The reaction to the news that France has increased their defence budget by €2.3 Billion this year and €3.8 billion by 2019 has been met by what I think are predictable reactions in the UK;
- France now sets the political agenda on European defence
- The US won’t love us anymore because France is spending more
- We should follow in their footsteps and do likewise
- This puts the election focus back on defence
Not so sure about any of that to be honest.
Of course, we are a self-selecting audience and more defence funding is the natural inclination of most of the people that read Think Defence but before getting carried away perhaps we should have a look at what this is likely to entail for France.
Additional top-up funding was needed because expected income from one-off asset disposals (spectrum and land) were not as high as anticipated, the spectrum bonanza boat sailed about a decade ago and, after all, we are in a global recession.
The funding also (and I think this is the crucial aspect to understand) covers operational expenditure. In much the same way the UK has a budget and supplemental cost arrangement, France needs additional funding to cover the cost of additional and longer duration operations in North and Central Africa and Iraq.
They will also be used to cover the additional expenditures anticipated allowing the French military to continue with their increased counter terrorist activities post the terrorist attacks in Paris. Keeping 7,000 service personnel permanently deployed at sensitive sites in France will attract a very large bill. A number of sources indicate that Opération Sentinelle (Operation Sentinel), the current additional internal security deployment, costs approximately €1 million per day.
The increase will reportedly, allow France to reduce already planned defence personnel cuts.
It is not clear from the announcements so far what the funding will be used for in detail but I have read a number of reports indicating increases in reserve capacity and cyber capabilities are also likely.
France maintains highly professional and well-equipped armed forces that are deployed at some scale, a fact that is often forgotten by many. They have in excess of 10,000 personnel currently deployed in Africa, for example, the same scale as UK forces deployed in Afghanistan. The additional 7,000 personnel for security operations in France will also be a significant burden.
The National Gendarmerie is a law enforcement agency that sits within the French Ministry of Defence although funded by the Interior Ministry (thanks JBT). In other nations, the UK for example, much of the role of the French National Gendarmerie is delivered by the Home Office and various constabularies that are funded from outside the defence budget, whether there will be any transfer of wooden Dollars (or Francs) between budget lines, who knows.
I guess as well, someone has to pay for those Russian Mistral’s!
The short point, don’t be expecting any new divisions or squadrons to be established.
Whatever the actual details, there is rather a large political element to the decision.
If a left wing government can increase spending on defence and security, the pressure will mount on this side of the English Channel to do likewise.
Over to you chaps, stand fast at the back Natalie :)
Am always very wary on commenting on another nation’s defence matters, apologies for any ignorance induced errors