Plan to double military budget

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iol news cz mapisa-nqakula bling wheels pic GCIS Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula

Johannesburg - The defence plan the cabinet hopes to sell to Parliament calls for doubling the military budget and substantially beefing up the SANDF.

The wishlist includes a forward base somewhere in Africa, better special operations capacity, much bigger border patrol operation and hints of a lot of new equipment.

On Wednesday, Minister of Defence Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said she expects to get the money as the government has already committed itself to helping the defence force.

“I don’t think government has a choice at this point in time. We had to conduct this review in order to have an appreciation of the kind of organisation that we have, its capabilities, its capacity vis a vis the missions assigned to our defence force,” Mapisa-Nqakula said at a briefing in Pretoria explaining the updated Defence Review 2014.

The Defence Review argues that the SANDF is in a critical state of decline and that the government must decide whether to let budgets dictate policy or policy drive the budgets.

Last month, the cabinet approved the Defence Review and directed that it be tabled in Parliament, indicating that spending will be reprioritised in the long term.

“In the discussions at cabinet, the issue was we have two choices: either we go on a decline or we try to restock and reorganise our defence force. Government says we have to make sure that we do not go on the decline,” said Mapisa-Nqakula.

She said 20 years ago the focus on socio-economic needs was at the expense of equipping the defence force, and she now expected that “everybody will have an appreciation of the urgency of increasing the budget of the defence force”.

Mapisa-Nqakula expects budget adjustments from next year.

“Treasury will have to take into consideration this report,” said the minister.

The Defence Review outlines the plans, detailed on Wednesday by Mapisa-Nqakula, Defence Review committee chair Roelf Meyer and committee member Brigadier-General John Gibbs.

By 2028, the SANDF hopes to have 189 000 employees, half of them regulars, and 158 combat units.

To get this by 2028, the plan calls for about R88 billion a year in defence funding (in current rand values), equating to 2.4 percent of GDP and 8.2 percent of government expenditure.

The current defence budget is about 1.1 percent of GDP and sets R42.8bn for 2014/15, then R45.3bn for 2015/16 and R48.2bn for 2016/17. The current force has about 97 000 personnel and 67 combat units, and the Review says the military is currently about 24 percent underfunded, leaving it in a “critical state of decline”.

The Review outlines a wishlist for a defence force of professionals that roughly doubles in size over the next 14 years and substantially expands its equipment.

Meyer said the timelines were “rough indications”.

There is no detailed list of equipment wanted, but it will clearly be substantial, and this is part of the call for bigger budgets.

The army is likely to be top of the list for equipment, as the Review says it faces “block obsolescence” of prime mission equipment.

There is a call to simplify the way procurement works, partly to speed it up, and a warning that the 1999 Strategic Defence Procurement Package (SDPP) was “far more costly” than originally planned.

The SDPP, which bought submarines, frigates, fighter planes and helicopters, was dogged by allegations of corruption and is currently being reviewed by the Arms Procurement Commission.

Mapisa-Nqakula said this wouldn’t affect the Defence Review. “The arms commission does not talk to the issues which we are raising.”

On Wednesday, the DA dismissed the Review as flawed.

DA MP David Maynier called it a review of defence policy rather than of the defence force, as the defence chiefs must now take the Review and plan the force design.

“This means that the choices about the future of the defence force have been avoided rather than confronted in the Defence Review,” said Maynier.

He called the plan for R88bn a year funding “dislodged from fiscal reality and is not going to happen”.

The Defence Review is not a new plan and it hasn’t been a secret.

The first version was released for public comment in 2012 and it has been widely discussed.

Meyer said a high level of public input was included in the Review.

What is different is that it has now been officially approved by the cabinet, so it’s going to Parliament. That means a shift in defence spending is likely to happen.

This is the first major defence policy overhaul since the Defence Review of 1998.

That 1998 Review focused on integrating the former forces into a single SANDF and set the stage for the new democracy’s military. This Review, on the other hand, focuses on South Africa’s role on a changing continent.

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