DoD R7.335bn underfunded


The Department of Defence says it is underfunded by at least R7.335 billion for the new financial year that begins tomorrow. This emerged during a briefing where the department was seeking to assure Members of Parliament that Treasury concerns regarding its strategic plan for the next three years were misplaced.

Treasury earlier this month briefed the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veteran that the plan contained no “credible vision of what the Defence Force should be doing”, partly because it was based on the 1996 White Paper on Defence that Treasury director Phillip van Schalkwyk said was “14 years out of date”. He also complained that resources were “severely diluted across the military” and that although the defence budget for the coming years had been cut the defence department has not appreciably reduced its fixed costs.

Briefing MPs on the prescribed form and content of strategic plans, he said that for defence lacked strategic goals and objectives as well as a “higher order focus on outcomes.” In addition, it was “far too detailed in terms of outputs per subprogramme”, had too many core objectives (more than 10 is apparently difficult to manage) and included administrative support functions that “should not be in a strategic plan.” About 49 pages of the bulky 108 page document dealt with operational issues that also did not belong in a strategic plan. Van Schalkwyk concluded there was a need for “planners with a new vision for defence that could be accommodated within the budget.”

The DoD last week responded with a 40+ page Powerpoint presentation that it hoped would persuade the committee “beyond doubt” that the strategic plan did provide “a coherent picture regarding how the department aims to deliver on its mandate through its core objectives”.

However, the presentation did note a budget shortfall of R7.335 billion and an operating shortfall of R3.851 billion. It is presumed the latter is a component of the former.


Budget shortfall

Operating shortfall


  • Joint Operations



Likely includes borderline control.

  • SA Army



  • SA Air Force



  • SA Navy






  • Other



R7335.4m (R7.3bn)



Total budget allocated: R30.7bn

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). The consequence of the latter shortfall would be “limited compliance with maintenance schedules” DoD briefers said.

The presentation added the shortfalls, in addition, had forced the DoD to “reprioritise.” It added that the “effects of reprioritisation may not always have the desired result. It is in light of this that the DoD calls for additional funding.” The presenters further noted that the “space to reprioritise is very limited” as all DoD programmes are important to achieve the mandate of the department.

One economy is flying hours for the South African Air Force. According to one slide shown MPs, only flying training has the same optimal as planned hours (7825). flying hours allocated to the fighter force, helicopter capability and transport fleet are all less than optimal, with the Saab Gripen C and D fighter fleet particularly hard hit.



Flying training

  • Basic

  • Hawk LIFT



  • 5825

  • 2000

Air combat




  • Utility

  • VIP

  • Maritime patrol of the sea border

14 793

  • 10 837

  • 1750

  • 2206

11 394

  • 8654

  • 1340

  • 1400


  • Utility Transport and Training

  • Combat Support (Rooivalk)

16 595

  • 15 249

  • 1346

12 900

  • 11 900

  • 1000

The Democratic Alliance earlier this month – before the latest briefings – called the situation a disgrace, noting that the implication was that the SDP acquisitions would spend most of the next three years either in port or in their hangars. DA defence spokesman David Maynier noted the strategic plan cut the Gripen flying hours from this coming years’ 550 hours to just 250 in 2011 and 2012, by when all 26 Gripen will be delivered.

Defence analyst Helmoed-Römer Heitman described this as ludicrous. He noted NATO nations required fighter pilots to log 20 flight hours per month (240 flight hours per year per fighter pilot) to remain qualified. This compared with 550 hours for the 12 Gripen SA now operate this year and just 250 in the two years thereafter. This translates to 9.6 flying hours per aircraft.

Te strategic plan notes the Navy will d also spend just 10 000 hours on patrol at sea – despite being responsible for sea border patrol. In 2012 and 2013 this would be cut a 1000 hours to just 9000 hours. Divided between the operational fleet – three frigates, two submarines, two offshore patrol vessels, one hydrographic ship and two minehunters – this translates to just over 41 days per ship for the financial year starting in the morning; or about one ship or submarine on patrolling SA’s 71 460 square km territorial waters on any given day. Each ship will spend about 324 days in port.
“As far as our navy is concerned, it is now clear that the frigates and submarines were only bought for show,” Heitman said.