The strategic statement by Secretary for Defence, Dr Sam Gulube, in the just released 2016/17 Department of Defence annual report, for the first time gives a solid indication of what is happening as far as implementation of the Defence Review 2015 is concerned.
According to Gulube, the implementation of Milestone One of the Review to “arrest the decline” of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) was approved by Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula at the Council on Defence meeting on March 7, 2017 just weeks before the end of the financial year on March 31.
“Option Two of the Plan (to arrest the decline within a six year period) was accepted as the most feasible path to follow. Option Two to the Plan will form the basis for further engagement with the Portfolio Committee of Defence and Military Veterans, the Joint Standing committee on Defence, National Treasury and political decision marker,” Gulube writes adding “progress with implementation of this Plan will be reported on during the financial year 2017/18”.
In her foreword, writing as the Executive Authority, Mapisa-Nqakula echoes Gulube when she states “the Department of Defence, having completed the relevant plans, has begun implementing Milestone One of the Defence Review 2015, intended to mitigate the decline of the capabilities of the SANDF”.
She also notes the primary focus of her department’s engagement with the National Planning Commission; the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation and National Treasury will be “to address the disconnect between the current funding allocation and expectations placed on the defence force”.
“In reality, the Defence allocation has been declining by five percent per annum in real terms over the past two decades, to a mere one percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The appropriate funding level, as articulated in the Defence Review 2015, would require a steady increase to at least two percent of GDP over time. To this end, an inter-departmental Budget Task Team has been established to develop a joint Department of Defence and National Treasury proposal, to be endorsed by both Ministries. This proposal will inform future engagements with all roleplayers and inputs to the development of the next Medium Term Strategic Framework and Mandate Paper,” her foreword reads.
SANDF Chief, General Solly Shoke, notes in a brief three paragraph introduction the force “is underfunded and/or operating in an environment where the country is facing economic challenge which impact negatively on the budget and mandate of the defence force” which he states “was able to fulfil its international obligations, both in diplomacy and operationally”.
“The SANDF,” according to the country’s top soldier “was able to perform what is required against the backdrop of its deteriorating facilities and equipment which requires the country to pay urgent attention to. We are grateful that Parliament approved the Defence Review and we are in the process of implementing the Review in phases. It is against that background that we promulgated the implementation plan to arrest the decline as an urgent intervention.”