France’s Sarkozy Softening on Defense After Electoral Stumble
French President Nikolas Sarkozy spent time with aerospace & defense industry leaders at the Paris Air Show on June 23rd. The speech took place a week after recent Parliamentary elections that featured a center-right majority, but resulted in a loss of some outgoing seats for Sarkozy’s UMP party and a much smaller margin of victory than previously expected.
Defense-Aerospace reports that the French President’s speech pointedly failed to repeat his election promise to keep defense spending to 2% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Instead, he pushed for a bottom-up review of ongoing and projected weapon programs based on the new government’s ongoing audit of current defense acquisition efforts, which is due in July 2007. Sarkozy also called for more “rationalization” of programs into multinational European efforts, and added that France must change the way it buys its weapons to reflect a prioritized expression of capability requirements.
Sarkozy’s comments, and their implications, reportedly echo similar warnings from Defense Minister Hervé Morin…
Morin said on June 21/07 that “the current level of defense spending will be very difficult to maintain,” given that procurement spending would have to increase by 43%/ EUR 4 billion from 2009 – 2011 just to meet existing commitments. “I must warn you that we will have to make a certain number of difficult decisions and tough choices.”
The most momentous choice will involve funding for France’s PA2 aircraft carrier, which must come soon if France is to avoid losing its carrier capability when the nuclear-powered Charles de Gaulle is forced into its multi-year mid-life overhaul. Morin has said that “in principle” France will have a second carrier, an infamous political weasel phrase that leaves any decision very much in doubt.
Government departments are expected to receive initial notification of their 2008 budget envelope in August-September 2007, which is likely to serve as a key indicator of, and trigger for, defense procurement decisions.
For the full report, see Defense-Aerospace’s “Sarkozy Serves Notice of Defense Spending Cuts, Procurement Overhaul.” See also DID’s coverage of the French white paper on defense, which was announced in June 2008.