The world economic crisis has had an impact on virtually everyone. Proceedings asked the commanders of the world's navies: The global economic downturn is obviously affecting the United States and its Navy. How is it affecting your navy's maritime strategy, operation, and force structure?
Admiral Pierre-François Forissier—French Navy
The economic downturn required that priorities be established, which inevitably led to budget choices and, for France's defense, to operational as well as capabilities choices. Regarding the French Navy, its decision-making processes make it possible to rank priorities periodically and to promote various short-, middle-, and long-term visions. As for military assets, it is indeed necessary to determine what we are willing to sacrifice and what we wish to keep.
In France, contrary to other Western governments, it was decided to protect the defense budget. Therefore, it is difficult to ascertain that the economic downturn has had repercussions on our navy's makeup or equipment. Thus, the appropriations laid out in the French Defense White Paper (June 2008) and the five-year Defense Budget Plan remain, for the time being, unchanged, while the French Navy was able to take advantage of a stimulus plan that included the construction of a third multipurpose amphibious assault ship. Nonetheless, it will certainly be necessary to resort to innovative funding measures. We are considering it for some of our equipment.
However, if we were able to maintain this posture, it is also because choices had already been made in response to prior strong budgetary constraints. This is notably the case in the decision to build a second aircraft carrier, which has been postponed until 2011.
Indeed, well before the latest downturn, the economic conditions required that a new format be defined for our armed forces, that major armament programs be re-evaluated, and that our defense tool be deeply modified. Since our capabilities might be temporarily affected by delayed programs, it was difficult to accelerate a process that, for our Navy, would have led to profoundly reassessing its operational consistency at a time when its assets are increasingly in demand.
The analysis of the economic downturn has shown that it is necessary to think the state's action through over the long term. Already, our governments are more aware of the strategic maritime challenges linked to globalization and to increased imbalances, as well as of the environmental or climate risks. To anticipate and prevent is less costly, over time, than to intervene. As far as the French Navy is concerned, this translates into the ability to tailor a naval posture capable of a rapid build-up, consistent with our maritime awareness and with our concern over preventing crises throughout the theaters where our presence is required.
The economic downturn reinforces the uncertainty and instability of our world. The French Navy contributes to giving France an action capability compatible with its defense and foreign-policy goals.
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