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HELSINKI — Norway’s armed forces is set to gain a 9.8 percent real term increase in its budget for 2016. The rise, contained in the government’s newly released budget proposal, will result in defense spending climbing by US $526 million to $6 billion in 2016.

The planned budget hike for 2016 will increase Norway’s defense spending to 1.54 percent of GDP. About $1.51 billion is allocated to weapons and equipment procurement, while infrastructure projects will receive $393 million in 2016.

The budget plan makes no mention of the long- to short-term potential impact on defense spending, particularly on the procurement side, against a backdrop where the Norwegian krone has fallen in value against major currencies.

The budget plan, coupled with parallel objectives set out by the Ministry of Defense, addresses many of the funding and force development issues set out in the armed forces’ Strategic Defense Review (SDR), which was presented by Chief of Defense Adm. Haakon Bruun-Hanssen to the MoD on Oct.1.

Bruun-Hanssen warned that Norway would need to significantly increase spending on defense to circumvent the future risk of the military being forced into unwanted capability-based cuts.

The SDR is intended to be used as a primary component in the government’s white paper dealing with long-term development issues that are expected to be presented to the Norwegian parliament in 2016.

The defense budget proposal for 2016 includes a twofold increase in funding for the F-35 Lightning 11 program, the strengthening of Norway’s Intelligence Service, as well as expansion in both the High North and the forward deployment of submarine patrols.

"The Norwegian government takes the new security situation very seriously, and in 2016 we intend to follow up on our stated intention of strengthening the Norwegian armed forces in areas which allow its operational capabilities to grow in both the short and the long term," said Defense Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide.

The budget proposal allocates $1.05 billion to the F-35 acquisition and associated  infrastructure programs. Related capital investment projects include additional funds covering the construction of the new F-35-base at Ørland Main Air Station. The first F-35 aircraft are scheduled to arrive at Ørland in 2017.

The Intelligence Service, which includes an air-surveillance unit and P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft, will receive $45.3 million in 2016. The Navy’s vessel maintenance budget will increase by $39.2 million, in a move directed at bolstering the readiness and operational availability of vessels.

The expansion of High North patrols brings a projected $7.6 million rise for the Ula-class submarine fleet, enabling forward-deployment to the Ramsund Naval Station.

In the SDR report, Bruun-Hanssen petitioned the government for a significant increase in spending to ensure the military was not forced into cutbacks that could cripple its overall effectiveness.

The SDR’s prognosis and fiscal projections have raised concerns among officer unions and associations fearful that the scope of future defense spending increases will not be sufficient to protect force capability.

In an efficiency boosting position welcomed by the MoD, Bruun-Hanssen advocates the further streamlining of staff and support functions together with reducing the number of military bases and so-called non-essential infrastructure.

The potential range of cutbacks outlined in the SDR, including plans to sharply scale back manpower and funding in the Norwegian Home Guard, has caused the Norwegian Military Officers Association (NMOA) to question the need for enhanced cost-base savings projects.

"The long-term effects of more cutbacks will not improve force development. We could also see a weakening in defense spending in real terms falling away more from the level required by NATO. We do not believe that the defense chief wants more cuts, but feels under pressure to take this course for economic reasons," said Torbjørn Bongo, NMOA’s deputy leader.

Email: godwyer@defensenews.com

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