France will ask for a multi-billion dollar increase in the defense budget in 2023
STUTTGART, Germany — The French government is proposing a budget of 44 billion euros ($45 billion) for its military in 2023, including a 3 billion euro ($3 billion) increase over the budget of the last year.
Newly appointed Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu revealed the figures for the proposed funding during a July 7 hearing before the Defense Committee of the French National Assembly. If passed, the increase would be nearly double what France had previously pledged to increase its budget year-on-year over the past two years.
In presenting the increase in funding, Lecornu referred to President Emmanuel Macron’s speech at the recent Eurosatory business conference, during which the newly re-elected president said France had entered a “war economy”.
Lecornu noted that France is in “a delicate situation” regarding the ongoing war in Ukraine, and that Paris’ support for kyiv in its self-defense has prompted several budget updates. The army will have to replenish the ammunition and equipment that was sent to Ukraine, as well as fighter jets that were exported to countries like Greece.
The government is also seeking to fund major modernization efforts such as the army’s Scorpion program, support ongoing efforts to combat terrorism and strengthen its defense industrial base, he added.
With the hybrid war in Ukraine as a backdrop, France must also work to improve its capabilities in cyberattack, space and unmanned systems, Lecornu said.
The French parliament will have a say in the final amount of the budget and the assembly’s defense committee plans to interview other heads of government as well as business leaders in the coming months, the minister said. chairman of the commission, Thomas Gassilloud. Joël Barre, head of the military procurement office, Directorate General of Armaments (DGA), will appear before the committee on July 13 behind closed doors.
Lawmakers grilled Lecornu on a matter of topics during his first hearing as defense minister. Many legislators had in mind the future of the Future Combat Air System, or SCAF, known in France as the future air combat system, or SCAF.
The Franco-German-Spanish program has been at a standstill for months, two of the prime contractors, the French Dassault and the German Airbus, reached an impasse on work-sharing agreements linked to the program’s key pillar, the next-generation fighter. Indra leads the Spanish industry cooperation on FCAS.
Pressed for time, Lecornu commented only briefly on the status of SCAF, assuring lawmakers that the program was active, that industry negotiations were underway, and that he continued to discuss the program with his German counterpart, Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht. The Main Ground Combat System (MGCS), another major joint equipment program between France and Germany, is also underway, he added.
Lecornu told lawmakers that the ministry’s next five-year budget plan – known as the military programming law (LPM) – will put a heavy emphasis on France’s naval fleet, particularly its aircraft carriers.
France currently operates one aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, and has launched a program to build a new ship from 2025, which is expected to enter service upon Charles de Gaulle’s retirement.
The ministry will discuss the possibility of returning to a two-plane aircraft carrier model and will include parliament in those discussions, Lecornu said.
Some lawmakers have expressed concern over the proposed budget increase of 3 billion euros, calling it outdated and insufficient in the wake of rising inflation and supplies to Ukraine.
Lecornu acknowledged their concerns, but said the real issue should be the rate of inflation in 2023.
“And on that, I’m not an economist, but there are optimistic scenarios and more pessimistic scenarios,” he said.
He pushed back against a lawmaker’s description that the national defense industry was in tatters. “There is incredible know-how in France. I believe that many, many, many nations dream of having our defense base, our defense industrial and technological base,” he said.
“That we have to do better, that we can surely change some things, I’m not saying the opposite,” he continued. “But to say that our defense apparatus, or our defense industrial apparatus is in tatters, is simply not true.”
In 2022, the French Ministry of Defense allocated 40.9 billion euros (47.9 billion US dollars) to its military budget, an increase of 1.7 billion euros compared to the voted budget for 2021.
Vivienne Machi is a journalist based in Stuttgart, Germany, who contributes to Defense News’ European coverage. She previously worked for National Defense Magazine, Defense Daily, Via Satellite, Foreign Policy and the Dayton Daily News. She was named the Defense Media Awards’ Best Young Defense Journalist in 2020.