Cash-strapped military spends millions on film

Sweden's soldiers are reported to be dismayed after it emerged that the cash-strapped armed forces spent nearly 4 million kronor on an internal film featuring their boss, Supreme Commander Håkan Syrén.

The 57-minute film, which was posted to all 32,500 armed forces staff and reservists as a Christmas present, featured footage of the Supreme Commander at work and play. Syrén was captured drinking coffee on a pontoon in the Stockholm Archipelago, chopping wood and travelling around Sweden and the rest of the world in the government’s VIP plane.

The 3.7 million kronor ($580,000) price tag for the film has provoked anger among many members of the armed forces, according to Svenska Dagbladet. The paper reports critics saying that the film is a waste of money at a time when cuts are being made to Sweden’s defence budget. Critics have also slammed the military for posting the film home to staff, rather than letting them watch it at work.

Lars Fresker, chairman of the Swedish Officers’ Association, said his organization had received dozens of complaints from officers upset at the way money had been spent on sending the film out.

“We’ve got a freeze on travel and a freeze on overtime, so why are they spending money on sending this home to people when they could watch it at work,” Fresker told The Local.

The film starts with dramatic footage of helicopters landing in the field, depositing Swedish soldiers. The army is shown searching huts in Congo in 2003.

These action shots aside, the main role in the film is taken by Syrén. He is shown arriving in uniform at Armed Forces Headquarters to start his working day at 7am. He is also shown at EU meetings in Brussels, visiting Swedish soldiers in Kosovo and Afghanistan and inspecting reservists in Sweden.

Michael Jarl of the Armed Forces’ information department said the film was not about Syrén. Rather, he said, it was an update from the Supreme Commander on the current condition of the armed forces, delivered “in a personal tone.”

The government last summer announced that the armed forces’ budget would be cut by 4 billion kronor annually by 2010.