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France/defense policy

Published on August 6, 2013
Excerpts from the communiqué issued following the Council of Ministers’ meeting

Paris, August 2, 2013


Military estimates for 2014-2019 and various provisions concerning national defence and security

The Defence Minister presented a bill relating to military estimates for 2014-2019, containing various provisions concerning national defence and security.

The bill puts into practice France’s defence policy guidelines for the next six years, following the White Paper on Defence and National Security published on 29 April 2013.

The provisions in the military estimates bill comprise two aspects:

- A policy aspect setting out – both in the act itself and in the annexed report – the aims of defence policy and, more specifically, financial planning, procurement forecasts and the future shape of our armed forces.

- A legislative aspect dealing with: the legal framework of intelligence, both for monitoring the services’ activity and for the resources made available to them; cyber defence; the handling of military criminal cases; the legal protection granted to service personnel’s dependents; human resources management measures accompanying troop reductions; the protection of sites, facilities and property linked to national defence; and a variety of other provisions, particularly the allocation of recognition payments to harkis.

The bill provides for a comprehensive financial effort that is very significant for our defence. In accordance with the guidelines set by the President, the effort dedicated by the nation to its defence will be maintained. Between 2014 and 2019, the Defence Ministry’s resources will increase to €190 billion current (€179.2 billion constant). The budget will first be stabilized at its 2013 level – that is, €31.4 billion – until 2016, then slightly increased in constant euros from 2017 onwards. In addition to the €183.9 billion constant in budget appropriations over the period, there are €6.1 billion in exceptional resources (€5.9 billion constant).

The bill shows an ambition equal to France’s needs, responsibilities and standing. In the context of a difficult financial situation, an uncertain strategic environment and the need to modernize our materiel, France is choosing through this bill to maintain a high level of ambition and responsibility in the international arena, while guaranteeing the protection of her population. The military estimates bill will give France the capability, on the one hand, to take on three fundamental missions simultaneously – protecting the country and its population, nuclear deterrence based on two components and intervention in foreign theatres, both in crisis management and in war situations – and, on the other, to maintain a world-class defence industry. She will be one of the only countries to possess all those assets together.

The defence industry, a crucial sector of our economy, is essential to our strategic autonomy. An average of €17.1 billion a year will be dedicated to investing in and equipping our forces. The high level of skills in the defence industry, the continuation of the programmes under way and the maintenance of all the major European cooperation programmes being conducted will thus be guaranteed. This procurement policy is being put at the service of our military strategy. A major effort is thus planned, in order to modernize our equipment and plug the gaps in our armed forces, for example through the delivery of MRTT in-flight refuelling aircraft, Rafales, armoured infantry combat vehicles, Tigre and NH90 helicopters, multipurpose frigates, a nuclear-powered attack submarine and cruise missiles. The majority of major programmes will be adjusted according to the forecasts resulting from the contracts signed in 2009 – which cannot be reconciled with the goal of a return to equilibrium in the public accounts – in order to combine responsibly with this goal the continued modernization of our forces and the maintenance of our industrial base.

The bill makes provision for a major effort to be made for defence personnel and support for restructuring. No military capability is credible without the effective, adequate operational preparation of the armed forces; so this will be the focus of a significant financial effort, increasing in volume over the whole period, with an average of €3.4 billion (€2.9 billion in 2013) spent annually. Consistent with the redefinition of operational contracts and with the savings objectives set by the White Paper, the bill also provides for 23,500 jobs to be cut between 2014 and 2019, which come on top of the 10,175 job cuts already decided for 2014 and 2015 under the previous reform. These will start being reduced with a concern to protect the operational forces, whose reduction amounts to only a third of the new downscaling. A broad programme of measures to support civilian and military personnel who are called on to leave the service is provided for in the law; this will be complemented by a programme to improve conditions for personnel. Implementation of the restructuring measures made necessary by the job cuts and the reorganization of certain Ministry functions (particularly support, human resources management and financial management) will proceed with a close eye kept on their human, economic and social consequences. Economic support measures tailored to the specific situation of each of the most severely affected territories will be implemented. A total of €150 million will be invested in this; it will be complemented by an aid mechanism for SMEs.

The new programming adapts our defence to the future and to tomorrow’s conflicts. The bill creates the conditions for making a significant effort towards R&T: an average of €730 million a year will go to cutting-edge study programmes. The law will also give our forces the wherewithal to prepare for new types of conflict and develop the state-of-the-art equipment of the future. It confirms the priority given to intelligence by providing for the purchase of observation and surveillance satellites and various categories of UAVs, and by adapting our law in this area, in the framework of modernized, enhanced parliamentary scrutiny. It confirms the capabilities essential to our strategic autonomy: resources for the special forces and for targeting, modernization of the two nuclear components, air deployment, renewal of our surface and submarine naval capabilities and of our armoured ground assets. The bill also reflects the new strategic situation constituted by cyber defence; it provides for strengthening the ability to act in this area and adapting the law to this new challenge. (…)./.

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