SA Army modernisation stagnant


The state of the South African Army’s vehicles and other so-called prime mission equipment (PME) is declining to unacceptable levels while modernisation remains stagnant due to budget constraints and hurdles from entities like Armscor, according to the Department of Defence.

In its annual report for the period April 1, 2012, to March 31, 2013, the Department of Defence (DoD) noted that the period “remained a challenging year for the SA Army as a result of ever-increasing costs of the sustainment of PME, facilities, personnel, ammunition for training and operations.”
“The state of prime mission equipment, particularly in the Landward Defence programme, continued to decline to unacceptable levels. Additional funding provided for maintenance and repair of the operational vehicle fleet has had some effect, but is not sufficient to address this concern adequately. The rejuvenation of these capabilities therefore remains one of the DoD’s top priorities,” the DoD’s accounting officer said in the annual report.

As the Army did not receive any equipment from the Strategic Defence Packages (‘arms deal’), the DoD said it is lacking the required human resources, infrastructure and technologically advanced equipment.

Modernising the South African Army and acquiring more equipment “has remained stagnant” and has been hampered by a lack of funding and the delays to the finalisation of the Defence Review “which will inform the required future Landward Defence Capabilities of the SANDF”, the DoD said.

The serviceability and repair of equipment and vehicles was highlighted as a challenge to the landward arm of the SANDF due to the long process of acquisition, distribution of spares and shortage of personnel.

Although the SA Army said it was fully motivated to support its equipment, it said that support from Armscor and the Central Procurement Service Centre (CPSC) “remained extremely challenging.” Reliance on Armscor and the CPSC “created challenges for the SA Army resulting in the underutilisation of National Treasury funding.”

The South African Army actually underspent in the last financial year, something that was attributed to “external spending hurdles” such as the CPSC, Public Works department and Armscor, “which the SA Army is unable to influence.” Indeed, actual expenditure for 2012/13 was R12.367 billion, versus the R12.68 billion budgeted for.

The DoD said the defence budget allocation for landward renewal was “adequate” for the short term, but that rejuvenating the Army’s equipment, human resources and infrastructure was “compromised by a variety of institutional challenges central to which is the limited budget”. Indeed, the Strategic Capital Acquisition Master Plan (SCAMP) faces a budget deficit of R3 billion between FY 2017 and FY2020.

While the DoD highlighted the poor state of the Army’s vehicle fleet in its report, some relief came this year when Denel Land Systems received a contract for the production of 264 Badger armoured vehicles, to be produced over ten years, with the first delivery in 2015.

Apart from budget issues affecting equipment, the DoD said the SA Army’s personnel are insufficiently rejuvenated, directly affecting its ability to provide and sustain operational obligations in the future. A number of units were singled out as being in adequate to sustain operations, notably 16 and 17 Maintenance Units, 101 and 102 Field Workshops, Hospitality Services and VIP Protectors.

For the year under review, the DoD said the SA Army, as part of the Landward Defence Programme, made a significant contribution, notably through border protection duties and external deployments in Africa. “The SA Army fulfilled all its Joint Force Employment (JFE) commitments, notwithstanding the fact that it was overstretched, especially in the infantry, engineer, intelligence, signal and support capabilities. Reserve and MSDS [Military Skills Development System] members were utilised for both internal and external deployments to alleviate the pressure on Regular units.”

The external deployments included United Nations missions to the Democratic Republic of Congo (Monusco), Darfur (Unamid) and in support of training and protection in the Central African Republic. The SANDF also sent personnel to train DRC military forces. Two SA Army Reserve sub-units supported the Monusco and Unamid operations respectively

During the year under review, the SA Army provided 11 combat-ready sub-units for Border Safeguarding Operations as part of internal deployments. Eight SA Army Reserve sub-units were deployed for border safeguarding. A total of 10 784 reserves were called up for 1 647 109 man-days. 65% of the full call-up complement were employed for operational and force preparation duties.

The SA Army was also used to support the South African Police Service, particularly during the Marikana unrest, supported the African Cup of Nations and assisted the Mozambican Defence Force with counter-piracy operations in the Mozambique Channel.