National Defensefree opinion

Fiscal discipline, yes. Untimely cuts, no (Gen. Paloméros)

“Anyone who knows my visceral attachment to defense will understand how much I want the women and men who serve it to be given the means for their missions and the recognition they deserve. Budget cuts are counterproductive management practices that disrupt state action and cause it to lose its effectiveness.

Watch out for the 'bump' due to delays

For our defence, this amounts to inexorably pushing a wave known as "the bump" which unfortunately does not bring luck to anyone because it actually reflects the delays in the modernization of the armed forces and in the investments essential for the maintenance in operational condition of the men and equipment. It is high time to change these practices, to rebuild sincere budgets based on clear political and strategic choices and to execute them. Everyone will win. This will also avoid hateful controversies like the one that brings the vindictiveness of the president, chief of the armies against their chief of staff.

The issue of debt: not to be overlooked

Finally, I maintain that for our country, the debt certainly represents a less tangible threat than terrorism, but at the level it has reached, it is a cancer that could ultimately destroy our social model, the jobs of tomorrow, and even our values. This issue will not be resolved through budget cuts, that's for sure, but through growth, and through greater adaptation to a world that is changing at an accelerated pace.

Our country has democratically given a chance to a new power to face these challenges, to transform our country. It is now up to him to make choices that he will have to assume in front of the French. In any case, passivity is not appropriate. It has already cost us so much.

A necessity: the reinvestment policy...

The tensions created by the recent budget cuts are on the scale of the efforts required of the various ministries. It is certain that our new President and his government would have preferred to quickly launch an ambitious reinvestment policy capable of placing our country on the path of sustained and sustainable growth, but the state of our public finances does not allow this, taking into account the abyssal debt which ankyloses our country and makes him run serious risks if the interest rates rise again.

... a constraint: debt

The defense budget is not immune to these reductions to which it should contribute for around 850 million euros. To absorb this budget drain, the Armed Forces cannot reduce their activity when their level of operational commitment has rarely reached such a level of intensity and duration. Thus, the only solution consists in postponing investments which relate to the modernization of their equipment, their maintenance, or even the essential research and technology efforts which condition the future.

Beware of the temptation of the short term.

This situation is unfortunately not cyclical. The same causes produce the same effects. This recipe, which favors the short term over the long term, has been applied many times with the same consequences, impacts on the availability of equipment, on the industrial chain and on hundreds of subcontracting SMEs and on costs.

Cascading delay effects on programs

Let's be clear. There is no painless cut in a trebuchet budget. Delays in investments are paid for one day or another, both in operations and in the additional costs they entail, thus the Court of Auditors has repeatedly denounced the effect of delays amounting to several billion on investment programs. armaments generated by short-term savings measures. To get out of this infernal spiral, there is no miracle recipe, but he would be guilty of resigning himself.

Acting across the full spectrum of crises pays off

During the presentation of his defense program on March 18, the President of the Republic, then a candidate, clearly took note of the difficulties encountered by our armies in accomplishing the demanding tasks entrusted to them by the executive, since then he has moreover was able to confront this vision with reality during his trips to the field. Thus, confirming its desire to preserve for France a modern and efficient military tool, capable of dissuading any adversary from attacking our vital interests, capable of intervening on the whole spectrum of crises, capable of ensuring the our country's commitment against terrorism, it has decided to set a clear objective, to devote 2025% of GDP to the defense effort by 2.

The ramp-up should be based on three key principles

To do this, he undertook to support a gradual increase in power of the latter, confirming on July 13 before the armed forces an increase in the defense budget to bring it to 34,2 billion € in 2018. However, to bear fruit, this effort must be accompanied by a real transformation of minds and habits. This new approach should be based on three key principles, budget sincerity, consistency of strategic choices, collaborative work.

Getting out of fratricidal fights, spendthrifts versus thrifty

If we consider only the latter [collaborative work], National Defense is everyone's business and everyone's responsibility. We must get out of the fratricidal battles between "spending ministries and thrifty ministries" we must build together, pool the great expertise that our administration conceals to do better, to find viable solutions that preserve the interests of our country and above all the defense and security of our fellow citizens. In this state of mind, we will be able to reduce the tensions that are manifesting themselves today, and continue to build for our country the defense it deserves by aligning our ambitions and the means that we are ready to devote to it.

The armies respond and will respond "present"

On July 13, the President of the Republic reaffirmed, with certain firmness, the commitment and discipline he expected from everyone to successfully transform our country. In this perspective, he knows he can count on armies that have always responded to the call of their leader, whether to engage in operations without delay and with an efficiency that is the pride of an entire country and the want a lot. Armies which have systematically been at the forefront of state reforms to adapt and modernize but which have had to pay the price. Faced with an uncertain, dangerous world, there is no doubt that the Chief of the Armed Forces knows, in his heart of hearts, that he can count on men and women of excellence, honor and dedication, and at the first rank of these the chief of staff of the armies, the army general Pierre de Villiers whose commitment has [had] to be equaled only by his passion for our country and for its defence.

Air Force General (2S) Jean-Paul Paloméros
NATO Supreme Commander for Transformation (2012-2015)
Chief of Staff of the Air Force (2009-2012)

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