Professional army

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World map of army forms :
  • no (own) armed forces
  • no conscription (volunteer army / professional army / suspended)
  • still conscription, but abolition in less than three years already decided
  • Conscription
  • Conscription but less than 20% of the age group (both sexes) are actually drafted.
  • not specified
  • A professional army is an army whose staff does not include conscripts , but only temporary and professional soldiers on a voluntary basis.


    Instead of the term professional army, various terms are used or suggested in order to emphasize or clarify one or the other aspect.

    Volunteer army

    Professional army implies an organization, similar to the police or border guards, in which most members are employed until retirement age. Such an armed forces structure cannot be realized, however, as this organization would become obsolete in the medium to long term and could lose its functionality. According to a NATO representative, the term volunteer force should be used to clarify this. Even the SPD - Bundestag deputy Manfred Opel , Brigadier General a. D., advocates a clear distinction between the volunteer army and the professional army.

    The term volunteer army clearly refers to armed forces that are composed exclusively of voluntary professional officers and NCOs, voluntary professional soldiers and volunteer temporary soldiers and are on duty.

    Professional army

    The terms professional army and professional army are often used synonymously. The terms army and army relate in the literal sense of the word to the land forces including their own air forces. Together with the air and naval forces , also known as the air force and navy, these form the total armed forces .


    The advantage of a professional army over a conscript army is that the soldiers' level of training can be better optimized to meet contemporary requirements. In addition, there is a reduction in fluctuation in specialized areas of responsibility, which, compared to conscription armies, significantly promotes the accumulation of empirical knowledge and the further development of "best practices". The classic advantage of the conscript army , a larger number of soldiers , lost its importance in the period after the Cold War at the latest - at least for developed industrialized countries - as both modern war scenarios and conflict patterns as well as the politically prescribed tasks of the armed forces have changed permanently . Equally important in this change are developments in armament technology, especially in the field of information technology.

    Advantages of a professional army are:

    • faster availability
    • Although a professional army is seen as an economically better solution and also fits better with the principles of a market economy, it is at least controversial whether professionalization and a reduction in size that is made possible actually lead to a lower burden on budget funds.

    The key points of the discussion today are:
    Volume figures and thus personnel costs
    : It is disputed whether the increase in attractiveness generally considered necessary for recruitment reasons, including any necessary advertising expenses, consume the expected savings for (low-paid) conscripts or not.
    Equipment issues
    : There is considerable potential for savings in the area of equipment required for training purposes. Because the training needs of a professional army for regeneration requires significantly less effort than the extensive training of recruits for a conscript army.
    Properties: A further reduction in the number of locations due to smaller numbers, the abandonment of superfluous training and further education facilities and the streamlining of the management organization, which experts consider necessary, lead to a considerable reduction in the resulting operating costs.


    The following have negative effects:

    • a tendency towards lower political inhibitions before the deployment of the army, since “only” volunteer soldiers are affected and because the potentially affected group of electoral citizens from the social environment of the soldiers is marginalized.
    • the less controllable development and strengthening of a corps spirit based exclusively on so-called "soldier virtues" with tendencies towards independence and the associated loss of political and social control (" state within the state ").
    • there is no imparting of military knowledge to the general population, which in the event of a military coup would, however, guarantee the population's ability to defend itself.
    • Increasing effort for recruiting young people and salaries in order to make the soldier's profession more attractive than civilian professions.
    • Loss of the army's ability to grow rapidly in the event of unforeseen threats to the national territory, which is also of increasingly less importance due to today's technically sophisticated weapons, since conscripts do not learn how to use modern weapon systems.
    • Elimination of community service : the argument is disputed as to whether the loss of community service providers can result in higher costs for the social system. Conscription supporters assume that the costs will rise, supporters of a volunteer army argue with the economic effects (ratio of training and deployment time, "absence" of those doing community service from work) and that the costs will be reduced by the absence. On the occasion of the referendum on compulsory military service in Austria in 2013 , the amount of the costs of military and community service was used as an argument by both supporters and opponents.

    Example USA

    A good example of the controversial experience with professional armed forces is the United States . In principle, conscription was and is still valid in the USA. During the Vietnam War, however, there were demonstrations against the war and the government, and large parts of the population (mostly young, conscripts) rose up against the state. For fear of being sent to Vietnam, many young men tried (as in the course of the Second World War ) to emigrate, to begin studying, to join the National Guard or to go into hiding, so that there was a shortage of recruits .

    Since then, conscription has been "suspended" in the United States. The US established professional forces that can now be considered the most powerful in the world. But since the beginning of the second Iraq war , the armed forces have again been short of recruits. Ever more complex campaigns are necessary to achieve the target strength of the army, and in part also of the navy and air force, which are more popular employers.

    Nevertheless, the social ties of the armed forces of the United States are extremely high and, for example, significantly higher than that of the Bundeswehr in the Federal Republic of Germany . While a “benevolent disinterest” prevails here (quote from Horst Köhler , former Federal President ), US soldiers and US sailors tend to be heroes in the USA and enjoy a high reputation due to the prevailing strong patriotism.

    The reintroduction of compulsory military service is discussed again and again, but has so far been considered unlikely.

    As an example of the disadvantages of US land forces, the following developments can be cited in accordance with the points listed above. There were no violent protests against the Iraq war, as in the times of the Vietnam War . There were protests, but they were much more subdued than during the Vietnam War. However, the number of casualties in the war in Iraq with so far (as of November 2008) more than 4,200 casualties (the mercenaries deployed and perished in Iraq are not included here) was well below the 58,226 of the Vietnam war.

    There are a number of symptoms to the problem of a “state within the state”: B. the unanswered questions about the Guantanamo prison camp and the Abu Ghuraib torture scandal . However, it must be pointed out that military service does not protect against such misconduct either. The My Lai massacre represents one of the worst war crimes committed by the American conscription army during the Vietnam War .


    The first comparable professional army of modern form was the army in the Roman Empire , which was founded by Gaius Marius in 104 BC. Was founded. After its decline, smaller standing associations were only set up in Europe in the later Middle Ages , on behalf of the cities to secure trade routes. These associations were mostly recruited from impoverished knights , to whom such a source of income opened up.

    The mercenary armies of the late Middle Ages and modern times can in part be viewed as professional armies made up of forced recruits . In the 18th century, the officers and NCOs served as volunteers, while the recruited crews included conscripted professional soldiers. The repression and sometimes cruel enforcement of discipline and obedience had an unfavorable effect on the fighting strength of the troops in comparison with units consisting of conscripts. This was particularly evident in the clash between Napoleonic and Prussian troops in the battle of Jena and Auerstedt , which ended with the subsequent largely disbanding of the Prussian army as a result of its defeat. Following the Prussian example, after the German Wars of Unification, general conscription was introduced in almost all European countries . Until the end of the Cold War in the 1990s, professional armies were rather rare, as the military strategists viewed a large army as more important than a very well-trained, small but more powerful force. After the fall of the “ Iron Curtain ”, the European armies were gradually reduced in size, and in the mid-1990s, Belgium was the first to dispense with conscripts.


    The volunteer and professional army is the standard army of the EU member states in Europe . Conscription was suspended in 23 of 28 EU countries ; it only applies in Estonia , Finland , Greece , Austria and Cyprus . 24 of the 28 NATO countries have converted their armies into voluntary and professional armies, with the exception of Greece, Norway , Estonia and Turkey as the last four NATO member states that still maintain compulsory service.

    See also

    Web links

    Wiktionary: Professional Army  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

    Individual evidence

    1. Michael Rühle: A volunteer army. (PDF) (No longer available online.) Archived from the original on November 17, 2011 ; accessed on August 12, 2015 .
    2. Confusion about professional army and volunteer army
    3. Conscription or volunteer army? ( Memento from January 11, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
    4. US Military Deaths in Iraq ( Memento of September 14, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) (Retrieved November 17, 2008)
    5. Forms of Defense in the EU ( Memento from January 18, 2010 in the Internet Archive )
    6. Forms of Defense in NATO ( Memento from January 14, 2010 in the Internet Archive )