A single sentence in the latest Department of Defence (DoD) annual report sums up the increasingly worsening situation of South Africa’s armed forces and the defence industry it depends on for much of its materiel.
“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,” the report states, adding the reduction (in funding) will “inevitably” lead to a reduction in operational output.
Those in senior positions at the Ministry of Defence and Military Veterans as well as the management cadre of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) know, in their hearts, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni will not be kind to the country’s armed forces when he delivers the national budget tomorrow (Wednesday, 24 February). Projections in the last Estimates of National Expenditure (ENEs) confirm this.
An objective view comes from Pretoria-based James Kerr. He is a consultant providing market entry strategy along with bid and proposal services to the aerospace, defence and defence related sectors.
Ahead of Mboweni releasing the numbers, he maintains the defence component of the national budget will probably not match the R47 billion of 2016/17.
“In effect this means national defence force funding decreased at an average rate of about 4.5% a year when measured on the CPI basis. So funding is reduced by about 20% versus 2016 in real terms. Yet the SANDF is required to maintain the force employment output as documented in 2016.
“The question is: Why did Parliament approve the Defence Review if they knew they were not going to do anything about it? The political will for maintaining a defence force is not there based on the current budget.”
Not helping the situation is no reduction in personnel expenditure, the cost of employees (CoE).
“The allocation in 2016/17 was R26.8 billion with shortfall of R529 million. The expectation for this year according to the latest CoE presented to the parliamentary committee is for R29.3 billion and a shortfall of R4.4 billion,” he said, adding “the national defence force is a guaranteed employment agency.”
What he would like to see is “an SAA-type package of R10 billion to implement a hasty Mobility Exit Mechanism (MEM). Get out the dead wood and bring in the needed young, cheaper blood. If this is not done then the SANDF needs to look at a renewed force design based on the budget”.