A French Army convoy patrols in the desert in northern Mali. The French Defense Ministry has cut $875 million from its 2013 equipment budget. (Agence France-Presse)
PARIS — The French Defense Ministry has slashed €650 million (US $875 million) from its 2013 equipment budget in its contribution to trim the national deficit, a government filing showed.
The equipment cut shows the defense minister is a victim of the government’s overspending and France’s credit downgrading by ratings agency Standard & Poor’s, parliamentarian François Cornut-Gentille said. Those factors have led to an “unfavorable” ruling on the equipment budget, he said.
That cut in equipment spending is in contrast to an extra €578 million agreed for overseas operations, jointly announced Nov. 13 by the defense and budget ministers. The additional funding mainly covers January’s intervention against insurgents in Mali and a withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Defense is also taking its part along with other ministries in cutting the deficit, the Nov. 13 joint statement said without giving a figure or any details.
The €650 million in equipment cut appears in a table in the government’s commentary on the revised 2013 budget. That equipment cut shows defense is playing its part along with other ministries in reducing a 2013 €3 billion government overspend.
“[Defense Minister] Jean-Yves Le Drian may have lost the battle but not the war,” Cornut-Gentille said. The minister will try to recover the 2013 spending cut in the 2014-2019 defense multiyear budget law, he said.
Some €10 billion is set for the defense annual equipment budget.
In a bid to make up for the cut this year, there is talk of raising €500 million in exceptional receipts in 2014 through asset sales, a defense expert said.
Selling radio frequencies and shares in partly state-owned companies are sources of exceptional receipts.
The Nov. 13 joint statement said the government guarantees the investment set out in the defense multiyear budget law going through parliament.
This assurance will be confirmed “by the government’s amendment in the text of the military multiyear budget law,” the statement said.
The €578 million increase in overseas operations adds to an initial €630 million in the 2013 defense budget, totaling €1.2 billion.