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Federal Armed Forces (Bundesheer): After the end of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy and the subsequent dissolution of the Austrian Armed Forces, an Army of the Austrian Republic, called the Volkswehr (peoples' army), existed from November 1918 until late 1919. Apart from guard duty and security missions, the formations of the Volkswehr (1 battalion per political district) also fought with the Carinthian Resistance Movement. The peace Treaty of Saint-Germain, signed in 1919, allowed Austria to build up a regular army with a manpower of 30,000, but with drastically reduced armaments. Until 1935 the Armed forces were subdivided into 6 infantry brigades.

In 1936 the Western Powers tacitly accepted the reintroduction of universal conscription, and the Armed Forces were reorganised; in 1938 the armed forces consisted of 7 infantry divisions, a "rapid division", a brigade and a weak air force.

The Armed Forces of the First Republic were also a domestic policy instrument, and the government mobilised the troops mainly to intervene in the armed clashes of the year 1934 against the paramilitary groups of the Social Democrats and the National Socialists ( February 1934 Uprising, July Putsch of 1934). By order of the government the Armed Forces did not offer any resistance when German troops entered Austria in March 1938 ( Anschluss). By autumn 1938 most of the officers and soldiers had been integrated into the German Armed Forces, 2 military zones (XVII, Vienna, and XVIII, Salzburg) were established as territorial commands on what had previously been Austrian territory.

Although several divisions of the German Armed Forces included a high percentage of Austrians, there were no purely Austrian bodies of troops. More than 1.25 million Austrians served in the German Armed Forces in World War II one fifth (247,000 soldiers) did not return from the war.

While the provisional government headed by Renner devised several plans for the creation of a military office, Austria had no Armed Forces from 1945 to 1955. The armed forces¢ police units, which were active in the British, French and US occupation zones from August 1952, can, however, be regarded as the forerunner of the Armed Forces which were established later. A few weeks after the State Treaty was signed, the police schools situated in the western zones of occupation were renamed and from July 1955 called "provisional frontier guards". They were subordinate to the Office for National Defence, a department of the Federal Chancellery, founded in 1945, or to the Ministry of Defence, which was established on July 15, 1956. The National Defence Act of September 7, 1955, laid down the supreme command and the duties of the Armed Forces, and introduced universal conscription, originally for a period of 9 months. The first men liable to military service were drafted on October 15, 1956.

Since 1975, an alternative service in the form of Civil Alternative Service has been offered (until 1991 applicants had to undergo an "examination of conscience"). The decision-making power over such cases is vested in the Federal Ministry of the Interior.

Under the Federal Constitution and the National Defence Act, the Armed Forces are obliged to defend the country, to protect the constitutional institutions, to maintain order and security within Austrian borders, and is called up to render assistance in case of natural disasters or other emergencies. The legislative and executive powers regarding military issues are entrusted to the federal government. The Federal President is commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces; the right of disposition and the duties of the supreme federal administration are vested in the Federal Ministry of Defence and the Federal Government. The authority of command over the commands, troops, offices, military agencies and institutions is exercised by the Federal Minister of Defence through the commanders and department heads. The National Defence Council, which is answerable to the Federal Chancellery, consists of members of the Federal Government, the military command and representatives of the political parties; it has to be consulted in defence matters of vital importance and has the right to visit all military institutions. The Inspector General is the closest military advisor of the Federal Minister.

Until 1973 the federal territory was subdivided into 3 zones (Vienna, Graz, Salzburg), and 7 action brigades (9 until 1962; command posts at Eisenstadt, Krems, Hoersching, Graz, Innsbruck, Klagenfurt, Goetzendorf). Group I commanded 3 brigades, group II and III each commanded 2 brigades. Furthermore, each group had a training regiment as well as a telegraph battalion, an armoured battalion, an engineer battalion and a supply regiment. Each brigade had a training battalion. The 7 brigades were subdivided into action forces and training forces; thus, recruits first received a 3-month basic training in a training battalion and then had to undergo a unit training in the action battalions. Independent military command posts for territorial defence, including the frontier guard, were set up in every province. The Air Force was subordinated to a separate command.

After 1970, lack of personnel and equipment as well as social and political changes in Austria led to a new reform of the Armed Forces, which were reorganised from summer 1971 according to the proposals presented by the Reform Committee on the Armed Forces. In July 1971 the duration of military service was altered and fixed at 6 months and 60 days of field exercises.

A conceptual change of policy from one of primarily border defence to territorial defence led to a restructuring of the armed forces. The stand-by troops (30 battalions) were required to be instantly available, the militia system of the armed forces was extended (mobile landwehr militia with 8 fighter brigades, territory-bound landwehr with 30 landwehr regiments and numerous guard and protection companies). In 1986 Austria had a mobilisation strength of 186,000, in the mid-1990s 300,000. On July 1, 1973, the supreme command of the army, a top level command subordinated to the Federal Ministry of Defence, was established (after June 1978 it was integrated into the Central Office as Department III and dissolved on July 1, 1991). The 3 group commands and the air force command were replaced by corps commands I and II (January 1, 1974), the (1st ) armoured infantry division and the aviation division.

Apart from budgetary and personnel considerations, the tremendous political changes in Europe led to a new reform of the armed forces from 1991 onwards ("Heeresgliederung neu 1995"). The Supreme Command of the Army was dissolved and the command of the 1st  armoured infantry division was replaced by the III corps. The peace-time organisation of the armed forces comprises the 3 armoured infantry brigades and the 13 newly-established fighter regiments, which replaced the 30 landwehr regiments. The combat-ready organisation provided for 16 brigades with a mobilisation strength of 150,000 (including reserves). This indicated another policy change towards border-oriented strategies rather than territorial defence.

The Council of Ministers has approved a new armed forces structure for the period 1998-2000: The Corps Command III has been dissolved, and the armed forces are again (as in the period 1973-1995) divided into 2 corps. The first corps (command headquarters in Graz for Styria, Lower Austria, Burgenland and Carinthia) is responsible for the first and seventh infantry brigades (the first brigade is equipped with Pandur-wheeled armoured personnel carriers, and the seventh is an air brigade) and for the third mechanised infantry brigade; the second corps (command in Salzburg for Upper Austria, the province of Salzburg, Tirol and Vorarlberg) is responsible for the fourth mechanised infantry brigade and the sixth Jaegerbrigade (alpine force) as well as the various corps troops etc. The airforce division, the military command in Vienna, the offices, academies and schools of the armed forces are immediately responsible to the Ministry of Defence. The number of troops available for immediate mobilisation has been reduced to 120,000.

Women have been able to voluntarily participate in military service since 1998 (career structure of officers or non-commissioned officers); women took part in campaigns abroad before this date.

Since 1960 approximately 40,000 members of the Armed Forces have participated in peacekeeping missions of the United Nations ( UN Missions). Due to the growing number of peace missions and humanitarian operations in which Austria participates, the cadre personnel has become more important than it was in the traditional militia system. Since 1990 the Austrian Armed Forces have assisted the police in monitoring the Austro-Hungarian border. By the year 2000 1,8 million Austrians had served in the Austrian Armed Forces.


L. Jedlicka, Ein Heer im Schatten der Parteien, 1955; M. Rauchensteiner, Das Bundesheer der 2. Republik, 1980; E. A. Schmidl, Maerz 1938. Der deutsche Einmarsch in Oesterreich, 1987; M. Rauchensteiner and W. Etschmann (eds.), Schild ohne Schwert, Forschungen zur Militaergeschichte 2, 1991; M. Rauchensteiner, W. Etschmann and J. Rausch, 1000 Nadelstiche, Forschungen zur Militaergeschichte 3, 1994; F. Hessel, Die neue Heeresstruktur, Truppendienst 3/1998.