The Federal Government says that the Belgian military is evolving towards a small combat-ready army of 25,000. The Defence Minister Steven Vandeput (nationalist) believes that a 25,000-strong army should be enough to fulfill all that is required of the Belgian military.
However, figures contained in an internal army document say that the Belgian military already has fewer than 25,000 soldiers. Moreover, this number could fall to under 22,000 within 5 years.
Exodus seems unstoppable
The inability of the military to attract enough staff is caused by a number of factors. Older soldiers are retiring at a rapid rate. The Defence Department says that each year for the next five years 1,000 people will retire from the army. The Defence Department has recruited too few new soldiers over the past few years to be able to compensate for this.
Secondly, many youngsters that are recruit leave again quickly, after just a few months or a few years of training. This is not new. However, the number of young people with the military has fallen from 8,000 in 2011 to 4,372 now.