Amendments to the Law no. 926 on Turkish Armed Forces Personnel

At the heart of the amendments to the Law no. 926 on Turkish Armed Forces Personnel, is the urge to provide solutions to the urgent needs created by the huge earthquake within the military due to the coup attempt of July 15 (filling the vacancies created by expulsions, strengthening the army’s weakened military capacities, restoration of its self-confidence etc.), and to restructure the institutions so as to reorganize the relations between civilians and soldiers.

An amendment to the law stipulates that the Supreme Military Council President can decide to place those whose services are required at a higher rank under the assessment of the Supreme Military Council, regardless of their required waiting period in their current rank (Executive Decree 668 Article 4). This clause introduced flexibility in rank promotions so as to remove deficiencies in staffing.

A comprehensive amendment has been passed concerning military students. Students enrolled at various military schools have been taken out of the scope of the personnel law, and of the purposes section of the said law (Executive Decree 669 Article 21-22). As such this law now binds commissioned and noncommissioned officers only. The military students were also deprived of their right called “right to demand implementation”, which used to allow them to demand the implementation to themselves of all regulations and bylaws issued on the basis of the said law (Executive Decree 669 Article 23). With the exception of certain cases provided for by the laws, bylaws and regulations, military students were removed from all such provisions, e.g. the article concerning the impossibility to terminate the position of commissioned officer, noncommissioned officer and military student, article concerning retirement, article on what issues are to be regulated by the regulation, the entrance requirements, duties and responsibilities of military students, as well as the article on the timing of the payment of salaries (Executive Decree 669 Article 24-26, 29).

Articles on the procedures concerning education, the basic rights of military students, expulsion of military students, actions concerning those expelled, military students’ right to resign and the pocket money of military students at the war schools, faculties and colleges were removed from the personnel law. Also, military students were taken out of those articles concerning overseas permissions and awards (Executive Decree 669 Article 32).

The appointments of commissioned officers between the ranks sub-lieutenant and colonel and of noncommissioned officers used to be conducted by the Force Commands, whereas now they are to be carried out upon the suggestion of the Force Commands and the approval of the Minister of National Defense (Executive Decree 669 Article 30).

As regards the foundation of the Gendarmerie and Coast Guard Academy, in the article regulating the salary payments at the first appointment that read “However, at the first appointments those of commissioned and noncommissioned officers who have just graduated from Turkish Armed Forces schools...”, the phrase ‘Turkish Armed Forces’ was replaced with the phrase ‘military’ (Executive Decree 669 Article 31).

A number of amendments were made to recruit pilots from the outside, in order to fill the gap created after the expulsions of pilots in the air force. A provision added to the Law on Turkish Armed Forces Personnel specifies that female and male graduates of four-year engineering faculties or colleges can apply to become regular officers if they are younger than 33, meet the requirements for sub-lieutenants and pass the exams, and that, individuals with commercial pilot license or air freight pilot license will be given priority. (Executive Decree 671 Article 3, Executive Decree 676 Article 55) Furthermore, even if they fail at the military pilot training (flight training for pilot candidates), they can be employed in another class of the Turkish Armed Forces if deemed necessary (Executive Decree 671 Article 3).

Furthermore pilot officers who had previously resigned or been discharged from the Turkish Armed Forces for any reason as well as individuals from other classes with commercial pilot license or air freight pilot license and at least 1000 hours of flying experience can be reinstated as pilots if they meet the requirements for flight and if their application is deemed appropriate, upon the suggestion of the force commander and the approval of Minister of National Defense, until 31/12/2020 (the deadline which had been extended before by Executive Decree 690 Article 9 was once again extended until 2020 by Executive Decree 696 Article 23) and thereby return to the Turkish Armed Forces. They will be deemed to be pilots as per Law no. 2629 on Flight, Parachute, Submarine, Diving and Frogman Services Compensation. The period they spent outside the force will be included to their rank waiting period, and their flight hours outside the force -if documented- will be counted as flight service period. Upon their reinstatement to the Turkish Armed Forces, for one time only, they will be immediately appointed to the ranks that they peers hold even if they lack the rank requirements listed in the same law, and will be considered to have joined the force at the same time with their peers (Executive Decree 671 Article 6; Executive Decree 676 Article 56).

Furthermore, officers who have stopped flying for any reason can rejoin the pilot training program in case they apply in one year and meet the requirements for flight, upon the approval of the Force Command in question. Those who succeed in pilot training will have an obligatory service period of fifteen years, starting from the day they started training. For those who fail in pilot training, the training period will also be included in their obligatory service period (Executive Decree 671 Article 6). The obligatory service period for those who complete the pilot training program used to be three times the training period, whereas now it has been fixed at eight years (Executive Decree 671 Article 4).

Also to fill the deficiency of pilots in the Air Force Command, a new category called reserve pilots was created. An addition was made to the Law on Turkish Armed Forces Personnel to ensure that when a necessity arises out of a crisis or an operation, force commands can meet their pilot needs from outside their regular personal, among war-ready pilots. As such, those who had previously served as pilots at these commands and later resigned, can be declared obligatory reserve pilots. If they qualify as aviators, such individuals can thus be appointed as reserve pilots upon the suggestion of the Force Command and the approval of the Ministry of National Defense. The provision stipulates that these reserve pilots will undertake task flights with certain planes in various regions and at specific intervals, and at the same time they will undergo refreshment and war preparation training (Executive Decree 678 Article 16).

Other amendments were made to the legislation, concerning the salaries of students of reserve officer schools, those undergoing basic military education to become noncommissioned officers or commissioned officers (Executive Decree 671 Article 5).

Another newly added clause reads “noncommissioned officers who as of this date have completed their seventh year in service but have not past their tenth year will be given the right to the apply to the next exam for transition from noncommissioned to commissioned officer status in case they fulfil the other requirements outlined in article 109” (Executive Decree 676 Article 57). Later, the requirements were further relaxed with another additional amendment, and those past their fourth year also became eligible for application to the transition exam (Executive Decree 694 Article 37). This amendment has been passed to meet the army’s urgent demand for commissioned officers, many of whom were expelled from the force after the coup attempt.

An amendment was made to the article in the law which regulated the recruitment of faculty or college graduates as regular commissioned officers, stipulating that “Age and other entrance requirements of those who will be assigned directly to the Special Forces Command will be determined by the Ministry of National Defense after receiving the opinion of General Staff”. This practice differs from the case in other classes. For instance, graduates of 4-year faculties or colleges who apply from the outside to become a regular commissioned officer have to be younger than 27, and those who completed their postgraduate studies have to be younger than 32. Besides, the test period for those directly assigned to the Special Forces Command as officers will be two years (versus one year in other military classes) (Executive Decree 678 Article 13).

Furthermore, it has been stipulated that those directly assigned to Special Forces Command as commissioned officers will undergo Special Forces Command training regardless of their military class, those who fail -with the exception of health-related reasons- will be discharged from Turkish Armed Forces and will have to pay back the state’s expenditures -outside of their salaries- with interest, those who fail for health-related issues will repeat their training next year and if they fail again will be appointed by the force commands to positions in line with their military class and rank, and those appointed to positions outside the Special Forces Command will also undergo the training of their new military class (Executive Decree 678 Article 14). Similar provisions were introduced as regards the noncommissioned officers appointed directly to the Special Forced Command. (Executive Decree 696 Article 21)

Those appointed to the Special Forces Command as noncommissioned officer will undergo a two-year test period (versus one year in other military classes); their age and other entrance requirements will be determined by the Ministry of National Defense after receiving the opinion of General Staff (Executive Decree 678 Article 15).

Found under the section “definitions” in the law, the expression “Forces War Academies” has been replaced with “National Defense University Institutes”. This should be interpreted as an effort to establish National Defense Institutes after the failed coup attempt (Executive Decree 681 Article 12).

In the Law no. 926, under the section “sources and training”, it is stipulated that a regulation will be issued to determine the procedures and principles concerning the education of those who will be trained on behalf of the Ministry of National Defense in various undergraduate and postgraduate schools, their military education, as well as the measures to be taken during these educations.” The old text included the expression “students who want to study on behalf of the Armed Forces”. This amendment can be seen as a measure for bringing military education under the control of the Ministry of National Defense (Executive Decree 681 Article 13).

The expression “by the Turkish Armed Forces when required by General Staff” was removed from the Article 14 entitled “training at faculties and colleges”; as such, this amendment took away the General Staff’s power over appointments to commissioned officer positions (Executive Decree 681 Article 14). This provision concerning the graduates of four-year faculties and colleges who are to become commissioned officers – found in Executive Decree 678 – stated that those who will join Special Forces Command as commissioned officers will be selected by the Minister of National Defense after receiving the opinion of the General Staff. The amendment to the law has made it possible for the graduates of all faculties, colleges and vocational colleges -and not just those selected by the General Staff- to become regular noncommissioned officers (Executive Decree 681 Article 25).

The law was amended, so that acceptance to the position of noncommissioned officer now requires the approval of the “Minister of National Defense”, and not as before, the suggestion of the force commander in question, General Commander of the Gendermarie, Coast Guard Commander and the request of the Chief of General Staff. In the same article, the Force Command was bypassed in rank promotions as well, which now depend on the approval of the Minister of Interior and Minister of National Defense (Executive Decree 681 Article 26).

The General Staff has been deprived of its right to accept as valid the excuses of those who were unable to apply to the exam for transition from noncommissioned officer to commissioned officer positions due to their operational duties, although they meet the requirements necessary for application (Executive Decree 681 Article 28).

An amendment has been made to the section “the liabilities of commissioned and noncommissioned officers”, to extend the obligatory service period of regular commissioned and noncommissioned officers -during which they cannot resign- from 10 to 15 years starting on their date of appointment. This amendment is probably in response to the lack of personnel owing to the dismissals following the coup attempt (Executive Decree 681 Article 29).

With an amendment to the law’s section dubbed “overseas permissions”, the power to authorize General Staff generals and admirals who will travel abroad for education or other reasons was transferred to the Ministry of National Defense (Executive Decree 681 Article 38). According to the old text, commissioned and noncommissioned officers assigned to a foreign country or an international institution could be granted up to 5 years of unpaid leave, upon the consent of the General Staff and the approval of the Minister of National Defense (for the General Commander of the Gendarmerie and Coast Guard Command, the Ministry of Interior was responsible); here, the expression “General Staff’s consent” was replaced with “General Staff’s opinion” (Executive Decree 681 Article 44).

With an amendment to the Law no. 926, it has become impossible for those noncommissioned officers who have completed faculties or colleges on their own behalf to apply for becoming a regular commissioned officer in their own military class or in similar classes where there is need for officers (Executive Decree 690 Article 7).

Additions to the law regulated the procedures for appointment as noncommissioned officers, that is taking office as a noncommissioned officer (Executive Decree 690 Article 8).

In the article regulating the promotion procedures for colonels, generals and admirals, in the phrase “An assessment score is given according to the principles provided in the Officer Records Regulation”, the expression Officer Records was replaced by Supreme Military Council (Executive Decree 691 Art 4). The subsequent article, stipulating that the Supreme Military Council should abide by Officer Records Regulation principles in promotion principles, has been removed (Executive Decree 691 Article 5).

Executive Decree 696, Articles 19-25 also made changes to the law. Accordingly, there are various changes concerning military training, the basic rights of imprisoned or dismissed commissioned officers, noncommissioned officers appointed directly to Special Forces Command, military judges and prosecutors, and the basic rights of pilot officers.

Amendments to the Law no. 926 on Turkish Armed Forces Personnel