The Austrian army is in so much financial trouble that its regiments cannot afford fuel and soldiers are forced to walk everywhere because vehicles are so scarce.
Gerald Klug, the Social Democrat defence minister, has said that the army “is no longer financially viable” with its current budget, according to a report in The Local, a news website.
The report says his staff have done an analysis of the army’s current saving plan and found that by autumn it won’t even be able to afford its fuel bill.
The army’s total budget is €1.948bn, with €1.3bn going on personnel costs.
There will be no investment in the army this year, and a plan to build new barracks in Melk, an ancient city in Lower Austria near the Danube, has been scrapped. During World War II, a subcamp of Mauthausen concentration camp was located there.
The army has dramatically reduced its motor fleet. Repairs on the all-terrain Pinzgauer utility vehicles and Puch G four-wheel drive vehicles, fashionable in Britain as the Mercedes-Benz G-class, have been put on hold as the parts are too expensive.
The army’s Black Hawk helicopter fleet is also in danger of being grounded by 2020 if the defence force cannot afford an urgent update by the manufacturer Sikorsky that will cost between €50m and €80m.
In Klagenfurt vehicles are so scarce that, according to the report, soldiers in the 7th Brigade are forced to walk everywhere.
Some troops due to be deployed to deal with severe flooding have been delayed because civilian buses must be rented to transport them to the affected areas.
Austria is a neutral, non-Nato country, but in 1995 it joined the Nato-led Partnership for Peace (PfP), an organisation meant to foster trust between the Nato allies, other European countries, and the countries of the former Soviet Union.
While Austria has no military obligations under the PfP, the programme touches on virtually every field of Nato activity, including defence-related work, defence reform, defence policy and planning.
Austrian forces have worked alongside Nato forces in security and peacekeeping operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and currently are deployed in Afghanistan and Kosovo.