Army to benefit from future defence cuts

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The Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Lindiwe Sisulu, has acknowledged that the South African National Defence Force is under-funded and that the SA Navy and Air Force can expect further cuts.

Speaking candidly at a Navy capability demonstration last week, Sisulu said that the defence budget was inadequate. “We don’t have the money required to run the Defence Force we have had to run. We have a measly amount allocated to the budget.”

The Department of Defence has said that it is underfunded by at least R7.335 billion for the new 2010/11 financial year. In a Parliamentary briefing, the DoD was also short some R797 million to fund the rejuvenation of the SA Army and SA Military Health Service and needed R411 million to operate the fighters, helicopters, ships and submarines acquired under the 1999 Strategic Defence Package (SDP). No equipment was purchased for the Army through the SDP.
“The budget allocated to Landward Forces are now in dire straights,” Sisulu said.

As a result, the budget would have to be reconfigured, with the primary aim being to dedicate more money to the Army, which is now the priority. One remedy is for the Defence Force is going to sell their services to other Government departments.

However, the already tight Air Force and Navy budgets may be cut even further. As the Army had made sacrifices over the years for the SDP, “we are going to ask the other services to sacrifice for the Army,” Sisulu explained.

Sisulu did not make excuses for the low defence budget and appeared to agree that National Treasury should be convinced that Defence spending was inadequate.

While the Minister may be hearing what her Chiefs have been saying for some time, it remains to be seen whether she can convince her Cabinet colleagues that defence spending should be increased. In the mean time, the Air Force and Navy can expect the lean times to continue. It is uncertain how the other services can cut back even further, given that their capabilities and readiness are at the bare minimum.



Pic: Defence minister Lindiwe Sisulu and her deputy, Thabang Makwetla, listening to a briefing aboard SAS Mendi, a Valour-class frigate