Opinion

No Defence Financing Law

photo_camera Pedro Sánchez

Until a few months ago they denied it in public, as unnecessary. Now, affiliates and staunch supporters of the PSOE and the Socialist Party of Catalonia (PSC) who hold high positions in the Government already see it as feasible, although... "perhaps for later". 

With both political formations showing repeated signs of clinging to power at any price, and counting day in and day out on the vote expectations that are favourable to them, the government's allies at all times are continually taking advantage of its weakness. The consequence is that the government under S√°nchez lacks the necessary drive to push forward major state projects, unless it pays a high price in kind to the declared enemies of the state itself... and sometimes not even then.

One of the initiatives that the president of the government repeatedly derails is to agree on a legal framework that guarantees the programming and sustainability of the military capabilities of the Spanish Armed Forces through the stability of budgetary investments in the medium and long term. Not even Margarita Robles' Ministry of Defence has dared to officially propose, discuss and, if necessary, present a draft bill for a Multiannual Programming Law - for Defence Funding or whatever they want to call it - along the lines of what has been in force for decades in France, the United Kingdom and even Portugal.

PHOTO/PSOE - La c√ļpula del PSOE demuestra carecer del empuje necesario para sacar adelante grandes proyectos de Estado, salvo que pague un alto precio en especies a los enemigos declarados del propio Estado. A veces, ni siquiera as√≠

In the absence of a step forward by the Executive, it has had to be the Popular Party's spokesperson in Congress, Cuca Gamarra, who has brought the initiative to the fore which, if it had been accepted by the Government and then approved by the legislature, would have also linked one or two of the political parties that are on the lookout to take power. 

For the moment, however, it is like crying in the wilderness. In the recent debate on the State of the Nation held in the lower house in the first half of July, MP Gamarra threw down a gauntlet to the president of the government. She proposed "agreeing on a multi-year spending commitment, which would not only affect this legislature, but also the following ones". "We propose that you bring it and that we tackle it, but on a multi-annual basis, are you prepared to do so?

PHOTO/Diego Puerta - En el Debate sobre el Estado de la Nación, la portavoz popular Cuca Gamarra propuso al Gobierno un pacto de inversiones plurianuales para garantizar la programación y sostenibilidad de las capacidades militares
Commitments that do not commit the one who commits himself

The answer was equivalent to a "yes, but on such rare occasions that never ever". It was a way of dodging what Pedro S√°nchez himself was forced to anticipate to his Atlantic Alliance partners at the Madrid summit. That he is willing to "increase the defence budget to 2% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP)... by 2029".

It is a verbal commitment by the president, pressed by the war in Ukraine, but one that clashes with the internal opposition of his current government partners in Unidas-Podemos and his parliamentary supporters in the second-hand market set up in the Carrera de San Jer√≥nimo. It should be understood that the meaning that the word "commitment" has for mortals, for Pedro S√°nchez, can be very different from that of "contracted obligation" or "word given", equivalent meanings included in the Real Academia de la Lengua (Royal Academy of the Spanish Language). 

As second in command to the current opposition leader, Alberto N√ļ√Īez Feij√≥o, Cuca Gamarra made her public proposal to agree on a Financing Law a few days after five senior managers had suggested that the budget increase to 2% should be "accompanied by multi-annual planning for the acquisition of capacities that will be necessary in three or four years' time". This is the view of the heads of the major national companies Airbus Helicopters Espa√Īa, Indra, Navantia, Santa Barbar√° Sistemas and Tecnobit. But the government is adamant that no, what's the point of programming major defence investments?

PHOTO/Raulherse- El Consejo de Ministros del 5 de julio acordó conceder a Defensa un crédito extraordinario de cerca de 1.000 millones de euros para atender los gastos extraordinarios de las Fuerzas Armadas ocasionados por la invasión de Ucrania

Having ruled out a Multiannual Programming Law in the current legislature, the Council of Ministers on 5 July, as a hors d'oeuvre of the succulent menu of 2 percent for 2029 - which entails dedicating 20 percent to investments in equipment and R&D&I - agreed to use 1 billion euros - exactly 999,793,477 euros, not one more, not one less - from the so-called Contingency Fund, to grant an extraordinary credit to the Ministry of Defence. Money that by all argumentation should serve, it is said, "to meet the extraordinary expenses of the Armed Forces caused by the invasion of Ukraine".

These 1 billion euros in round figures represent an increase of 8.82% of the consolidated Defence budget for 2022, which amounts to 11,338 million euros. However, experts in the field, those familiar with the complexities of the contracting processes that govern the General State Administration and the Ministry of Defence, wonder whether, at this stage of the year, this additional amount can be realised in the remainder of the financial year.

PHOTO/MDE-Rubén Darío Somonte - La ministra de Defensa, Margarita Robles, (con mascarilla blanca) es reacia a plantear ni presentar de manera oficial un borrador de anteproyecto de Ley de Financiación de la Defensa
Is it possible to invest a billion in less than six months?

Defence procurement experts believe that this extraordinary credit "is complicated to execute before the end of the current year". It will be difficult to use it to buy and replenish the weapons, ammunition and military equipment that has been sent to help the Ukrainian government. They deduce that a significant part of this amount will have to go "to cover the maintenance, living and operational needs of the military units" of the land, sea and air forces, matters that are far removed from the raison d'√™tre of the extraordinary appropriation approved. 

However, they recognise that it is possible that "some" amounts could be used to place new orders for equipment, "but only if they are covered by framework agreements", which do not require tendering. Otherwise, any file that exceeds 100,000 euros involves a process of many months of processing, its publication at the European Union level, which in the vast majority of cases exceeds six months and makes them practically unfeasible to materialise in 2022. 

PHOTO/ET - Los conocedores de las complejidades de los procesos de contratación que rigen en la Administración General del Estado y en el Ministerio Defensa dudan sobre qué porcentaje de los 1.000 millones se podrá materializar en nuevos sistemas de armas

The members of the Quartermaster Corps consulted are of the opinion that a significant part of the credit that will be taken from the Contingency Fund to be used for Defence will be used to advance future payments for international programmes in which Spain participates: the Eurofighter fighter, the Airbus A400M transport aircraft, the EuroMale drone and others. It will also be used for equipment, spare parts and components for US-origin weapons systems acquired through the US Department of Defence's government-to-government procurement system, known as FMS, an acronym for Foreign Military Sales.

Another part of the appropriation will be used to purchase equipment, spare parts or to pay commitments already made to the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA). Even small amounts are likely to be used for new investments planned by the Directorate General of Armaments and Material (DGAM), provided that their acquisition can be realised in the current financial year.

PHOTO/Armada - Cualquier expediente de compras de sistemas de armas que supere los 100.000 euros conlleva su publicaci√≥n en el √°mbito de la Uni√≥n Europea y un largo proceso de tramitaci√≥n que, a estas alturas del a√Īo, lo hace inviable

In any case, those familiar with Moncloa's policy, in conjunction with Castellana 109, do not rule out the possibility that the announcement of almost 1 billion euros will be little more than a simple announcement. Some fear that in terms of the acquisition of new military capabilities, the announcement may be little more than a simple "toast to the sun", just when the King of stars and the spectre of recession are getting tighter and tighter... and hard.