What’s new in the Ministry of Defense statistics

After eighteen months break, the Russian Ministry of Defense published the official departmental statistics for the years 2014 and 2015 regarding the number of military retirees, provisioned in paragraph 7.1 of the federal statistical work plan. The information was published in the “Open Data” section on the official web site.

According to the data published, as of 1 January 2015, 1 million 156 thousand 352 people had pension protection fr om the Ministry of Defense, of whom 992 thousand 334 people (85.8%) received long service pension, 35 thousand 903 people (3.1%) — disability pension, and 128 thousand 115 people (11.1%) — survivors’ pension. During 2014, the number people receiving long service pension increased by 20 thousand 187 people (2.1%), mainly due to the registration of the Crimean Federal District’s military retirees (25 thousand 13 people) and the increase of military retirees’ number in the Far Eastern Federal District (by 1 thousand 174 people). In all other federal districts and the Baltic countries, the number of the Ministry of Defense pensioners decreased over the past year. Meanwhile, during ten years, starting from 1 January 2006, the overall number of pensioners of the Ministry of Defense has not changed much, having increased by 1.2% (13 thousand 752 people).

However, the edition, which aims, in fact, to restore the tradition of the Russian military statistics interrupted in 1914, confronted from the outset with a known obstacle — the national practice to classify as secret the facts that everybody knows anyway. That is why there are no data on the number of military personnel in there, as well as civilian personnel and probably at the same time the Ministry of Defense pensioners. The latter is particularly significant because the corresponding number as of 1 January 2013 (1 million 127 thousand 671 people) was officially published openly in October of the same year. This practice greatly devalues both the efforts of the department leadership to overcome the sheer statistical backwardness accumulated over 100 years and the work of all the Ministry of Defense staff involved in the collection, processing and preparation of departmental data for the publication.

The section of international military statistics is compiled based on foreign sources, but in the case of Russia, the official staff size number of 1 million people is used to evaluate the manpower of the Armed Forces (AF). At the same time, the statistical yearbook “The Military Balance” which served as a source evaluated the number as 845 thousand people. Although on the results of 2013, the Russian Ministry of Defense reported that “the manning of AF, for the first time in recent years, reached the figure of 82.7%”, i.e. the actual number reached 827 thousand people, this fact was ignored in the new yearbook. Instead, the officially set upper lim it of AF staff size was indicated, which is statistically meaningless in this particular application.

Despite these shortcomings, the 2013 statistical data book by the Ministry of Defense represents our defense department’s significant step in the right direction. In case of success in overcoming the barrier of contrived secrecy and incorporating military justice (criminal) statistics and statistics of accidents, it will become a valuable source of information and management tool not only for the military and political leadership of the country, but also for the society.

Vasily Zatsepin — research fellow