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New military command structure and outsourcing initiatives



(Russian Federation)

An Analytical Review

Volume XVI, Number 13, 27 May 2010



 New military command structure and outsourcing initiatives

Over the past year, Russian leaders have reformed many aspects of the military.  On the organizational front, the military has removed one level of command and restructured into a three-tier command structure encompassing military districts, operational commands, and brigades.  It also has transformed the majority of its regiments and divisions into 85 mobile brigades.  On the personnel side, the military has decreased its active duty military down to one million personnel.  In addition, the defense ministry has pledged to modernize 70% of the military’s aging and decaying hardware by 2020. (1)  So far, the ministry has committed $33 billion to the acquisition of modernized equipment over the next three years. (2)  Although President Medvedev is pleased with the progress of reform, (3) Russia’s defense leaders continue to press forward with new reform initiatives in military organization and basing structure. 


On the organizational front, Russian defense sources have indicated that the defense ministry plans to consolidate the army’s military districts and the navy’s fleets into four operational-strategic commands (OSC). (4)  Geographically divided, the four commands will be called North (HQ in Yekaterinburg), South (HQ in Rostov-na-Donu), East (HQ in Yekaterinburg) and West (HQ in St. Petersburg). (5)  The northern OSC will consist of the Siberian military district, except for a number of units which are moving to the eastern OSC. (6)  The southern OSC will include the North Caucasian military district, the Black Sea, and the Caspian fleets. (7)  The eastern OSC will combine the Far East military district, the Pacific Fleet and a number of units in the Siberian military district. (8)  The western OSC will consolidate the Moscow and Leningrad military districts and the Baltic fleet. (9)


The ministry of defense plans to consolidate six military districts and five naval fleets into the four operational-strategic commands by December 2010. (10)  The consolidation of the fleets and military districts is a major undertaking that undoubtedly will face significant scrutiny.  Former General Staff Chief Yuri Baluyevskiy attempted a similar consolidation effort that was ultimately declared a failure after he left the post in 2008. (11)


So far, Russia’s military commanders have responded positively to the proposed change.  According to Col-Gen Postnikov, commander-in-chief of the ground troops, “[the consolidation] is being considered as a way of increasing the functions of operational-strategic command in a war theatre.” (12)  Lt-Gen Bogdanovskiy, Leningrad Military District commander of troops said, “Establishing an interagency structure in a strategic area is an issue that is long overdue.” (13)  The consolidation appears to continue Defense Minister Serdyukov’s effort to streamline Russia’s post-Soviet military. 


Since 2008, the Ministry of Defense has reduced the Russian officer corps from 355,000 to 150,000. (14)  As part of the overall officer reduction, the consolidation of operational commands provides the defense ministry with an opportunity to draw down a number of senior officer billets.  In addition, the new operational commands may deliver a more streamlined and effective command and control network between the army and the navy.  However, the notable absence of the air force in the proposed consolidation may preclude any significant gains.   


Although current military leaders initially have responded positively to the consolidation, one vocal pundit has not.  According to Colonel Anokhin, vice president of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems, Defense Minister Serdyukov’s “chief aim is the definitive destruction of the army that was based on Russian traditions.” (15)  Stakeholders in the current command structure, as well as entrenched institutional resistance may present significant challenges to the consolidation effort.


In addition to the operational-strategic command initiative, the defense ministry is implementing a new policy that consolidates many military compounds, while closing others.  According to Deputy Defense Minister Naginskiy, the defense ministry already has allocated resources to build two of the new garrisons in the Moscow Military District and the Baltic Fleet.  The larger garrisons will hold 15,000 to 20,000 service members and will be located 70-80 kilometers from the oblast centers so that officers will have access to the city during their off time. (16) 


In addition, the new compounds will outsource their mess halls and guard services. (17)  According to Col-Gen Bulgakov, the Rear Services Chief-Deputy Defense Minster, “all military units and military organizations will be fed using civilian organizations by 2015.” (18)  The military expects the newly contracted messing facilities and guard services to allow service members to focus on combat training instead of being distracted by additional duties.


In the Moscow Military District, Col-Gen Gerasimov said they “are now working on a program for optimization of military compounds.” (19)  The general indicated the new policy would consolidate a number of his 1,500 compounds into a few larger compounds near training ranges, beginning with the Mulino garrison in the Nizhniy Novgorod Region. (20)  According to the general, he expects the new policy to produce significant savings due to reduced transportation, housing, and utility costs. (21) 


The latest reform initiatives are small steps toward achieving President Medvedev’s vision of “an efficient, compact but powerful, well trained army.” (22)  Clearly, many challenges await the latest ministry of defense reforms.  The most significant challenge will be how and whether the air force, strategic missile forces, special forces and other military units such as the internal troops will be incorporated into the new strategic-operational command structure.  Undoubtedly, the debate surrounding this latest reform effort will be worth observing over the coming months. 


Source Notes: 

(1) Medvedev Calls For Building Modern Army Capable of Responding to Any (Adds), ITAR-TASS, 22 Feb 10; OSCE Translated Excerpt via World News Connection.

(2) Ibid.

(3) Medvedev Gives ‘satisfactory’ Mark to Army Reform – Serdyukov, Interfax, 9 Mar 10; OSCE Translated Excerpt via World News Connection.

(4) Merged Russian military districts to form strategic commands – “source,” Interfax-AVN, 28 Apr 10; via Lexis-Nexis Academic.

(5) Ibid.

(6) Russian Army to Form Four Strategic Commands, Interfax-AVN Online, 29 Apr 10; OSCE Translated Excerpt via World News Connection.

(7) Ibid.

(8) Ibid.

(9) Ibid.

(10) Merged Russian military districts, Interfax-AVN, ibid.

(11) Russia: Defense Source Says Four Operational-Strategic Commands Will Be Created, Moskovskiy komsomolets Online, 5 May 10; OSCE Translated Excerpt via World News Connection.

(12) Merged Russian military districts, Interfax-AVN, ibid.

(13) Ibid.

(14) Chief of Russian Gen Staff on army reform, personnel cuts, Interfax-AVN, 22 Dec 09; via Lexis-Nexis Academic.

(15) Russian Pundit: Abolition of Military Districts Will Mean “Elimination” of Army, Svobodnaya presssa, 4 May 10; OSCE Translated Excerpt via World News Connection.

(16) Russia to Build New Type of Military Garrisons, Civilian Run Mess Halls; Vremya novostey Online, 6 May 10; OSCE Translated Excerpt via World News Connection.

(17) Ibid.

(18) Ibid.

(19) Russia to “optimize” number, location of military compounds – general, Ekho Moskvy Radio, 2 May 10; OSCE Translated Excerpt via World News Connection.

(20) Ibid.

(21) Ibid.

(22) Russia Needs “powerful, Well-trained” Military – Medvedev, Interfax, 7 May 10; OSCE Translated Excerpt via World News Connection.


By LtCol Andrew Wallace, USAF (


The thoughts and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the United States Air Force, Department of Defense, or the United States government.


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