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The budget of the armies targeted in the face of the economic crisis

(B2) (updated February 18) This blog echoed the difficulties of the Polish and Slovak armies. The trend seems to be confirmed and even accelerated (since my last article October last one where I asked myself the question). Because the financial crisis is hitting everywhere. Faced with the budgetary needs of each government, the armies are therefore asked to tighten their belts (like everyone else). This affects either external operations (as in France, Poland, etc.), or certain equipment (Poland, Slovakia, Russia, USA, United Kingdom, etc.), or personnel (Slovakia, Romania, etc.). We can bet that this first series of cuts will be followed by others if the economic crisis continues. All States need to find resources to cope with additional expenses and to compensate for reductions in revenue.

• In Poland. We begin to identify which contracts are in the crosshairs of savings, after the government meeting on the revision of budget lines. Besides the suspension of
some missions abroad, the contract concluded with the Norwegian Kongsberg to equip the coasts and ships with missiles is called into question (or at least renegotiated for payment/delivery deadlines). Likewise, the purchase of second-hand American armored vehicles of the MRAP Cougar type (which the Polish army uses in Afghanistan and which it has until now borrowed from the Americans) could be compromised.

• In Romania, a plan to reduce the workforce by a fifth at the central administration of the Ministry of Defense was decided. A decision which comes after that announced last October to postpone the purchase of fighter planes. The defense budget could fall below the 2% mark to reach 1,5%.

• In Slovakia. After one first series cuts (closure of staffs, etc.). A quarter of the army's civilian personnel left (or the positions were eliminated) at the end of January. And according to the daily SME, these cuts could affect professional soldiers: 10% of the workforce (1600 soldiers out of a workforce of 16) could thus leave or not be renewed. Information that the Ministry of Defense denies. On the other hand, it seems that certain equipment programs could be postponed, in particular the purchase of vehicles to replace the PRAGA V0000S and transport aircraft.

• At United Kingdom. The atmosphere is tense. A battle pits the Treasury against the Ministry of Defense for the financing of certain equipment. Gordon Brown (when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, Minister of Finance), had asked the Treasury to take charge of urgent operational equipment (UOR). But, as reported by Financial Times, officials from the Ministry of Finance are now reluctant to pay for all program slippages and are asking Defense to draw on its funds. A budget of 635 million pounds has been set aside for 2009-2010. Which it can no longer be strangled budgetarily. However, this equipment is necessary (armoured, UAV, etc.), the government having apparently largely underestimated the need for equipment, and the under-equipment, of the British army in the face of a large-scale conflict as long as that of Afghanistan. Even if it is not yet official, the only solution would be the revision of certain heavier equipment programs. Here again…

Elsewhere, it's not better...

• In Russia, Russian defense budget could be cut by 15% because of the crisis, announced to RIA Novosti on Thursday the deputy chairman of the Duma Committee for the
defense, Mikhail Babitch. Asked whether this figure was definitive, the parliamentarian replied that “everything would depend on the economic development of the country". "However, we will do everything in our power to preserve public arms orders and the social guarantees enjoyed by the military.“, added the elected official. Russian public procurement amounts to more than 29 billion euros (1300 billion rubles) and 89 billion euros for 2009-2011 (4000 billion rubles). (update): a reduction formally denied by President Medvedev on February 19, “budgetary expenditure on arms and social allowances granted to the military will not be reduced”.

• Same in the United States, the time for severe cuts in certain programs has arrived. As US Defense Secretary Robert Gates explained, “this department faces difficult choices among competing priorities and programs. (…) It is now clear that with today's economic realities, we are unable to place as much as the war cost as we would have liked as soon as we would have liked into the base budget“. Among the targeted programs is the (expensive) F-22 fighter jet program, Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense, acknowledged Tuesday during a press conference. But it wouldn't be the only one. “It's obviously one of the programs that, along with a number of others — many others — that we will be looking at” Gates clarified. The American budget amounts to more than $500 billion (excluding Iraq and Afghanistan spending). To read the press conference script.


Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).