Blog AnalysisNational Defense

The Merchant of Four Seasons

(B2) The visit of the President of the French Republic to the IHEDN was both expected and difficult.

After the publication of the White Paper and the launch of the operation in Mali, it was necessary both to pay tribute to the work of the soldiers, to reassure them of the government's determination to maintain a certain level of ambition while remaining in conformity with the principle of budgetary reduction necessary to reduce the debt.

An impossible exercise that has turned more into the syndrome of the four-season seller who boasts on the market of her cabbage, carrots, tomatoes but, at the same time, displays exorbitant prices to scare away customers.

Listening to François Hollande, we do not change one iota of the nuclear doxa - " 11% of the annual defense budget”, we preserve the orders for equipment in progress, we keep the largest army in Europe, we maintain the army on the whole of the territory. All this with a budget which, officially, remains at the same level but, in fact, is decreasing.

We keep everything!

We're going " engage the controls of A400M transport aircraft and MRTT in-flight refueling aircraft, light anti-ship missiles or FREMM multirole frigates and VBMR armored vehicles” indicated the French president. No program launched (Rafale, Tiger attack and NH-90 transport helicopters, Barracuda submarines and the Félin system) will not be stopped, both for reasons of capacity and efficiency, but also (to) preserve our defense industry”. Appropriations for intelligence, police and justice will be increased ". The research and development effort will be maintained at a high level”. The space policy will be "relaunched (...) with the MUSIS observation and CERES electromagnetic interception satellites". Etc

The army present everywhere on the territory

A " particular attention » will be carried for « maintain a presence throughout the territory and avoid site closures "while overseas, it will also be necessary" ensure our presence. But the workforce of the ministry will be “ reduced by an additional 24 men” - i.e. just under 10% of the workforce — “ to reach around 250.000 defense personnel”. Will that be enough?

Budget apparently maintained but down

The budget will remain at the same level as in 2012, at 31,4 billion euros (excluding inflation, therefore decreasing). Over six years, for the period 2014-2019, the budget will be of 179,2 billion », i.e. less than 30 billion per year, a clear reduction.

Commentary: The dilemma is great

Cuts in programs necessarily mean fewer jobs for the future. An A400M as many hours of work for Airbus employees; reducing territorial influence means compromising the balance of often fragile territories; not committing to the purchase of certain means (intelligence, drones, etc.) means compromising the responsiveness of tomorrow and even today because the threats are always present. As for keeping nuclear power, in its two components, it is absolutely necessary for the stature of France, the president reminded us.

Wouldn't the government and the French be thus in an active lure believing that everything will continue as in the past? As a British friend told me, the Cameron government has done the exact opposite. When he came to power, he enacted drastic cuts in the Royal Majesty's army which clashed, but now seemed very useful. France procrastinates, lantern, telling itself that it will perhaps manage to spend the summer, then the next winter and, thanks to a growth which will return, to be able to keep all the ambitions displayed. We can doubt it...

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Read also: The security of France is the security of Europe… (Fr. Hollande)

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).