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French Defense Minister Sounds Alarm Over Possible Budget Cuts

May. 24, 2014 - 03:45AM   |  
By PIERRE TRAN   |   Comments
Painful Budget Cuts: French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has written to the prime minister expressing deep concerns over expected budget cuts.
Painful Budget Cuts: French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has written to the prime minister expressing deep concerns over expected budget cuts. (FAROUK BATICHE/AFP)
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PARIS — French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has written to Prime Minister Manuel Valls expressing deep concerns over an expected cut in the defense budget, while the chief of staff and the Air Force, Army and Navy chiefs have offered to resign, daily Le Figaro reported on Thursday.

President François Hollande will decide on the arbitration “in the next few weeks,” Agence France-Presse reported.

The president’s office said Le Drian’s letter was sent May 9 and was part of the budgetary procedure, the agency reported.

Meanwhile, the chiefs of the armed forces showed their support for the minister at a meeting on May 13 by offering to stand down, Le Figaro reported. The Dassault family owns the conservative newspaper.

Le Drian refers in his letter to the 2014 defense budget, which is due to cut €355 million (US $484 million), the newspaper reported. The 2013 defense budget sliced €720 million from equipment spending, the report said.

The defense minister calls for €500 million from exceptional receipts for 2014, effectively raised by selling the government’s shareholdings in defense companies, the report said.

The letter sets out concerns over military training, poor state of buildings, paying bills on time, hurting labor and postponing key equipment orders to 2016. These difficulties would arise amid overseas campaigns in Mali and the Central African Republic.

Some €7 billion of equipment contracts planned for 2014 and 2015 would be delayed, which would have “disastrous industrial consequences,” Le Drian said. Thousands of jobs would be lost at Nexter and Renault Trucks Defense in the land sector, at Concarneau, Cherbourg and Saint-Nazaire shipyards, and the aerospace industry. Know-how would be lost, he said.

There would be severe consequences for the military, particularly for the nuclear deterrent, for a planned order of the Airbus A330 multirole tanker and transport plane and for the Army, which would be under-equipped.

Intelligence-gathering kit, including a medium-altitude, long-endurance UAV, Ceres spy satellite and light aircraft, would be delayed, he said.

The government recently announced a €50 billion national spending cut, and there are fears defense will be slashed despite the 2014-19 multiyear budget law being adopted. The six-year plan sets a total spending of €190 billion, with an annual €31.4 billion budget.

The letter was copied to Finance Minister Michel Sapin, the report said. ■


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