Can the French Armies avoid voluntary conscription?

As international tensions continue to grow, the French armies are facing increasing difficulties simply to maintain their numbers, faced with the drop in the number of candidates, and the increase in non-renewal of military contracts.

If palliative measures have been announced as part of the LPM 2024-2030, there is no guarantee that they will be able to reverse this trend, while, at the same time, the armies need more than ever to regain mass.

A new conscription model, selected conscription, implemented in Scandinavian countries for several years, could provide an effective, applicable and progressive solution to these human resources issues.

The need for mass becomes critical for the French armies in the face of threats

« The war in Ukraine opens a new form of Cold War“. It is in these terms that Sébastien Lecornu, the Minister of the Armed Forces, began the press conference given on March 26, to take stock of the efforts and expectations of his ministry, the French Armed Forces and the national defense industries, in the face of evolving threats in Ukraine, the Red Sea and elsewhere.

French armies in Mali
The French armies were transformed at the end of the 90s to have a significant force projection capacity, basing the security of the nation on its deterrence alone.

This return, now accepted, to a form of Cold War, will necessarily influence the very model of the French armies, built, since the end of the 1990s, on a diptych made up of deterrence, on the one hand, and a body projectable expeditionary, reactive, but limited in mass, on the other.

This model is not, as often mentioned, the only consequence of budgetary restrictions linked to the benefits of post-Cold War Peace. If the perceived collapse of the Russian threat obviously had a determining weight in this issue, the difficulties encountered by the French Armies in deploying a homogeneous and effective force in Saudi Arabia, facing Iraq, ahead of Operation Desert Storm, played at least as much.

France was there pointing out the constraints of its conscription armies, designed to face the Soviet threat, but structurally unsuitable for the projection of power in volume, even if the number of active soldiers was then 50% higher in Today.

By professionalizing, the French armies have therefore gained in flexibility and responsiveness. However, at the same time, they have lost considerable mass, to the point that today, they are no longer able to allow the head of state to “ choose your wars, and win them“, according to the maxim of Charles de Gaulle, without integrating into a vast coalition.

This return to the Cold War, announced by Sébastien Lecornu, will therefore have, as a necessary corollary, an overhaul of the model and format of the French armies, in the years to come, to regain this conventional credibility essential to its deterrence.

The human resources challenge that is handicapping the French armies

If the observation is relatively trivial to make, responding to it, on the other hand, turns out to be very complicated. Indeed, beyond the budgetary questions, which are crucial, but dealt with elsewhere in other articles, the present model of the armies is not adapted to a significant mass gain.

Maistrance parades
Armies are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit qualified personnel who meet their expectations

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  1. Adopt the model of the Swiss Confederation or an adaptation that makes it possible to compensate for our recruitment failures. Revalue this very special profession, reduce the number of “generals” and revalue internal promotions and training rather than paper tigers who come out of schools with no experience as medalists.


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