The Department of Defence (DoD) annual report for the 2019/20 financial year this week made an unannounced appearance on the department’s website and includes, for the first time, feedback on implementation of the Defence Review 2015.
In his strategic statement for the report, now retired Secretary for Defence Dr Sam Gulube urges readers and users of the document to pay particular attention to the status of implementation of the SA Defence Review 2015 for the 2015/20 strategic period. “It best reflects the significant strategic challenges the DoD faces and the potential impact these may have on the Republic of South Africa in future,” he writes.
The Defence Review component of the report opens by stating: “It must be acknowledged that military force planning and capability renewal is a multi-year process which is dependent on a clearly articulated, probable and consistent funding trajectory. This in turn, allows for investment in technology innovation and the development of appropriate equipment designed to ensure that the Defence Force is able to meet the security challenges of the future. (sic)”.
It continues “South Africa’s core military capabilities have been in decline for many years. This is largely due to severe and crippling cuts to its baseline funding allocation and the resultant erosion of both the capital and operating budgets of the Department of Defence (DoD). Not only has this led to inadequate maintenance, repair and overhaul of the largely obsolete equipment inventory but has also led to a significant reduction in the prime mission equipment renewal program of the Defence Force with devastating effects on South Africa’s sovereign defence industry (sic)”.
According to the report there is “very little room to manoeuvre” and the DoD and SA National Defence Force (SANDF) have continued “where possible” with inventory repair. “In most cases the main equipment that it uses is more than 40 years old and is largely obsolete, and with almost no spares and maintenance support available from the Original Equipment Manufacturers (sic).”
It also notes that implementation of the Defence Review “over time” will bring significant change to the design and structure of the DoD “ensuring budget efficiency, effectiveness and economy whilst enabling combat readiness, operational sustainability and future relevance”.
An indicator of potential funding “challenges” became apparent as far back as 2017 during a presentation to the Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD). The report states the plan (use of a DoD developed “estimator model” enabling accurate forecasting of force design and capability development plans) was accepted in principle but reservations were expressed “on the ability of National Treasury to fund the plan”.
A DoD/Treasury task team “developed” a comprehensive report which was submitted for inclusion into the government budgeting process. This would not happen because, according to the report, “the constrained fiscal outlook” would not allow National Treasury to fund Defence Review implementation over the medium term expenditure framework period.
The bleakness of the funding dilemma Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula’s department finds itself in is summarised as: “Strategically, the current funding allocation to the DoD effectively negates the SA Defence Review 2015 policy position as endorsed by Parliament and dramatically reduces the level of defence ambition that can be sustainably pursued. This reduction will inevitably lead to a reduction in operational output, introducing significant risks to South Africa’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as the ability to sustain enduring support to the development of South Africa and its people (sic).”