Defense White Paper/Defense Savings
[*Q. – With the White Paper on defence and [national] security highlighting new threats, is it reasonable to make savings on defence?*]
THE MINISTER – No one is talking about savings on the total volume of defence funding and, moreover, there aren’t any in the 2008 budget. Today, the world is probably more dangerous than it was 15 years ago. We must think about the terrorist threat, capable of striking the heart of our cities; the risk of nuclear proliferation; the consequences of global warming and chaos it will bring to all coastal areas, since it’s thought this will lead to the displacement of several hundred million people; the race for energy, against a background of a growing scarcity of supply and ever-increasing needs, bearing in mind the arrival of a further 2.5 billion inhabitants and the strong growth prospects of countries such as China, India, Brazil, etc. What’s more, we’ve got to relearn how to defend our assets. We live in a prosperous continent, accounting for 8% of the world’s population, 25% of global production and an agricultural production capacity which can arouse a lot of envy. All this can’t lead us to reduce the defence effort. The whole difficulty lies in taking on new missions to address the new risks, with what we have in the way of resources, given our budget deficit. We have to save money on the running of the Ministry, and this involves jointery [US: "jointness"], pooling services and reorganizing the defence estate. (…)
[*Q. – The White Paper notes that France and Europe will depend technologically on the United States. Isn’t there a risk in that?*]
THE MINISTER – We have the absolute imperative of maintaining a French and European industrial and technological base. Here, we have a major problem since in this we are very alone: France and the United Kingdom carry out 70% of Community research, 35% each – with each developing its industrial and technological base on a very national basis. In France, R&D has fallen 40% since 1990: you can imagine the consequences for our own sovereignty… Moreover the R&D gap between France, Europe and the United States could well undermine the industrial and technological flagship which is the defence industry. (…)
[*Q. – One of the great fears affecting the military is the loss of the ability to project forces abroad? What will be the White Paper’s doctrine on this point?*]
THE MINISTER – France has moved from the absolute primacy of nuclear deterrence to the absolute primacy of force projection, with one consequence: the move to career armed forces. Today, we need to maintain a significant projection – i.e. intervention – capability, because on this depends the credibility of our foreign policy, security of our nationals, our strategic interests and defence of our supply routes. However, we have to ensure the right balance between this and our new needs, such as knowledge and anticipation. We’ve got to find a new way of coordinating intelligence, anticipation, knowledge and projection, bearing in mind that all this must be done with the financial constraint imposed by the maintenance of our deterrent, i.e. 20 to 25% of the equipment budget.
[*Q. – We’ve got the means to carry out small-scale force projections and larger ones. What does the White Paper provide for?*]
THE MINISTER – There’s the projection of power linked to major military operations, such as Afghanistan, and projections which are stabilization operations, where presence on the ground is enough to provide the necessary stability, for example in Chad or the Central African Republic. Even if it isn’t easy, we could think about tailoring our equipment to these two types of mission. (…)
Defense Estate Restructuring
[*Q. – President Sarkozy and you yourself have said that town and country planning [regional development] isn’t the business of the armed forces. Nevertheless the general review of public policies should mean redrawing the national map of defence establishments. After Rachida Dati’s "judicial map" [location and jurisdiction of French courts], Hervé Morin’s "military map"?*]
THE MINISTER – The White Paper has first to be made public, we must decide how the defence budget is to be allocated, which crisis scenarios we are focusing on and what equipment and regiments we need to carry out the missions assigned to the armed forces. The Ministry’s reorganization is necessary. The Chief of the Defence Staff has been given the mandate to ensure that the debate on capacity is not conducted on the basis of the requirements of our land, sea and air forces, but on that of our defence needs. We shall also have to adapt our support and general administrative services. This way we can hope to save between €1 and 1.5 billion a year, which will give some room for manoeuvre to improve Service conditions for personnel and the equipment of the forces. For example, an air force mechanic must be able to repair an army Puma helicopter, which isn’t the case at the moment. All this will lead to reorganization of the defence estate. For example, we’ll have to bring the regiments closer to the training camps or an air base from which they can be deployed. It’s necessary. All defence estate restructuring will be accompanied by measures to support the localities involved in consultation with the elected representatives.
[*Q. – It’s said that this could mean a reduction of personnel of between 35,000 and 50,000…*]
THE MINISTER – The goal set by the government is the non-replacement of one civil servant out of every two who retire. This is expected to involve 30,000 people over a five-year period. In my post, I have two think twice about our children’s future: first about not yielding an inch when it comes to safeguarding our national security and ability to act in the world; and second about contributing to the effort to restore our public finances. There are two ways for a people to lose their sovereignty: disarmament and excessive debt./.