The allocation of R47.9 billion for the 2018/18 financial year to defence by former finance minister Malusi Gigaba during his sole national budget presentation before being moved back to the home affairs portfolio is 7.24% lower than the previous year according to Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow defence and military veterans minister Kobus Marais.
In a macro overview of the defence portion of the national budget he points out reductions in air, landward and maritime defence as well as force employment.
Air defence has been reduced by 10.81% with the most significantly affected sub-programmes being operational direction (down to R93.7 million from R170.2 million); helicopter capability decreases to R713.6 million from R1.074 billion and base support capability is down to R1.804 billion from R1.994 billion in the previous financial year.
The landward defence programme shows a 7.97% reduction with the allocation for the infantry capability of the SA Army down to R6.627 billion from the previous year’s R6.973 billion.
Similarly, the maritime defence allocation has been reduced by 8.63% with the SA Navy’s maritime combat capability sub-programme going down to R1.57 billion from R1.87 billion.
Force employment is also down – by 9.5% with the allocations for regional security (R1.08 billion from R1.15 billion) and “support to the people” dropping from more than a billion to R834.6 million for the 2018/19 financial year.
He said there are reductions in spend across eight Department of Defence (DoD) programmes.
They are: administration (down 3.84%), force employment (down 9.5%), landward defence (down 7.97%), air defence (down 10.81%), maritime defence (down 8.63%), military health support (down 2.58%), defence intelligence (down 1.79%) and general support (down 6.35%).
Marais expressed concern over the high amount allocated to personnel expenditure (salaries and wages). This stands at more than 57% of the total defence budget.
“When it is taken into account that personnel figures are expected to decrease only slightly from 75 500 to 74 660 and the call made in the Defence Review for expenditure to reflect 40% personnel, 30% operational and 30% capital acquisition it is extremely worrying”.
He is also not happy with what he termed “non-implementation/funding of the Defence Review”.
“The Review has been approved by Parliament and the planning phases of the Defence Review implementation Plan have been presented to Parliament but implementation remains outstanding,” Marais said pointing out the Estimates of National Expenditure (ENE) note “the cost of implementing the Review’s proposals is over and above the current allocations and is not yet provided for in the department’s baseline over the medium term”.
Marais puts it even more bluntly – “the Defence Review remains unfunded!”
He adds the decreasing defence budget makes it highly unlikely for any added deployments to Operation Corona, the national border protection tasking which aims to have 22 companies doing this work. There are currently 15 companies doing border duty.