Education and Training
One of the key factors in the development of the professional armed forces in Mexico is the military education system. It is designed to underscore the importance of discipline, conformity to law, and obedience to higher authority. The objective is to instill in officers deference to civilian institutions and to discourage any notion of military interference with the functioning of the state. Instruction on political, social, and economic topics is relatively sketchy in school curricula, presumably to avoid heightening the officers' political consciousness. This limited education does not apply, however, to the most senior level, the National Defense College (Colegio de Defensa Nacional).
The military's three service academies form the first tier of the professional education system. The army's Heroic Military College, located in a southern suburb of Mexico City, dates back to the 1830s and is the most prestigious of the three. Air force cadets attend the Heroic Military College for two years, followed by two years at the Air College in Guadalajara. The Heroic Naval Military School for naval cadets is in Veracruz.
In 1991 there were 245 openings at the Heroic Military College for entering cadets although the excellent modern facilities completed in 1976 can accommodate many more. Entrants range from fifteen to nineteen years old, although most are in the sixteen-to-eighteen age-group. The training is physically demanding and rigorous. Students are deliberately left with little free time. Cadets who complete the four years of training are considered to have achieved the equivalent of a preparatory school education.
Graduates of the four-year army curriculum attain the equivalent rank of second lieutenant and usually become platoon or section commanders, spending three years with tactical units. Young officers then may be designated to attend any of the applied schools for advanced training in infantry, artillery, engineering, support services, or cavalry. Graduates of the Air College who select a flight or ground support orientation in their course work receive the rank of second lieutenant as pilots, general specialists, or specialists in maintenance and supply. Cadets completing studies at the Heroic Naval Military School are commissioned as ensigns prior to service with the naval surface fleet or in naval aviation or the marine infantry. The navy also maintains an aviation school at the Benito Juárez International Airport in Mexico City.
If favorably rated, an army officer may be promoted to first lieutenant after two years and remains at that rank for a minimum of three years. The officer can resign his commission after five years or, after passing a competitive examination and being favorably evaluated, may be placed on a promotion list for second captain in order of his test score (see Uniforms, Ranks, and Insignia, this ch.). Similar requirements must be met for advancement through the rank of lieutenant colonel. The minimum service time is eight years to reach first captain, eleven years to reach major, and fourteen years to reach lieutenant colonel. The rate of promotion is fairly predictable. The Senate, which must approve promotions to the rank of colonel and above, generally resists advancing officers who have not served a normal time in grade.
First and second captains who can meet admission standards may be admitted to the Superior War College or, in the case of naval officers, the Center of Superior Naval Studies. The Superior War College offers a three-year program for army officers and a two-year program for the air force. The equivalent naval course is three years. Course work emphasizes preparation for command and staff positions, including the study of administration, strategy and tactics, war gaming, and logistics, as well as more general subjects, such as military history, international law, and foreign languages. On completion of the course, officers are considered to have military training roughly comparable to that of the United States Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Conditions for acceptance to the Superior War College are strict, as is the course work. Only about half of the entrants complete the full three years, and only 7 percent of the officer corps are graduates of the college. Those completing the course successfully receive the degree of Licenciate in Military Administration and the title of General Staff Graduate, which is used with one's military rank and commands some prestige. Graduates also receive a stipend of between 10 and 25 percent of their salary during the remainder of their active duty.
The National Defense College, created in 1981, is considered the culmination of professional military education. Entrance is offered to a select group of senior army colonels and generals and their counterparts in the air force and navy. The one-year program includes advanced training in national security policy formulation, resource management, international relations, and economics. Each officer is required to write a thesis involving field research on a topic involving national security, politics, or social problems. The majority of the professors at the college are civilians. Although graduation from the college does not bring immediate promotion, most of the generals reaching the highest positions in the military hierarchy are alumni of the college.
A number of other service institutions, separate from the officer training schools and the superior schools, fall under the general categories of applications schools, specialization schools, and schools offering basic NCO training and NCO technical courses. These institutions include the Military School of Medicine, the Military School of Dentistry, a group of schools of nursing and other medical specialties, military schools of engineering and communications, the Military Application School of Infantry and Artillery, the Military Application School of Cavalry, and a one-year school of instruction in leadership for second and first sergeants.
Mexican officers also attend military schools in other countries of Latin America, as well as in France, Britain, Italy, and Germany. Although Mexico sends proportionately fewer officers to military schools in the United States than some Latin American countries, it uses United States training materials, and United States military doctrine is influential.
Pay and Benefits
The Law of Promotions and Compensation and the Law of Pensions and Retirement were promulgated in the 1920s as a means to regularize military practices, bring the armed forces under the control of the central government, and ensure the stability of the electoral system created by the revolutionary government. These laws, which have been adjusted periodically to meet the changing requirements of the government and the armed forces, form the backbone of the military pay and benefits system.
The three branches of the armed forces provide uniform pay and benefits for equivalent rank and years of service. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, military compensation rose at a faster rate than the cost of living. This situation changed during the 1970s, as pay failed to keep pace either with the rapidly increasing inflation rate or with earning power in the civilian sector. In spite of spiraling inflation during the 1980s, pay raises helped most military personnel keep abreast or slightly ahead of the rising cost of living. Officers of lieutenant rank and above enjoyed comfortable incomes. In the early 1990s, however, pay scales for junior officers were described as so low--about US$300 a month--that moonlighting was accepted as necessary to maintain an adequate standard of living.
Although the government does not disclose the allocation of individual items within the defense budget, it is estimated that approximately 60 percent is dedicated to personnel expenses, including administrative costs, salaries, and benefits. Perquisites, bonuses granted for educational achievements, and supplemental pay for those serving in command positions--from the commander of a company to the secretary of national defense--add considerably to officers' base salaries. Both the amount and the availability of fringe benefits increase as officers ascend in rank. Additional pay is also provided for hazardous duty assignments.
Pensions are extended on a standard basis to all military personnel upon completion of service and to dependents or beneficiaries upon their deaths. This benefit has been increased on numerous occasions to encourage older officers to retire and thus open positions for younger officers. The mandatory retirement age is between forty-five and sixty-five, depending upon rank, but former secretaries of national defense hold active-duty status all their lives. Under a 1983 modification of the Law of Pensions and Retirement, an officer completing thirty years of service can retire at 100 percent of his or her existing salary and receive the same increases granted active-duty personnel. The minimum benefit for those with fewer years of service is 20 percent of base pay.
The Mexican Armed Forces Social Security Institute (Instituto de Seguro Social para las Fuerzas Armadas Mexicanas--ISSFAM) and the National Bank of the Army, Air Force, and Navy (Banco Nacional del Ejército, Fuerza Aérea, y Armada--Banejército) also provide benefits to military personnel and their dependents. Under the ISSFAM, health care is extended through facilities at regional military hospitals in each military zone and the Central Military Hospital in Mexico City. The quality of medical care is reported to be high, and physicians are trained in such sophisticated specialties as microsurgery, organ transplants, and cardiovascular surgery. Banejército offers low-interest credit and life insurance to military personnel and provides financing for the construction of dependent housing at the country's various military installations. Rent for dependent housing is set at 6 percent of an individual's income. Other services and benefits are also available through military zone installations. These services include primary and secondary education for dependents, assistance with moving expenses resulting from service-related transfers, various social services, and access to shops similar to small commissaries. The military also manages a number of farms throughout the country to help produce its own food supply.
Data as of June 1996