The incredible hearing “testament” general Pierre de Villiers

On 12 July, the chief of staff of armies (CEMA) was interviewed by the defense commission of the national Assembly. This is the starting point of a crisis unprecedented between Emmanuel Macron and general Pierre de Villiers, who considered at such hearing the budget path “not tenable” and alert the deputies. A day later, Thursday 13 of July, in the gardens of the Hôtel de Brienne, the head of State of the crops suddenly the CEMA in front of an audience of military, industry, and international guests. On 19 July, general Pierre de Villiers deliver his resignation to Emmanuel Macron. Here are the key excerpts of the hearing of 12 July the joint chiefs of staff.

Financial trajectory of the defence budget

“The first is the end of management 2017 which must absolutely be preserved. In overseas operations as on the national territory, our armed forces ensure the security of the French in everyday life, in conditions that are often very difficult. How to imagine not to give them the means necessary to fulfill their missions ? The operations budget has been protected in 2015 and 2016. This must also be the case in 2017, as the armies are not less solicited, far from it”.

“The second horizon of the very short term is that of the finance law for 2018. This first step is essential. I’m not a rabbit of six weeks : I know that, if the goal of 50 billion is set at 2025, and the curve of evolution of the budget starts very low, the elevation of this curve will only occur at the end of the period. We know the string of this ” up late “, and we have already experienced under the two five-year terms preceding”.

“As regards the finance act for 2018, the equation is simple. After being put under stress, the base budget appears to 34.8 billion euros, of which 32.8 billion opened in the initial budget act for which it is necessary to add, on the one hand, the billion euros decided upon by president Hollande at the council of defense from April 6, 2016, and corresponding to the additional requirements necessary to address the threat of terrorism – non-deflation of 18.750 numbers and measures in terms of operation and infrastructure – on the other hand ; more than 200 million euros agreed in recent months to fund the voluntary military service, the national guard, with the increase in the number of reservists and measures of condition of the staff. This base of 34 billion euros will be spent, regardless of what happens. Finally, it should be add in the additional needs that have emerged since the 6 April 2016 : € 600 million to support the increased commitment of our forces and mitigate the under-dimensioning of chronic some support, including infrastructure, and finally, 200 million euros to strengthen in the very short-term protection of our men, individually and for the facilities – In total, it should be build from the outset on a sound basis, a trajectory of rise in power to consolidate our model”.

“The third short-term horizon is the law of military programming (LPM), 2019-2025. It must be the regeneration and the projection towards the future. The order of magnitude of the effort is already known : globally it amounts to two billion euros extra per year at a constant perimeter, excluding the outdoor operations and excluding pensions. Given the urgency, the LPM must be passed at the earliest, that is to say, prior to July 14, 2018, to integrate it as a first instalment the finance bill 2019. I recall that in the two five-year terms previous, it took about two years for the LPM to be adopted”.

“On the cancellation of € 850 million of credits in management 2017 that was announced Mr. Darmanin through the press, that the things are clear : it is cancellation, then, that at the present time, the funds have been frozen to the tune of $ 2.7 billion : $ 1.6 billion for the reserve of caution, 715 million of the deferred credits and $ 350 million in frozen concoctions. The minister of public Accounts has this time announced the cancellation of € 850 million on the basis of the amount of the total budget, or 32.8 billion, and the simultaneous opening of a decree on the advance of € 650 million excluding pensions, that is to say, the title of the program 178 ” Preparation and employment of forces “. Remains, therefore, a delta net of 200 million euros. It to me is a little tricky to talk about this this morning, in the measure in which the president of the Republic has not yet made his decision : he will certainly do tomorrow evening on the occasion of the speech he will deliver at the hotel de Brienne”.

“Anyway, before you consider the possible consequences of such a cancellation of credits, it is important for me first to know if it will not be followed in other year-end cancellations. In other words, to ensure the functioning of the armed forces, the budget execution year-end should not be less than the amounts budgeted in the initial budget act, without which we would be in an unbearable situation. In addition, no other cancellation or any pledge shall be decided upon by 31 December. And then the remainder of the extra cost of external operations – of the order of 300 million euros – will be covered at the end of the year. Then, it will be necessary to determine the level of carry-over of support agreed ; I would remind you that in 2016, it stood at about three billion euros. Finally, what about reports of credits of 715 million euros : will they be carried over to 2018 or committed and open ?”

“In summary, the management of credits for 2017 must be understood globally. It is as yet impossible to formulate opinions too decided on this issue, and that is why I have not mentioned the cancellation of 850 million euros of loans. In fact, I expect that the trade-offs to be made, on the other hand be aware of the conditions surrounding this cancellation. In addition, the end of management 2017 that will determine the draft finance law for 2018, if only to determine the level of credit carry-forwards and deferrals of expenses”.

Reduce vulnerabilities

“The path is drawn, according to two axes : one for win and the other, not to lose. This is our project ” Cape town 2025 “. The first axis, in order to ” win “, is that of the rise in power. We have no other choice. The second pillar, equally important, which should allow us to ” not lose “, is that of the improvement of the conditions of daily life of the military who have had to suffer in recent years, the emergence of new vulnerabilities, that are often unknown. This is more widely that the morale of our military and their families, of which I am the guarantor”.

“The first axis, that of the rise in power, pursues three priorities. The first is to regenerate the model, returning, at the earliest, on the capability gaps the most demanding operating environments, that is to say, on those that directly threaten key skills of the armies, and that compromise today the success of our operations. Concretely, on the ground, the lack of helicopters, drones or tanker aircraft has heavy consequences on the overall maneuver : report of operations, termination of tenure, opportunities not seized, predictability increased. It is only an example among others. To win, we must also have bulletproof vests, renovated, stocks of ammunition replenished, and more armoured vehicles to protect our soldiers. I recall that 60 % of our vehicles used in operation are not protected. The shield is the least we can ask for and obtain for the men and women of our armed forces who, themselves, did not count their efforts. I still have rehomed three injured last weekend”.

“Our second priority is to align the business contracts on the reality of the ways that we engage in transactions, today, considering, as I told you, that the level of threat will not diminish in the coming years. It is important to know that our current commitments exceed approximately 30 % of the contracts detailed in the white Paper. The new contracts will take into account the required levels of staffing, maintenance and operational preparedness. In 2016, 50 % of the rotations of the units of the army in the training centres have been cancelled. The pilots flew on average 160 hours, of which 100 are in operation, that is to say, not to the training, instead of 180 hours standard. The training at sea the navy has dropped by 25 %. Such a contraction of time and resources devoted to training is a source of vulnerabilities, which should be put an end without delay. This is the war chief, who you the said : in war, any failure to pay in “cash” because face it, the enemy does not bother processes.”

“Finally, our third priority is to maintain the essential credibility of nuclear deterrence by the renewal of its two components, ocean and airborne. To be sustainable, the effort required should be smoothed over the next fifteen years. I remind you that the annual flow will increase from 3.9 billion euros in 2020 and six billion euros in 2025”.

“It goes without saying that the program Scorpio is one of the major challenges of the combat budget that we conduct with Mrs Parly. It is the effect of the protection forces. I recall that the vehicles of the front armoured (VAB), which should be replaced in the context of Scorpio, have an average of thirty-five years of seniority. If we do not have the necessary credits, so we’ll have to postpone this program, with all the consequences that this would entail. It is indeed necessary to take account not only of the programme itself, but also of its environment. Without funds, the program Contact, for example, regarding the information systems – the old radio will not be able to be deployed. Without Contact, Scorpion will not be able to be implemented. Our armed forces are interdependent not only in combat but also in technology. The program Scorpion is not a combat vehicle, it is a coherent whole : it must be equipped with ammunition, of spare parts, but also of its information systems and served by a driver and a shooter trained and trained. Once again, without a budget, we will continue to delay the program Scorpion. However, can we still allow us to send our soldiers to fight in the VAB-old thirty-five years, you can imagine the wear rate and the level of protection ? I answer”no”.

“A word about the ammunition : the reductions decided in recent years have generally focused on the flow, the scheduled maintenance of the hardware and the programmed maintenance personnel, ammunition, and infrastructure – as always. Yes, it is necessary to reconstruct the flow of ammunition and we can’t wait for 2019 or 2020 ! Much we have consumed and continue to consume a lot, and for good reason : you don’t win the war without ammunition – a simple fact that one seems yet to rediscover. I will not give you details on the status of the various stocks, but there is no more time to discuss in budgetary terms, because we don’t have the choice. I can’t help it ; it is as well. It is necessary to act as early as 2018 for several reasons : first, because we’re ” annoying “, but also because it takes sometimes a lot of time between the command of the ammunition and the time where it can be pulled. The parts of the ammunition are manufactured in different locations and countries. In the background, France has rediscovered the war. However, it is not easy to raise an industrial chain, especially in an accelerated manner. We need to be able to dispose of stocks of ammunition sufficient. I don’t ask to annoy such-and-such, but because, once again, it is as well : you don’t win the war without ammunition sufficient”.

A gap is “not tenable”

“Our armed forces are faced for several years in a situation of high tension, under the combined effect of a level of very high commitment long-term – 30 000 soldiers in posture operational, day or night, for more than two years – and a budget situation complicated. This large gap is not acceptable, I’m sorry to have you say it with force ! Our freedom of action suffers. Thus, I am more often forced to postpone or cancel some operations due to lack of resources available. The dependence vis-à-vis our allies, especially americans, touches its limits because they too must cope with the hardening of the situation and to the propagation of priorities”.

“The system has also been weakened by the process, between 2008 and 2014, has affected all the components of our armies, directions and services : the number of members increased from 241 000 203 000 and the territorial organization of the armed forces has been redesigned from the ground up, primarily according to a logic of economic efficiency and reduction of public expenditures. Since 2008, fifty formations of the army, seventeen air bases, two bases naval air and twenty buildings have been removed”.

“The impact of these reforms, carried out in a very short period of time, made themselves felt. Need I remind you ? The ministry of Defence was the largest contributor to the general revision of public policies (RGPP). The model is then contracted around a core business minimalist, weakening at the same time its overall coherence, at the same time it was harder. When commitments are rising, and the budget, in decline, I call it a big gap. To those who doubt, I say and I repeat : it has already been given, it has already given everything. It is now necessary to revitalize our model, which, moreover, does not exclude to continue our ongoing transformation, and our structural reforms in order to be always more efficient”.

Sovereignty and economic sovereignty defense

“I remind you to finish that economic sovereignty is not opposed to the sovereignty of defense, quite the contrary. However, it is necessary to find between the two a way fair and balanced. The cost of the waiver would be potentially very high. As chief of staff of the armed forces, I see no other alternative than that of the disengagement operating inevitable, for lack of means. Resolve on the option of disengagement is not limited to the sole decision of leaving a theatre of operation. Disengage, it is to choose, in reality, any device, inside or outside, to relieve. It is to decide which theatre to leave so that the operations that are conducted there will contribute to our security. It is accept to weigh less decisive on the protection of the French. It is let to others the task of influencing major international equilibrium. In a word, it would be to review our level of ambition, at a time when very many States, unreasonable, for some, aspire to have their voices heard in the concert of nations. Such a decision would be respectable, but it is necessary that, politically, things are clear”.

“Choosing the disengagement, it is also take the risk of a profound misunderstanding amongst those of which I am the spokesperson – and, on a daily basis, in our armed forces, to seek with constancy, and will to overcome difficulties to ensure the success of the mission that has been entrusted to you. They sometimes do so at the peril of their lives. Imagine the burden that weighs on families when the father, the husband, the wife depart not knowing if they will return or in what state. This is a novelty for three years that it is necessary to take into account. The state of mind of the military has changed. We can be proud of what they do – I am – and what they are. In the words of Clemenceau : “They have rights over us.”

“We have entered difficult times and uncertain ; we have entered the time of the decision and of the courage playing all the security and the future of the country. Each era has its difficulties. The spirit of defence, ” first foundation of national security “, according to the terms of the white Paper of 2013, is necessary to us. In two days, during the national day, we will have the opportunity, once more, to see that this spirit is alive and well and shared by the great majority of our fellow citizens. In the time that is ours, it is important that it occurs every other day of the year by an unfailing support. Your commission will, I know, a decisive role in the matter. You can count on my personal commitment, my total loyalty and my commitment, that I think that you have measured. I we know all here inhabited by a single goal : the success of the arms of France, in the service of peace in advance !”

Analysis of the security context

“Since 2015, the France, and, more broadly, our european continent have been painfully struck by terrorist acts particularly heinous. It does not happen over a month, now, without an attack is perpetrated in one or other of the european countries. This particular context comes suddenly to remind us that the peace and security of our common space, we wanted more or less for granted, remain under the constant threat of being questioned. It is my belief that the times ahead will be difficult. We have a duty to look reality in the face, without the black out, of course, but with the concern to understand the world as it is. Our time is marked by a growing complexity. We are faced with an infinite number of interactions between many of the competitors, in all fields”.

“I observe in the second place, that the world rearms. After decades of stagnation or decline, the cycle is reversed in 2015 : sales of weapons in the world have even been found this year at the end of the cold war ! Military expenditures represent about 1 700 billion, or 2.3% of the global GDP, even if some States still persist to consider that NATO and the United States will continue to be filled, in the same proportion, to the defence of Europe. Taken together, the european countries spend 1.2% of their GDP to defence, when the United States spent 3.3% and the Russia, 3.7 %. This disarmament relative to Europeans results in a lower investment in the field of the preparation of the future – one that ensures the ” peace front “. I will write one example among others : if, in 2000, the European lined up to 4,000 combat aircraft, they do not complete that today, about 2,000 and projections lead to fears that we spent in the bar of 1.500, at the horizon of 2030”.

“In France, our armies are committed to provide a response that they want to coordinate. In order to fulfill their missions, they rely on cooperation, international military. The military cooperation contributes directly to the strengthening of our capabilities and the success of our operations : there was no other solution. The necessary restoration of a european military power mainly depends on the dynamic that the trio head to France – Uk- Germany will have to breathe. To the three of us, we represent 60 % of the appropriations for the defense of twenty-eight current countries of the Union”.

In my view, the world is changing before our eyes. The question of alliances is fundamental. It is a highly political issue. I speak to you of military action. In this area we are at the crossroads of paths, as illustrated by the situation in Syria. Over a few tens of kilometres only stand side by side with Turkish forces, american, kurdish, and Russian, as well as the syrian army, the syrian opposition moderate and Daech. Syria is a laboratory of relationships of power and tensions that, at bottom, from two conflictualités distinct, but not disjoint, bound for a return of the States-powers and the other to radical islam. Russia, for example, plays a role in the record of ukraine and in the syrian issue, where it contributes to the fight against Daech. We need to take that into account, what we have done at the first meeting of the commission in charge of the strategic review, because the changing geo-strategic has been important since the last white Paper”.

Redefine the operation Sentinel

“The question of the relationship between the efficiency and the weight of the operation Sentinel is relevant ; it is my concern. I recall that we increased to eleven thousand men, the task force land, to military personnel, constant – degreaser supports, in any way. We went a little far in this domain. It is at this price that we can maintain this level of seven thousand men permanently on the national territory. I told you want more flexibility to prioritise tasks and not static postures, which would give us more flexibility, so that the device is less penalizing in terms of staffing”.

“In any case, the operation Sentinel is efficient. Without the intervention of the patrol Sentry who shot and killed the terrorist at Orly, it was a drama. The trio was heroic : surrounded by terrorist, the young woman managed to extricate himself so that his comrade can break down the individual without touching all this the eyes in the eyes, very short range, as is often the case with terrorists – this is the reality of this fight. To react in this way, it takes courageous people, and this cannot be improvised. It is one of the reasons why our allies, including the Americans, we admire. At the Louvre, in the same way, imagine the disaster that would have occurred if we had not pulled : the terrorist, headed toward the customer”.

“Since the creation of the force as a Sentinel, our soldiers have opened fire five times ; each time, in a controlled manner and efficient. I note that this operation is extremely demanding and requires high-level professionals. Once again, our allies are watching us with admiration, and sometimes amazement, as it is true that this device is singular. In sum, I believe that our device, deployed in January 2015, is good, but it should evolve in the direction that I have indicated”.

“I am perfectly aware that this operation weighs on the morale of the troops and my permanent concern remains to preserve it. When a soldier returns from a four-month deployment in outdoor operation to move on to two or three missions as part of operation Sentinel, it is again permanently away from his family ; this cannot continue indefinitely, and I’m well aware of that. Hence the need for increased modulation for our device. Note that the increase of eleven thousand new staff is not yet complete, because the process, from recruitment up to the full operational in nature, is long. There is still much to do. At this point, it seems to me essential to scale the operation Sentinel, but I recommend caution on the subject : imagine that an attack serious occur following the decision to reduce Sentinel…”

National Service universal

– “The question of national service universal is political and I can’t answer. I will simply say two things : this issue is cross-departmental nature, and it must be dealt with in any sealing financial model army – because, as you’ve probably realized, the burden on the military is already very large”.

The model of army must be preserved in a way that is totally waterproof, because the national service universal is not provided on a comparable basis, in the budget equivalent to 2 % of GDP”.

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