Lacking resolve now, postponing decisions and transferring the implementation to the next government

Sunday, 7 January 2018

 

POSITION

of

Program “National and International Security” at the Atlantic Council of Bulgaria,

on the National Plan for Increasing the Defense Spending to 2% of the GDP until 2024,

adopted by Government on January 4, 2018

 January 7, 2018

 

The Atlantic Council of Bulgaria generally welcomes the adoption of the National Plan for Increasing the Defense Spending to 2% of the GDP until 2024. In this way the country meets its commitment made at the NATO Special Summit in Brussels on May 25, 2017, when the allies agreed to adopt national plans for increasing their defense spending to 2% of the GDP. However, the essence of the Plan reveals a lack of resolve and absence of sufficient commitment to the problems of defense, postponement of the armed forces’ modernization as well as a transfer of implementation responsibility to the next government.

 

The Atlantic Council of Bulgaria considers that:

 

  • The timeframe of the Plan is too extended. The defense spending level must reach 2% of GDP by 2021 at the latest. The defense capability degradation cannot be overcome with irresolute steps.
  • By envisaging to reach the goal of 2% in 2024, the Government makes visible proof of lacking the decision to implement this commitment during its own term of office
  • The pace of growth of the defense spending during the first years is extremely insufficient. Till the end of the Government’s term of office (2021), the defense expenditure are planned to increase from 55% of GDP as planned in 2018 to just only 1.64% in 2021. Afterwards, there would be a radical shift from 1.64% to 2% of GDP.
  • This is valid with regard to all the three spending categories – personnel costs, operating costs and capital spending. A more substantial rise in salaries is thus envisaged to take place after 2021, i.e. after the end of the term of office of the current Government. However, this would be too late at that time, as the number of the growing vacancies in the Armed Forces would become too significant, and it would not be possible to remedy the situation with immediate measures.
  • It is not logical to have combined in one row in the table, together with the three main modernization projects, also the MiG-29 jets flight capability maintenance and a cession for the Military Medical Academy. The latter is of a different nature. The MiG-29 flight capability maintenance (a total of BGN 78 million till 2020) is not a modernization at all, but only a provisional maintenance of an obsolescent and non-interoperable platform.
  • Witnessed is a lack of equality of the three main modernization projects with regard to their financing in perspective. The envisaged spending namely by 2021 of a great deal of the money envisaged for new Navy ships (BGN 700 out of 820 million) stands in stark contrast with the envisaged portions of money earmarked year by year till 2024 for the acquisition of a new type of fighter The latter starts to substantially increase after 2021. A part of the money to be paid for the new type of fighter aircraft is rescheduled and redirected towards the project for acquisition of new Armored Fighting Vehicles. It is logical to ask then why the same approach was not adopted also with regard to the money for the new ships. Until 2024 there is only one project that is financially provided for and this is the acquisition of the Navy hips. Only BGN 1.1 billion out of BGN 1.5 billion anticipated total costs for a new type of fighter aircraft are envisaged in the timeframe of the Plan (2024). With regard to the new armored fighting vehicles, till 2024 planned are only BGN 700 million out of a total estimated cost of more than BGN 1.2 billion.
  • Other important projects are not explicitly planned in the document, such as radars, air and missile defense systems, cyber-defense capabilities, preparing the C2 systems for Federated Mission Networking in NATO and EU, capabilities for reconnaissance and surveillance etc.
  • It is not made clear in the Plan how the rise in defense spending will result in a better implementation of the national commitments under the NATO Capability Targets.
  • The appendix on the PESCO of the EU lacks resources and responsibilities devoted to implementation, and many of the commitments therein represent only an “aspiration” to achieve something.
  • There is no attention paid in the table and in its schedule to defense research spending, which is the basis for innovations, interoperability and comprehensive transformation.
  • It is not indicated explicitly whether the money planned for the modernization projects include VAT.
  • The gap between the Plan and the standard budget planning procedure, which reaches 50% at the end of the timeline, is noticeable. Experience teaches that in the process of planning the budget, the minister of finance and the Council of Ministers do not always respect decisions such as the ones that are listed in the Plan.

The Atlantic Council of Bulgaria emphasizes that a responsible defense policy should be financially provided for. The Plan that contains substantial ambitions and is presenting the image of our country to the rest of the NATO allies must be clear, decisive, realistic with respect to deadlines and concrete concerning the capability build-up as well as the implementation of the NATO Capability Targets.

 

ATLANTIC COUNCIL OF BULGARIA

Program “National and International Security”

 

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