MEMORANDUM № 2 On the security and defense policy of the Republic of Bulgaria

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Program „National and International Security“



The Government of the Republic of Bulgaria is still unenthusiastic to take important decisions and to carry out needed actions regarding our national security. The necessity of immediate involvement in allied initiatives and building up our own defense potential are being neglected. Decisions related to rearmament of the Bulgarian Armed Forces as well as enhancing the force presence of NATO in South East Europe are being yet again postponed. At the same time unambiguous messages are being sent vis-à-vis continuing the extant dependence on the Russian Federation for the maintenance of main inherited obsolescent Soviet-made platforms.

A responsible security and defense policy requires:

  • A clear commitment to increase defense expenditure as a part of a national program for building-up  the future combat ready and modern Bulgarian Armed Forces;
  • Concrete actions, timetable and resources devoted to start the main defense investment projects for building-up new defense capabilities through making use of all possible avenues to implement joint multinational projects;
  • An unequivocal commitment to limit the existing dependence of the Bulgarian defense system on countries that are not members of NATO and/or EU;
  • Real actions leading to increasing the military presence of NATO in South Eastern Europe, including by way of establishing and developing joint multinational formations and infrastructure.


Review of the security and defense policy:

  1. The state of the Bulgarian Armed Forces today is critical. The defense capabilities continue to degrade. This puts into question the capacity of our country to guarantee its own security and to successfully contribute to the NATO collective defense system and to the Common Security and Defense Policy of the EU.
  2. We are strongly concerned about the long-lasting postponement of the acquisition of new and interoperable defense capabilities. This is still questioning the reliability of our country as a NATO ally in a fundamentally changed security environment.
  3. In order to stop the defense capability degradation, it is necessary to have the defense budget increased to at least 2% of the GDP in 2021, instead in 2024.  A level of defense expenditure of at least 1.7% of the projected 2018 GDP should be envisaged in the 2018 State budget. This is intended to compensate for the uninterrupted decline of the defense expenditure as a part of the GDP for the period 2013-2017.
  4. It is necessary to spend at least 20% of the defense budget on acquisition of new interoperable capabilities. Actually, taking into consideration the gap between the Republic of Bulgaria and the allied countries in Central and Western Europe, this portion should be 30-40%.
  5. It is high time for the Government to submit to Parliament for adoption a National Plan for Increasing the Defense Budget to 2% of the GDP, in compliance with the decisions of the NATO Special Summit in Brussels in May 2017. The drafting of the Plan should be synchronized with the 2018 budget procedure.
  6. Most probably, the earmarked 402 million BGN for 2017, intended to be invested in modernization of the Air Force and the Navy, will not be spent at all by the end of the fiscal year of 2017, as we still have no project started as of mid-October.
  7. It is possible that a portion of this money be spent once again on repairing the old Soviet planes, if put into practice the stated intentions of the minister of defense to repair all the available Soviet aircraft. If this is carried out, doubts arise that also a share of the envisaged 490 million BGN for capital expenditure for the fiscal 2018 will be spent for the same purpose and in the same way.
  8. The defense budget increase to at least 2% of the GDP should result in spending more money explicitly on new capabilities, and not generally on repairs of the old Soviet equipment. If the latter is the case, we will not have any investment in the future of the Bulgarian Armed Forces. This will accelerate their degradation, instead.
  9. It is mandatory to achieve a qualitative improvement in the capacity of the integrated Ministry of Defense to manage effectively, efficiently and in a transparent manner the allocated money by the Bulgarian taxpayer for national defence.
  10. We are insisting on making an impartial analysis of all the current Ministry of Defense’s contracts, with a view to establish to what extent they result in building-up and maintaining real, necessary and NATO-interoperable defense capabilities.
  11. The Bulgarian Armed Forces nowadays are losing their most precious asset – people in defense! The vacancies in the system are already above 20% and they are keeping on increasing, mostly in combat formations. The key task now is to stop the outflow of personnel.
  12. The idea of possibly restoring the abolished conscription will not solve the problem with the lack of personnel and will not answer the need to build new needed capabilities. We need here long-term measures of different character, but not to resort to outdated, already inapplicable and archaic solutions.
  13. As a first step to stop the outflow of personnel we insist to start as of 2018 a graduated and substantial increase in pay, focusing on the soldiers and junior officers in the combat formations. For this purpose to be materialized, a minimum of additional 200 million BGN for defense for the fiscal year of 2018 will be required. This will allow increasing the pay of personnel on average with at least 25%.
  14. We are demanding that the priority modernization projects for the three Services start by mid-2018 at the latest. They must be backed with the required financial resources.
  15. We are asking for the adoption of a National Program on Accelerated Rearmament that is provided with all required resources. It is compulsory that rearmament goes hand in hand and in parallel with decommissioning the obsolescent Soviet equipment that today goes on consuming precious financial resources at the expense of the acquisition of new modern platforms.
  16. A reasonable prescient solution would be to have the process of acquisition of new capabilities from this time forth to be carried out, as a rule, by way of participating in multinational projects in NATO and EU, using to the maximum the potential of the NATO agencies and the European Defense Agency.
  17. An integral part of the Bulgarian Armed Forces’ capabilities build-up is focusing on participating in joint NATO and EU formations. We are insisting to see as of 2018 the start of actively building-up joint military formations of NATO and the EU as well as allied infrastructure on the Bulgarian territory. Relocating NATO forces, armament and combat equipment in the Republic of Bulgaria would be a first step in the right direction.
  18. To have a strong defense it is necessary to follow a clear vision for the development of the Bulgarian defense industry, so that it is able participate with its full capacity in support of rearmament.
  19. We deem necessary that the Bulgarian defense industry takes its place in the process of the build-up, development and maintenance of the defense capabilities. Our vision is that Bulgarian companies have their place in the processes both of acquisition of weapons and equipment and maintenance of platforms in their full life-cycle.
  20. From this day forward it is even more important to seek transfer of technologies, as this will provide for developing our national industry. The duty of the State is to create the necessary conditions for the Bulgarian defense industry to strengthen its positions on its already established markets and to gain access to new ones.
  21. It is extremely necessary today to achieve a systematic and synergetic action of the State institutions along the main identified direction: people in defense; rearmament and decommissioning the obsolescent Soviet equipment; improving defense management; building-up the Bulgarian defense industrial capacity.
  22. Enhanced measures to counter hybrid threats and actions against the Republic of Bulgaria must be undertaken in the Armed Forces, the security services and all the relevant State institutions.


Atlantic Council of Bulgaria

National and International Security Program


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