In recent years, Italy has conducted a massive transformation to streamline and professionalize its armed forces, eliminate conscription, integrate women into the service, and modernize its
equipment. The Ministry of Defense (MoD) has attained a number of important goals, not only the changeover to a fully professional force, but also the reform of the military chain of command, the centralization of the direction of operations and the unification of technicalmilitary
By abolishing the draft the MoD achieved two objectives: it increased the pool of professional troops available for out-of-country contingency operations and reduced overtime costs. Of course, a significant portion of the defense budget was used to provide incentives to achieve and maintain an all-voluntary force. Since this new regime was implemented, the number of applications for enlistment into the armed forces was by far higher than the available vacancies.
This is a reflection of a high desire of young Italians to find employment in the armed forces.
The low acceptance rate enables the military to be more selective regarding who serves on active duty, thus helping to increase the professionalism of the armed forces.
The emergence of new risks and threats, as well as the evolution of the security and defense policies of NATO and the European Union, require a further, continued transformation of the Italian Armed Forces and of the concepts of employment. Italy currently maintains active armed forces of 195,070 including around 3,000 conscripts,
although these figures could fall as the defense budget shrinks. The government’s aim to cut its force was confirmed in July 2009 when the inter-ministerial committee reported to the Italian Parliament that the government’s long term defense plan aims to save $29.4 billion by severely cutting personnel expenses. The bulk of these cuts will fall on the Army (currently at 108,000 personnel organized in 11 maneuver brigades, one of which is the air-mobile brigade) which will
lose many of its short-term contracted professional soldiers, and on the Air Force.
In comparison, the Navy will undergo only minor personnel adjustments. This process will occur alongside a steady “professionalization” of the armed forces. In fact, the Army continues to
acquire modern, more deployable armaments and materiel.
The size of the Italian Navy and Air Force is 43,020 and 44,050 personnel respectively. The Navy is seeking to enhance its amphibious capability to project power with another carrier and
will modernize legacy systems. The Air Force continues to redress several of its shortfalls with U.S. products by replacing B707 tankers with B767s, acquiring C-27J transports, and buying mobile air defense radars. In the meantime, the delivery of C-130Js and the purchase of Predators have been completed.
With its internal security counter-terrorism role and its massive external peace support mission, the Carabinieri (111,367) is now recognized as a separate, full-fledged, branch of the armed
forces. The Carabinieri is upgrading its large helicopter fleet and is acquiring communications equipment.
The Italian armed forces also have a significant number of reservists, totaling 56,500 (35,500 in the Army and 21,000 in the Navy). Italy deploys approximately 7,700 military personnel in foreign operations. The majority of Italian troops currently serving abroad are doing so in cooperation with other international forces, either under NATO, the EU or the UN. Afghanistan remains the most challenging international
deployment for the Italian Military: a further deployment of 1,000 troops to Afghanistan (to add to the 2,750 currently in the western part of the country) will come from the available force, mainly deployed in Lebanon and Kosovo.
The Italian defense industry, still partly government owned, is slowly moving toward privatization. However the Italian Government will likely retain significant shares in this important sector. Efforts are being undertaken to streamline both management and workforce
structures, increase manufacturing efficiency and improve general perceptions of product quality and capabilities. Industrial and defense general staff strategies are to decrease dependence on the products of other nations for major weapons system production and to improve in-house capabilities whenever and wherever possible. Emphasis is also being placed on European partnerships for weapons system and sub-system component R&D and production, often with Italy receiving a major work share. However, to achieve state-of-the-art capability in most advanced areas, Italy will continue to depend on cooperation with its allies.