ROME — More than €500 million (US $546.8 million) euros that Italy promised to spend on security after the Paris terror attacks will likely support go toward much needed Army maintenance and new Army programs, a government source has said, as well as cyber defense and better wages for soldiers.
Reacting to the November attacks by ISIS in Paris, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi promised on Nov. 24 to spend an extra €500 million euros on defense, €150 million on cyber technology and another €350 million on Italy’s underfunded police force for a total of a billion euros €1 billion.
That €1 billion, he said, would be matched by a billion euros €1 billion in spending on cultural programs in Italy.
No details were given about the half billion euro €500 million defense spending and no decision has yet been taken was made because the cash has not been yet to be freed up, a defense source said. Generals will now be watching carefully to see if the government is true to its word.
But if and when the money arrives, about €140 million of the sum is likely to be used to add €spent on adding80 euros a month to soldiers' salaries, the pay packet of soliders, the source said.
The remaining €360 million will probably be used for Army maintenance and operations (M&O) funding, as well as on "one or two" programs, he said. That could mean more cash for vehicles and digital kit for Italian infantry.
With a potential engagement in lawless Libya on the horizon, alarm is growing over the Italian Army’s M&O spending, which has been so low for a number of years that units not engaged in overseas missions have little cash for fuel or training.
"The Army needs attention — there is a request there," said the source.
The Italy's overall military M&O budget for 2015 is €1.15 billion, euros, far lower than the €9.67 billion spent on wages.
"We need at least €3three billion to get by," said one defense analyst who declined to be named.
The analyst said the Air Force was also suffering from M&O cuts.
"With no funds for replacement parts, the Air Force’s fleet of C-130Js and C-27Js is being cannibalized for parts," he said.
Other emergency requirements now being considered include better protection for aircraft from Manpads MANPADS and better protection against nuclear, biological and chemical warfare, the analyst added.
Italy’s Finmeccanica, meanwhile, will be looking for a share of the €150 million euros promised by the government for cybersecurity.
The firm has already won contracts to handle cybersecurity for NATO and set up a cyber center in Chieti in central Italy, which is conveniently close to local universities producing IT graduates, and far from big cities like Milan where staff turnover is are much higher.
The Italian government, which uses the Chieti center, focused its cybersecurity work in 2013 by setting up a central command post coordinating the protection of critical infrastructure and government ministries.
The new government cash will likely be focused less on cyber protection than on better monitoring of the online activity by suspected terrorists, an Italian industry source said.
Italy already has a strong culture of wiretapping stemming from the country’s long battle against organized crime and Italian police are now proving adept at tracking the online postings of fundamentalists.
Italian Justice Minister Andrea Orlando spelled out the country’s focus on surveillance when he told police chiefs on Nov. 26 to figure out how to eavesdrop on young fundamentalists.
"Once news was swapped by telephone only, but today we must get better at wiretapping online communications, meaning through PlayStation as well as chatting with programs, including music downloads," he said.
Commenting on suggestions that the Paris bombers may have used PlayStation consoles to stay in touch, a Justice Ministry spokeswoman said: "We don’t know if they were used, but we need to be ready."
An IT expert said that Italy would work on making it easier to wiretap vocal communications between consoles.
"You would need a Trojan program or malware to take possession of the module, which is almost impossible right now," said Selene Giupponi, a consultant on cyber terror to the European Union.
"Today you can more easily intercept and recuperate messaging between consoles," she said. "Here in Italy, police found the messages sent by a drug dealer who was using his Xbox to communicate."
People who download video game apps onto their phones, and then message through the apps from their phones can also be intercepted, she said.
"Remotely installed spyware can take care of that, in the same way you can take possession of a computer and intercept Skype calls," she said.
The challenge, she added, was getting your spyware onto the phone or computer of a suspect.
"You need to get them to activate an upgrade containing the spyware, or get hold of the phone or computer for five minutes."