What are the 5 critical issues of the next French Military Programming Law?

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The day after the start of the Russian offensive in Ukraine, a majority of French people discovered, or rediscovered, in a very brutal way, the role of the armed forces in ensuring what they had taken for granted for several decades, namely their security. In an attempt to reassure public opinion, and to occupy a media space neglected by politicians against the background of presidential and legislative elections, the French armies then multiplied communications, trying to present a comforting face to the French, in particular by insisting on so-called “high-intensity” exercises, a term that also suddenly came up in discussions, including on television sets. However, once the shock had been absorbed and the electoral fever had evaporated, reality gradually set in, particularly during the parliamentary hearings of the Chiefs of Defense Staff: the French armies are not ready for this type of commitment, neither in their format nor in their equipment.

To respond to this observation, the French authorities announced in July that a new Military Programming Law would be drawn up at the start of the school year, to be subsequently quickly voted by Parliament, and to take effect from 2023. It will replace in fact the present LPM which was initially to extend until 2025. Corollary of this decision which some consider hasty, this new LPM will not be preceded by the design of a new framework document, as was the case of the LPM 2014 with the White Paper of 2013, or that of 2019 with the Strategic Review of 2017. Obviously, if the previous version 2019-2025 was designed as an LPM of repair at ground level, the future Law will be an LPM of emergency, to prepare the French armies for the possible confrontations that could occur at the end of the decade. The fact remains that despite its hasty nature, this new Military Programming Law will have to respond to several critical issues, which it is no longer possible to ignore or postpone in time.

1- Solve the impossible budget equation

The first and thorniest problem that will have to be solved is none other than the financing of the armies. Indeed, the budgetary situation of the French state could not be more difficult, with debt now exceeding 115% of GDP while interest rates continue to rise against a background of inflationary crisis, an annual budget already at beyond the limit imposed by the monetary stability pact for the euro zone, and growth which, although it turns out to be better than that of many of our European neighbours, is not sufficient to generate the necessary budgetary leeway, this even though the tax rates in the country are already among the highest in the EU, yielding in this area only to Denmark. At the same time, the armies need, in order to meet security challenges, a massive and rapid increase in credit, of the order of €10 billion/year for the acquisition and modernization of equipment, and as much for the capacity and HR component.

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Army VBMR Leger Serval Military alliances | Defense Analysis | Army budgets and defense effort
To respond to changes in the threat, the Armed Forces must have a significant budgetary increase in the short term, while the relative economic and budgetary situation of the country has deteriorated sharply.

In other words, to meet the challenges, it would be necessary to increase the armed forces budget by €20 billion, i.e. to bring the defense effort to around 2,7% of GDP, and to do so quickly enough. to have the operational capabilities required by 2030, the date considered likely for the reconstruction of the Russian armies to be effective, and for the Chinese naval and air forces to be able to oppose American power in the Pacific and on the subject of Taiwan. In fact, the main challenge of this next LPM will be none other than to propose a solution allowing these critical requirements to coexist with these immovable constraints. Otherwise, there will be no alternative but to watch France slowly fade from the international scene and gradually, like its European neighbours, come and snuggle up under the protective wing of the United States, with the risks involved. Still, if the equation is obviously difficult, it is not without solution, as long as the executive agrees toconsider original funding models.

2- Dealing with capacity and operational emergencies

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