The plans of State Secretary Otto Rösch

Alternative ideas 1961 und 1963/64

Peter Corrieri


Unfortunately there are only a few contemporary witnesses who personally witnessed and co-designed the early years of the Austrian Armed Forces of the Second Republic. The present essay represents an outline of the book “The Plans of State Secretary Otto Rösch – Alternative Ideas 1961 and 1963/64”, which will be published in the framework of the series “HGM – General Staff”. Here it can be said that the “new scheme” was a comprehensive, radiused and implementable concept, considered to be evoking hope for a longer period of service at last. Its implementation, however, would have required considerably higher funds. The „new scheme“ was never determined by the party leaders; it was not even fractionally laid down as a regulation. Later on, Federal Chancellor Bruno Kreisky (SPÖ) himself declared that the Socialist concept had been dropped because it was premature, conventional, expensive and certainly no masterpiece. In the final stages of the election campaign in the beginning of 1970, the national defence and, above all, the reduction of the period of service became the determining topics, because the abatement of the electing age made those young men interesting who had not done their military service until then. In February 1970 Kreisky promised to immediately instigate the abatement of military service down to six months if his party was favoured. At the National Council elections on 1st March 1970 the SPÖ gained a relative majority, if nothing else, because of the votes of the young voters. During the coalition negotiations with the ÖVP, which were abandoned on 18th April 1970 without any result, the SPÖ produced a paper which basically conformed to the second Rösch-Plan redacted by Bruno Pittermann. Here the military service was supposed to last for only six months, and the three two-week military exercises had become two, possibly because of a more favourable bargaining hand. In the government statement of 27th April 1970, the following minority government of the SPÖ under the Federal Chancellor Kreisky announced to constitute an armed forces reform commission which was supposed to develop a new structure of the Armed Forces under the premise of a military service lasting six months. During the debate on the government statement on 29th April 1970, the military political ideas of the SPÖ-leaders were explained by Assemblyman Walter Mondl. They were identical to that paper that had been developed at its time for the coalition negotiations with the ÖVP, and which had the second Rösch-Plan as its basis. Thus, the tracing of the fate of the second Rösch-Plan  ends. In the Second Amending Military Law of 15th July 1971, which had been passed by the National Assembly without considering the work of the armed forces reform commission after tough and hectic party negotiations, one can find essential elements of the suggestions of the State Secretary – though not in the form of the “new scheme” suggested by the military-political commission. With the passing of the Amending Military Law the debate on the “idle in the Armed Forces” came to an end. It was not politically useful any longer.