France is lucky to have admirable armed forces “respected by our allies and feared by our adversaries” which must be maintained “in the global front rank (…) which is why I’m asking you to hike the defence budget to 2% of GDP by 2022 and not 2025,” pleaded France’s armed forces chief of staff at a hearing by the National Assembly’s Defence and Armed Forces Commission.
During the 8 February hearing, whose minutes were published a few days ago, Field Marshal Pierre de Villiers explained that two years ago it was feasible to wait until 2025 to make this budgetary effort “but unfortunately the context has changed.” Calling “a spade a spade“, he revealed some figures: “to reach the objective of 2% of GDP by 2022, the global effort to be made is two billion a year, in other words in constant figures €35.5bn in 2018, €37.5bn in 2019 and €39.5bn in 2020.”
Well aware that he was speaking just a few weeks prior to the first round of the French presidential election, the chief of staff insisted “for those of you who think we can still make savings” that the armed forces have been “in full reform (..) ever since 2008 (…) in complete silence.” He added that the reforms undertaken involve “the entirety of the components of our armies, management and services – staff headquarters, (…) training, support – with wide-ranging efforts in terms of governance, rationalisation and simplification.” And with his usual frankness he declared: “we’ve already paid, and not to put too fine a point on it, we’ve paid all we had.“
Wth a view to a defence budget amounting to 2% of the country’s GDP “a staff increase of 600 is planned for the 2014-19 period in the cyberdefence sector.” The chief of staff noted that “without this increase, we’ll get left behind.” He claims that France is not only able to defend herself in this sector “but also to riposte.” However, and contrary to what has been said in the past, “it would be a mistake to want to create a fourth army of support, a fourth army of special forces, a fourth army of cyberdefence,” he stated. De Villiers told the parliamentarians that cyber is “a totally transverse field: it is present everywhere, in each of the three classic armies and beyond. Therefore cyberdefence concerns the three armies and they already supply those personnel active in cyber space.”