PARIS — France will cut 24,000 civilian and military posts and slow down equipment deliveries in the coming years as it seeks to maintain a full spectrum of capabilities and to meet budgetary constraints, Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said April 29.
Le Drian announced the staff reductions and a stretching out of arms programs as he outlined a long-awaited white paper on defense and national security.
The white paper, approved by President François Hollande earlier in the day, sets France’s broad strategic orientation and allows work to go ahead on the 2014 defense budget and new military budget law for the six years over 2014-2019.
France would cooperate with the UK on a new anti-ship missile, dubbed anti-navire léger, which would “accelerate the integration of the missile industry,” Le Drian said.
In the UK, the missile is known as the future anti-surface guided weapon (heavy).
The job cuts would be made over the years out to 2019, be found in administrative and service positions, and leave the operational forces as untouched as possible, Le Drian told a packed audience of civilians and officers at the Ecole Militaire staff college here.
Because of the tough financial and economic climate, equipment acquisition will go ahead “at a slower rhythm,” but overall, the programs would be maintained, he said. The new military budget law will set out the details of that new schedule and the procurement chief, Laurent Collet-Billon, will have to negotiate with industry to put that in place, Le Drian said.
Le Drian, asked to confirm the defense ministry would need a reported figure of €4 billion (US $5.2 billion) to plug a funding gap, said that would be decided with the military budget law.
Hollande has said defense spending in the years to 2019 would be held at the same figure as 2013, namely €31.4 billion. But it is unclear how much of that will come from exceptional revenues from asset sales.
Defense specialist François Cornut-Gentille, a member of parliament who sits on the Finance Committee, said the job cuts would be around 20,000 for the new period 2014-2019 as there was a double counting of posts already due to go under an existing reduction of 54,923 positions for 2008-2014.
Some 7,234 positions are due to go this year.
The latest white paper continues the policy of staff reduction, which the Socialist Party criticized when it was in opposition, Cornut-Gentille said.
Maintaining a full spectrum of capabilities means the government has failed to make choices and to come up with a strategy in the light of the present economic problems, Cornut-Gentille said.
“You have make choices, you must have a strategy,” he said.
Le Drian said the white paper reflected a continuity but also showed a realism which the previous 2008 report lacked. The economic and financial crises made the objectives set out in the previous policy paper untenable, he said.
The new white paper set the following financial objectives: annual defense budget, €31.4 billion; €179.2 billion between 2014 and 2019; and €364 billion between 2014 and 2025. A white paper is intended to cover 12 years of planning.