ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s new defense budget increases funding for the Army and Air Force and slightly decreases it for the Navy, but challenging economic conditions put near-term procurements in doubt.
The fiscal 2012-2013 defense budget, in current U.S. dollars, allocates $2.8 billion to the Army, an increase of $128 million; $1.2 billion for the Air Force, an increase of $64 million; and $562 million to the Navy, a $1.4 million decrease from the previous year.
The defense budget does not, however, usually include procurement funding and is comprised mainly of wages and running costs with increases fueled by ongoing counterinsurgency efforts.
Analyst and former fighter pilot Kaiser Tufail expects no new procurements in the near future.
“There is no doubt that the government is facing a very serious funding issue, and modernization programs of all three services are on the back burner,” he said.
“Although I’d like to keep politics aside, I suspect the government is keeping quite a bit of money to come up with various gimmicks just prior to the elections as well as during [vote buying], so defense matters are secondary for the time being,” he added.
One high-profile Air Force procurement project, the FC-20, a Pakistani-specific variant of the Chinese Chengdu J-10 Vigorous Dragon multirole fighter, may be adversely affected by the poor economic and political climate, he said.
Tufail said proceeding with this procurement is “far-fetched for the present.”
He also criticized money he says is being wasted on what he considers “ill-conceived projects and operations.” As examples, he lists “sustaining Jacobabad Base,” which he said is being largely resupplied by air, has its entire power supply generated on site and is fully air conditioned, the ongoing Siachen operations, expensive staff cars, and VIP transport jets.
“There seems to be no oversight of the Ministry of Defence or any other watchdog body,” he said.
There are predictions that the defense budget will continue to incrementally grow, however, some analysts say these predictions are not realistic.
“I don’t think we can increase the budget incrementally since the economy is not in such good shape. The largest part of the budget is, of course, spent on salaries and the rest on infrastructure and operations,” Tufail said.
“There is nothing in Pakistan’s economic forecast that makes it feasible for an annual increment in line with the present one. But the fact is that, with the withholding of U.S. military aid, the money has to come from somewhere,” said former Australian defense attaché to Islamabad, Brian Cloughley.
He also highlighted the effect of escalating operating costs.
“I don’t think the world at large quite realizes what extra operating costs the Army is having to bear, with over 150,000 Army and [Frontier Constabulary] troops deployed in the border regions — all because of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. The costs of fuel and rations, alone, are staggering. Then there’s the expensive matter of extra sorties by [ground attack fighters] and gunships. Not just the ammunition and ordnance, but the fuel and maintenance bills. People don’t realize what the Afghan war is costing Pakistan.”