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France - Military Spending

According the 2018 plan from the French government, the defense spending for 2019-2025 will increase to reach to 2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2025. France will continue to modernize its armed forces with the purchase of new aircraft, upgrade Leclerc main battle tank and will acquire new combat armored vehicles. The military budget will increase €1.7 billion per year until 2022 and €3 billion per year starting in 2023. Total military expenditure over the period will be €300 billion. For 2018, it is €34.2 billion (1.82 percent of GDP), compared to €32.7 billion (1.77 percent of GDP) in 2017.

A public row between President Emmanuel Macron and General Pierre de Villiers erupted in mid-July 2017 after Macron announced an €850 million cut to the defence budget in an effort to meet the EU’s requirement that member states maintain their deficits at below 3 percent of GDP. De Villiers reportedly complained about the cuts to a parliamentary committee and followed it up with a Facebook post that criticised the measure without naming Macron. His public remarks – unusual in France, which has a tradition of military chiefs refraining from comments about civilian governments – sparked a rebuke from Macron. "I am the boss," Macron told the French weekly Journal du dimanche, adding that if there was a difference of opinion, "it is the chief of the defence staff who will change his position". De Villiers said 19 July 2017 that, throughout his career, he believed it was his duty to tell politicians "of my reservations".

Among the larger European economies, France and the United Kingdom are the only significant spenders on defense. The two together account for 40 percent of European Union (EU) defense spending. Each spends well over 2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), while most other EU countries spend less than 1.5 percent of GDP.

President François Hollande announced 29 April 2015 that France would increase its defence budget by close to four billion euros over four years, in response to extremist threats after the Paris jihadist attacks. He also said that military patrols at sensitive sites nationwide that were set up after the January attacks would be made permanent, with a 7,000-strong force dedicated to internal security. France would reduce by half the number of army jobs cuts it initially planned over the next five years. The military budget forecasts 34,000 job cuts, (but) 18,500 will now be preserved.

While the financial crisis that hit the world might push some to lower their guard, France continued to devote a major financial effort to its defense. According to the April 2013 White Paper, this will amount to 364 Billion for the period 2014-2025, including 179 Bn for the years 2014 to 2019 making up the period of the next military programming law. This commitment will allow the realization of an army model responding to the strategic needs and adapted to the requirements of the French defense and national security, while meeting the French Government's goal of restoring an equilibrium to public finances and thus preserve its sovereignty and strategic autonomy.

France’s Socialist Party government (PS) convened a Defense Council in March 2015 to review the military budget, escalate overseas military operations and permanently maintain troops deployed across France after the mass Charlie Hebdo shooting in January. The government said that a review of the 2014-2019 Military Program Law (LPM) will take place in the summer, ensuring the armed forces receive the funding promised to them. Up to 23,000 posts in the army that were set to be eliminated by 2019 are being reinstated in order to maintain a military presence at home and abroad. Proposed measures include boosting reservists from 28,000 to 40,000.

The deployment of some 10,000 troops across France after the January 7 attack on the editorial offices of Charlie Hebdo will be maintained indefinitely. Under the revised strategy, 10,000 troops will be mobilized for external operations. The government plans to escalate its military operations in Africa and the Middle East. France was involved in major military operations, including Sangaris in the Central African Republic (CAR), Barkhane in Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad, and Chammal in Iraq. In mid-2010 the French Defence Ministry was preparing for a reduction of 2 billion euros to 3 billion euros in the best case and 4.8 billion euros in the worst over the next three years. The Defence Ministry had experienced two years of budgetary buoyancy, with equipment spending in 2010 set at 17 billion euros out of a total budget of 32.2 billion euros, excluding pensions. The 33 billion euro budget for 2009 included 18 billion for equipment.

Defence spending had been increased substantially since 2002, with the objective of reaching 2.5% of GDP. This increase has been enshrined in the Military Planning Act for 2003-2008, which calls for spending of 14.84 billion euros each year to maintain and improve capabilities through delivery of new equipment. This represented an average increase of 6.8% in constant euros over the whole period compared to the previous Military Planning Act for 1997-2002. In fiscal year 2007, France's defense budget reached US$45 billion, a modest dollar increase from 2006 that represented 2.6 percent of GDP. A declining share of France's defense budget - now less than 10 percent - goes toward its nuclear force. For comparision with France's military expenditiures, the U.S. defense budget in 2007 was about 3.2 percent of GDP and dollar figures that dwarf the spending of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) partners. In 2008, defence spending represented at least 2% of GDP.

The paramilitary gendarmerie is the organization in France ultimately responsible for homeland security. Much of the increase in the military budget of 2003-8, an increase slated to reinforce the French military's capacity to fight terrorism, was devoted to bolstering the gendarmerie. The extra funds for the gendarmerie were applied to renewing the vehicle fleet - with the replacement of 122 VBRGs (gendarmerie wheeled armored vehicles) - and additional surveillance, intervention, and rescue helicopters, as well as improved computer systems.

France bears an important share of the responsibility of defending Europe's security and stability. France endorses U.S. calls for European defense spending levels to be raised sufficiently to allow credible self-defense, the development of effective crisis reaction capabilities, and greater participation in international responses to global challenges. While France does not participate in the Alliance's military command structure, it has consistently demonstrated its willingness to engage in collective responses to common threats. France was among the first allies to seek a role in the war on terrorism, and plays a leading role in other allied operations. France's military is also undergoing a major restructuring towards a smaller, modernized, and all-professional force that will be both more deployable, and interoperable with U.S. and allied militaries.

France's defense spending in 2001 ($33.6 billion) was the fourth highest of all US allies. In December 2001, an additional $3.1 billion was allocated to defense. While most of these funds were devoted to the A400M transport aircraft project, $398 million was designated for equipment upgrades associated with the war against terrorism. France devoted the sixth highest percentage of defense spending (19.9 percent) to NATO modernization programs (i.e., procurement, and research and development).

France is the second largest contributor of peacekeeping personnel in the world after the United States. During 2001, French troops and civilian police participated in UN missions in Sierra Leone, Lebanon, the Republic of Georgia, Bosnia, Kosovo, the Western Sahara, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and on the borders between Iraq and Kuwait, and Eritrea and Ethiopia. At the end of the year, 5,200 French troops were serving in Kosovo, where France assumed command of KFOR in October 2001. France also currently commands SFOR's sensitive Multi-National Division (Southeast) sector in Bosnia, where it has about 2,200 troops. France contributed an additional 225 troops to NATO's Task Force Fox in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. In addition to the troops serving in multinational peacekeeping operations, France had over 24,000 military personnel stationed abroad in 2000, including approximately 6,100 in Africa.

France consistently spends the largest share of GDP on official development assistance of all the Group of Seven (G-7) nations. Between 1998 and 2000, its foreign assistance outlays averaged nearly half a percent of GDP (0.46 percent). Absolute contributions increased in 2000 with total grant aid contributions of over $5.8 billion.

France serves as administrative point of contact for the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), and played an important role in establishing the MTCR's international code of conduct against proliferation of ballistics missiles in 2001. France participates in the Australia Group for the control of chemicals and technologies related to biological warfare, as well as the Nuclear Suppliers Group for the control of nuclear-related, dual-use technologies and equipment. It also works closely with the United States and other allies on a program for the disposition of Russia's weapons-grade plutonium, and, as a member of the UN Conference on Disarmament, is helping to develop guidelines for a fissile material cutoff treaty regime.

The Ministry of Defense's 2007 budget would increase defense spending a modest 2.2 percent to 47.7 billion euros, according to the draft budget presented by Finance Minister Thierry Breton on 27 September 2006. The draft budget dispels earlier rumors that defense spending could diminish as the Chirac government attempts to reduce the overall budget deficit in line with EU-mandated limits and impress upon the public his government's fiscal prudence in advance of next April's presidential elections. The defense budget contained few surprises, and proposed increases corresponded with previous commitments established in 2002 for the second phase (2003-2008) of a multi-year military modernization plan, which established defense priorities through 2015. The MoD pointed to the budget as proof that France remains committed to its status as a global military power, even at a time when other ministries suffered significant cuts and other EU member states are scaling back on defense spending. It remains to be seen what effect the 2007 Presidential elections will have on the defense budget.

The additional funds primarily would provide for the procurement of new equipment and deployment of forces overseas. The MoF allocated a second tranche of 700 million euros to begin construction of a second aircraft carrier, 475 million euros to purchase 12 NH 90 helicopters that would replace the aging Super Frelons, 250 million euros for the purchase of more Rafale multi-role planes, and 220 million euros for further development of the Barracuda nuclear attack submarine. The MoD would also purchase 117 armed combat vehicles for the infantry (VBCI), 50 naval cruise missiles and 5,000 "integrated infantry systems" (FELIN) that consist of a uniform, arms and communications equipment that enable an infantryman to operate efficiently in a wide range of circumstances. Further, the MoD would increase spending on "external operations" (OpEx) to 360 million euros from 175 million euros.

Despite Alliot-Marie's claim that the budget constitutes "dazzling proof of five year's worth of ceaseless political determination to modernize our defense," the modest increase in the defense budget conceals notable cutbacks and unfulfilled promises. The Army would purchase only 12 NH90 helicopters, instead of the 30 helicopters it intended to acquire as recently as September.

From 1992 to 2000, the French Defense Budget declined by approximately 3.7 percent per annum. However, from 2001 to 2008 its defense spending has risen by 23.5 percent — in part to help fund international deployments.

These figures cannot be compared on an “apples to apples” basis with the US military because 28 percent of French defense forces are composed of the Gendarmerie — a paramilitary national police force under the control of the Ministry of Defense. While some gendarmes are focused on internal threat-oriented activities such as anti-terrorism and even deploy abroad for force protection services, most provide police functions in various localities.

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Page last modified: 17-09-2018 15:24:42 ZULU