Shrinking defence budget making Defence Review ‘unachievable’


The repeated reductions in the Department of Defence’s budget is making the 2015 Defence Review ‘unachievable’, with no money available to arrest the decline of the South African National Defence Force.

This is according to the most recent Department of Defence (DoD) Annual Performance Plan, for 2018. It states that the DoD has made “good progress” implementing the non-cost driven deliverables of the Defence Review and that “the DoD will continue to implement the interventions that can be achieved within the MTEF [Medium Term Expenditure Framework] defence allocation. These interventions will be focussed on achieving improved organisational effectiveness and efficiency whilst at the same time provide the departmental functional policy, strategy and plans that will inform the next DoD Strategic Plan.”

However, the Performance Plan warns that “the reduction in the DoD budget allocation have effectively rendered the ‘DoD Plan to Arrest the Decline’ as unachievable. This may necessitates a complete re-appreciation of the full department with a view to reconfigure and re-align in order to achieve sustainability within the allocated resources.”

The result is “significant impact on the capacity and capabilities of the DoD and the level of RSA defence ambition in support of its national interests and foreign policy.”
“The reduced budget allocation to Defence may necessitate a full re-appreciation of the DOD and the development of a plan to reconfigure the department to align with its available resources. This work will be conducted during the FY2018/19 and will inform the departmental plans for the FY2019/20 and beyond. This re-appreciation may result in a vastly reduced defence capability in line with Strategic Policy Option 1 of the SA Defence Review 2015.”

In the Performance Plan, Secretary for Defence Dr Sam Gulube stated that realising the Defence Review “requires an estimated doubling of the current departmental allocation from the fiscus over a long term trajectory. In reality, the Defence allocation has declined year-on-year by approximately 5% per annum in real terms over the last 20 years to less than 1% of the Gross Domestic Product, placing the department in the unenviable position where the loss of essential defence capabilities has become a reality. The Department will continue to pursue initiatives, in conjunction with identified stakeholders, which may enable the partial self-funding of the defence function where so required, thereby relieving competing pressures on the national fiscus.”

The implementation of initial steps of the Defence Review is estimated to cost R18.2 billion over the MTEF period in the Landward Defence, Air Defence, Maritime Defence and Military Health Support programmes. “The cost of implementing the review’s proposals is over and above the current allocation and is not yet provided for in the department’s baseline over the medium term,” the Performance Plan states.

The Defence Review was approved by Cabinet on 19 March 2014, and endorsed by the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces in June 2015. It has five milestones, the first of which calls for arresting the decline of the SANDF. Next is re-balancing and re-organising the Defence Force as the foundation for future growth. Milestone 3 aims to create a sustainable Defence Force able to meet ordered defence commitments. Milestone 4 looks at enhancing the Defence Force’s capacity to respond to emerging threats and a wide range of strategic challenges while Milestone 5 is designed to protect South Africa against any directed threat.