Ministry of Defense responds to MP by classifying data about reserve forces for 30 years

August 11, 2017

soldier
Photo: Budapest Beacon/Balázs Pivarnyik

The Ministry of Defense has classified all data regarding reservists in the Hungarian Defense Force for 30 years, reports Magyar Nemzet.

Independent MP Márta Demeter filed a request with the Ministry of Defense to retrieve data about the size and composition of the Hungarian Defense Force’s volunteer reserve force. In his reply undersecretary Tamás Vargha wrote that based on the 2011 army law any data regarding the structure and personnel of the Hungarian Defense Force are “not public” for 30 years from their creation due to military and national security interests.

Oddly, in January and February 2016 Minister of Defense István Simicskó provided a detailed list – including rank, age and cadre personnel – of volunteer reservists at Demeter’s request. According to 2016 data, some 3,791 people served in the army reserve voluntary of which 82 percent, some 3,109, were former service pensioners (an abolished form of pension that used to provide pension to military, police and fire department personnel based on their years of service). More than 2,000 of the reserve personnel were over 50 years old. According to the data, in September 2015, out of the 436 people who were interested in joining the reserve force, some 66 undertook aptitude tests, and only nine were contracted.

Based on last year’s data, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s and Minister Simicskó’s dreams of a territorial reserve defense force are not likely to materialize soon. Last year the Ministry of Defense decided to set up a new branch of reserve forces in addition to the already existing operations reserve (whose cadre can keep their civil jobs) and the defense reserve (whose cadre guards military objects and are employed by the Hungarian Defense Force). According to the initial plans, the territorial reserve defense force would have a company in all 197 administrative districts. This ambitious plan would need thousands of new volunteers nationwide.

According to Demeter the reason behind the classification of data on the reserve forces is to hide the fact that nothing has changed since January 2016, and still very few people want to join the reserve forces. Demeter said the government uses the 2011 modification of the army law liberally to hide this data from taxpayers. “There is no such category as ‘not public’ in the legal system. If an information is important from a national security point of view, it must be a classified information that has different levels of availability that is stipulated in law,” Demeter concluded.

The Hungarian Defense Force struggles with a serious staff shortage. The army officially acknowledged the existence of 5,000 unfulfilled positions in 2015. However, Hungary’s defense force may by lacking as many as 8,000 personnel according to one retired general.