In 2017 there will be a presidential election in France.
It thus seemed a good idea to us here at FOB, whenever we have the opportunity, to pose the same three questions about the army and the land armaments industrial sector not only to the candidates but also to representatives of political parties.
Opening the series is the president of the Union of Democrats and Independents (UDI), Jean-Christophe Lagarde, who is also a member of parliament and mayor of Drancy, (a neighbouring suburb of Le Bourget where the bi-annual air show is held in northern Paris). Having crossed paths with him during last month’s Eurosatory show in Paris, we were able to ask him our three questions.
Do you think the army is well equipped?
No, it isn’t. The budgetary cuts are causing difficulties for our soldiers. The efforts of the French armed forces, and the army in particular, have been considerable over the past few years when it comes to participating in reducing the state’s budget. Our defence effort should not be the variable for adjusting the budget. On the contrary, we must increase funds to the LPM [military programme law] from €3bn to €5bn. You know, €5bn is less than Mr Hollande’s electoral gifts since the beginning of this year!
Is it the role of the army to undertake missions like Sentinelle?
It should not be the role of the army alone. That is why I am campaigning for a back-up, a national guard formed of men and women who would undergo a short training period so that they could spend a few days a year to protect public transport, shopping centres, etc. It would also allow the crucial link between the army and the nation to be strengthened.
What do you think of the state of France’s defence industry?
The Eurosatory show is an excellent showcase for the French defence industry and its network of SMEs. Indeed, I am convinced that we need to support them further in order to win export markets. I also support European efforts to rationalise its industry such as the Nexter and KMW move to form the joint company KNDS. We need a European land armaments champion that could fight for major international export contracts on a level ground.