If the bill passes, university graduates, who currently are required to serve a short-term national service of six months, will have to serve for 12 months. The service duration for males who have not graduated from a higher-education institution will remain 15 months.
At a press conference held on April 29, Chief of General Staff Gen. İlker Başbuğ announced that a change in the military system was being planned, adding that he was against a system in which individuals who pay a fee to the military could serve shorter terms. Stating that the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) was having difficulty recruiting, Başbuğ said the military is currently able to meet only about 65 percent of its need for troops. He also signaled that the military had plans to terminate the short-term service option for graduates of higher-education institutions.
The new bill, submitted to the Ministry of National Defense last week, seeks to transform the recruitment system into a dynamic structure by introducing drastic changes to determining the needs of the military, including manpower, the process of recruitment, training, salaries, resignations and dismissals. It introduces gradual changes to be completed by 2015.
The draft leaves all tasks requiring specialization to professional soldiers, but it is still treated as a mixed system because it relies on compulsory conscripts in meeting the military's need for soldiers in other areas. The professionalization of specialized tasks is the continuation of a 2007 regulation issued by the General Staff which transformed six brigades under the Gendarmerie and the Land Forces commands to completely professional units.
The TSK, which has traditionally recruited conscripts to meet its demand for doctors, will be hiring doctors on a contract basis from now on. The new draft also makes it more difficult for specialized personnel to leave the army. Officers wishing to resign arbitrarily will have to pay a fee to leave.
Professionalization process speeds up
In addition to the changes being introduced to the recruitment system, the TSK will also speed up its work on being transformed into a professional army. A unit of 40,000 professional troops will be established as part of the ongoing professional service project.
Unspecialized troops will not play a role in any stage of the fight against terrorism. Ranger brigades recruited for anti-terrorism units will be made up of professional troops or specialized first class privates with at least two years of training. Commanders will be appointed only from officers hired on a contract basis, ending the process of appointing officers who have not been contracted and who are university graduates on long-term national service.
Turkey currently has more than 10,000 professional troops who have been recruited to ranger brigades. The TSK's draft envisions a professional unit of 40,000.
According to the new draft, first class privates who join the fight against terrorism will have to at least have a high school degree. These individuals will have a monthly salary of TL 1,500, which will go to as high as TL 2,500 with compensation and benefits. The number of personnel in the Special Forces Command, currently at 5,000, will first be increased to 7,000 and then to 10,000. To serve in anti-terrorism activities, troops here will have to have undergone at least one and a half years of basic training. The Special Forces Command will set up four stations in the cities of Batman, Siirt, Şırnak and Tunceli to better coordinate anti-terrorism efforts.
The salaries of professional troops in the Special Forces Command will range between TL 1,600 and TL 3,500.
The draft introduces no changes to the system of shorter military service for individuals who have worked abroad for 1,095 days. Such individuals have the right to serve for about a month after paying a fee. The fees are currently set at 5,112 euros for individuals under 38 and at 7,668 euros for those above 38. Extending this option to individuals who have not worked abroad is, for now, out of the question.