to the chief of General Staff on military strategy and affairs.

The government submitted the new bill as part of an ongoing process of civilianizing the military that has gained momentum in recent years. If the new bill passes, up to 10 experts on military affairs could be employed at the request of the chief of General Staff.

The bill includes details on how the recruitment of conscripted soldiers will be made and the conditions for immunity from performing compulsory military service -- including delaying military service for university students -- among many other changes.

The new bill brings a symbolic but significant change to conscription; the recruitment of soldiers will be carried out by the Ministry of Defense instead of the military if the bill is approved by Parliament. The military currently has its own departments in every city across the country to coordinate the conscription process, including medical checks for young people to decide whether they are eligible to perform military service.

According to the new bill, the military department which oversees the recruitment procedure for new soldiers will not give the candidates medical exams. Instead, family physicians will now be able to undertake medical checks for the soldiers, taking military procedures into account.

However, the authority with the final say over eligibility based on health or physical conditions will be the relevant department of military hospitals.

The new bill brings another vital change: College graduates will be able to work as an officer or non-commissioned officer in the military by signing contracts after the completion of their compulsory military service. After being deemed eligible for an officer position, candidates will receive officer training before starting their service.

This change marks a fundamental shift, as according to strict military laws, only graduates from military academies could previously become military officers.

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