Thursday, November 30, 2023

What is the outcome of Emmanuel Macron's five-year term in terms of Defense?

With a further increase of €1.7 billion in the Armed Forces budget for the year 2022, bringing it to €40.9 billion, an increase of almost €9 billion since 2017, the government and the Minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parly , confirm strict respect for the 2019-2025 Military Programming Law, and the promises made by Emmanuel Macron during the previous presidential campaign. This increase, largely focused on modernization needs in terms of equipment, will make it possible to order in 2022 nearly 400 new Griffon, Serval and Jaguar armored vehicles from the Scorpion program, as well as 12,000 HK416 assault rifles, and begin the modernization of 50 Leclerc tanks. At the same time, the armies will receive 245 armored vehicles, 8 NH90 helicopters, the Alsace anti-aircraft defense frigate, the Duguay-trouin nuclear attack submarine, as well as 3 A330 MRTT Phoenix tanker aircraft, 2 A400M as well as 4 modernized Maritime Atlantic 2 patrol aircraft.

Finally, 3 observation and communication satellites will be put into orbit, while all of the major programs announced in recent years, such as the 3rd generation nuclear missile submarine, the Fleet Supply Buildings, the Patrouilleurs de Haute-Mer, the new generation nuclear aircraft carrier, the FCAS combat aircraft program and the Euromale drone program will be financed in accordance with needs. However, we cannot summarize the record of Emmanuel Macron's five-year term in terms of defense solely on this respect for the Military Programming Law. And if significant progress, sometimes vital for the armies, has been made, can we say that this five-year term will have been a success in this area, for France, as for its president?

A catastrophic start to the mandate

As everyone still remembers, it would have been difficult to make a more catastrophic start than this start of his mandate in the field of Defense, with the thunderous departure of a highly publicized Chief of Staff, and the hasty resignation of the Minister of the Armed Forces Sylvie Goulard barely a month after being appointed, against a backdrop of fictitious Modem jobs in the European Parliament. The casting of replacements for these two key positions also gave rise to concerns, with General François Lecointre, a war hero but lacking visibility because he did not go through a traditional position of Chief of Army Staff as he is. customary to do so, and Florence Parly, who had no experience in Defense issues when she took up her post. In the summer of 2017, therefore, there were many concerns, particularly in the defense industrial sphere and within the armies, after the two five-year terms of Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande, which had both severely tested them, and all the more that the 2017 Army budget was cut from part of the increases planned for the financing of Opex, a crisis at the origin of the resignation of General Pierre de Villiers.

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Without ever trying to put herself in the forefront, Florence Parly managed, despite the predictions, to establish her page on the Ministry of the Armed Forces, and to manage it effectively for almost the entire five-year term.

To regain control, the President of the Republic, assisted by his new Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces and his Minister of the Armed Forces in the learning phase, launched the drafting of a strategic review in order to steer the orientations of the new Military Programming Law which he intended to make the pillar of his defense policy over the five-year term. But here again, concerns arose , since a strict two-dimensional framework had been imposed by the new president for this exercise: respect for the format of the armies decreed by the White Paper of 2013, and an increase in the budgetary resources of the armed forces limited to €1.7 billion per year for 4 years, then to €3 billion per year for the following two years, i.e. beyond the five-year term itself. In fact, this restricted Strategic Review and the 2019-2025 Military Programming Law which resulted from it, and whose strategic conclusions had been defined before having written it, focused on one mission and one only, repairing the damage caused by the chronic underfunding of the armies over the last 10 years, and try to respond to the most immediate needs. As General Lecointre summed up perfectly, this was a “repair” LPM.

A Programming Law to save the Armies

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Fabrice Wolf
Fabrice Wolf
A former French naval aeronautics pilot, Fabrice is the editor and main author of the site. His areas of expertise are military aeronautics, defense economics, air and submarine warfare, and Akita inu.

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