MADRID — The Spanish Air Force’s top military official wants his country to invest more in its military apparatus, to be able to defend itself at home and contribute to its international partnerships.

The nation should do more to articulate the importance of defense spending to its public, military officials said during a Thursday panel discussion at the biennial FEINDEF conference in Madrid. General Javier Salto Martínez-Avial, the Air Force chief of staff, advocated for Spain to spend 2 percent of its budget on “safety and the armed forces.”

“The armed forces provide safety, and safety … is the basis of the welfare of Spanish society,” he said.

Citizens invest in alarm systems to protect their homes when they go out, and the government should do the same for the broader nation, he noted. “Maybe 2 percent of the budget should be devoted to safety and to the armed forces, as families do.”

NATO members pledged in 2014 to increase their defense spending to at least 2 percent of GDP within the next 10 years, and the metric has become a notorious, if somewhat imperfect, indicator of a nation’s military capability.

Seven years later, 10 of the 29 member-nations have met that goal; Spain, however, is second-to last in defense expenditures, spending 1.02 percent of its GDP on defense as of June 2021, according to NATO. Only Luxembourg invests less, with 0.57 percent of its GDP going to defense.

The military’s mission to train and equip its forces, and comply with its commitments to NATO, the European Union, and further abroad is “not a light task,” Martínez-Avial said. Further investment in defense is not only something the services request — “it’s a need.”

Vivienne Machi is a reporter based in Stuttgart, Germany, contributing to Defense News' European coverage. She previously reported for National Defense Magazine, Defense Daily, Via Satellite, Foreign Policy and the Dayton Daily News. She was named the Defence Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2020.