Balancing Defense and Civil Support Tasks: The Impact of Covid-19 on the Bulgarian Military’s Roles
Tagarev, Todor

Military organizations are often called upon to contribute with specific capabilities or to enhance the civilian response capacity in an emergency at home, in particular, when urgent action in a high-risk environment is needed. The emergency related to the Covid-19 pandemic was not an exception. The Bulgarian armed forces have already made an important and highly visible contribution and are prepared to perform additional tasks assigned through the new emergency law. Both the society and the political elites appreciate this military involvement, and ideas for new civil security tasks have emerged. Based on the analysis of legal and doctrinal documents and the responses to an interview, this article provides an overview of the domestic tasks of the Bulgarian armed forces prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, new tasks assigned during the pandemic and the possibilities for and the caveats in the further expansion of the spectrum of domestic tasks. The opinions of 41 respondents in the interviews are almost equally split. A slight majority suggests further expansion of the domestic tasks, serving as a back-up, and building on high-tech capabilities the armed forces already possess or plan to develop. The remaining respondents call for exercising caution, assuring that the military contribution is effective and efficient, and reconsidering the newly assigned coercive tasks. The article also presents the decision-making context, shaped by long-delayed modernization, limited budget, and the severe shortage of personnel. This is the context in which policy-makers need to find an adequate balance between defense and civil support roles and capabilities.

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