It is proposed to restructure Lithuania’s Riflemen Union ( LŠS) fundamentally: the organisation’s civilian areas of activity would be expanded, and the authority would be transferred from the Ministry of National Defence to the Government, the Riflemen would have a separate budget, and they would receive increased funding.
“It is very important to involve the whole society, or at least the active part of it that wants to contribute, in the security and defence of Lithuania,” said Laurynas Kasčiūnas, chairman of the National Security and Defence Committee, at a press conference in the Seimas on June 20. “There are people who want to have basic military training, but there are people who ask what I can contribute to Lithuania’s security and defence with my knowledge – engineers, IT specialists, people with skills in various civilian areas,” he said.
A Seimas working group has drafted and is registering a new version of the Law on the Lithuanian Riflemen’s Union, according to which the Lithuanian Riflemen’s Union would become an organisation attached to the Government and would receive funding not through the Ministry of Defence, but through a separate appropriation line. The restructuring is proposed to enter into force from 2023.
Preparations for Day “X”
Deputy Speaker of the Seimas Paulius Saudargas pointed out that the pandemic and the migrant crisis have shown that the Rifles are successful in much more than just a paramilitary organisation, and this potential needs to be developed.
“Now not only the army, but also the police, firefighters, border guards, have all spent countless hours working side by side with the Rifles, and we can see that there is a huge potential,” said Saudargas. – When the day “X” comes, not necessarily the tanks have to go here. But, still, anything can happen, a pandemic, migrants, a crisis, when suddenly you need a lot of professional volunteers to stand in one place or another; the Riflemen Union has shown the potential. It needs to be developed.”
L. Kasčiūnas also noted that the LŠS must remain strong in the field of armed resistance, but the organisation will expand its competencies in the field of preparing for unarmed resistance and crises.
“Alongside this, we are saying that in unarmed resistance, by dividing into certain competencies, their profiles, we can look for ways to attract people and find a place for them in the whole defence architecture,” Kasčiūnas said.
Edmundas Jakilaitis, the initiator of the non-governmental organisation “Strong Together”, the producer, and a rifleman, noted that the initiative to reorganise the LŠS came from the riflemen themselves and the implementation of the proposed changes would make the organisation more attractive to a larger number of people.
“The Riflemen’s Union will become more attractive to a much larger public, as everyone will be able to empower their civilian functions and competencies for the benefit of society and the state. Whether you are a builder, an IT specialist, a journalist, a producer or a politician, you will be able to find a place for yourself in the organisation and contribute to national security,” emphasised E.
The Riflemen Union are no longer with the Ministry of National Defence but with the Government
The new Law envisages that the LŠS will be a voluntary paramilitary and universal association under the Government, supported by the state, which helps to ensure national security and the performance of vital State functions. At present, it is a paramilitary civic self-defence association under the Ministry of National Defence.
The current commander of the Riflemen’s Association is appointed or removed by the Minister of National Defence; under the proposed arrangements, the Government would take the decision on the Prime Minister’s recommendation. The decision would still have to be approved by the Riflemen’s congress, while under the new procedure, the commander’s nomination would be subject to a secret ballot.
Funding would also change: the Riflemen would manage and be responsible for their own allocations, which would be increased. According to L. Kasčiūnas, head of the Seimas NSGK, under the proposed formula, which would give the riflemen a separate line in the budget equal to 2% of the Ministry of National Defence budget, the funding would increase by a factor of about sixfold.
“Funding – we are proposing a very clear formula, two per cent (of the Ministry of National DefenceD budget), but not of two per cent, which in absolute terms would mean about 30 million euros. For comparison, in 2020, the budget of the Riflemen’s Union was EUR 2 million, and it was still able to raise about EUR 5 million through personal income tax,” Kasčiūnas said.E. Jakilaitis said that the change in the funding procedure was related to the development of competencies, as the activities of the LŠS would be related to more than just the sphere under the Ministry of National Defence.
“Funding is not through one area, not through the Ministry of National Defence, but through the Government, which coordinates foreign affairs, social affairs, the health system, with which the Riflemen Union has been cooperating in particular for the last two years. Now, the funding has been as a subdivision of the national defence system, and the Riflemen’s Union is becoming a separate manager of the appropriations”, – said E. Jakilaitis.