Kamis, 10 September 2015

TNI to cut back on weapons procurement


Jakarta-Responding to a planned defense budget cut, Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo said that he would order a reduction in the procurement of new weapons.

“[With] the available budget we will try to adjust to our needs. We will evaluate and make a priority list,” Gatot told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting with the House of Representatives.

He said that when deciding on weapons procurement, the military would consider what constituted the actual threats the country was confronting.

For instance, in 2016 the Air Force could prioritize buying radars and Sukhoi SU-35 jet fighters, while the Navy could aim to procure submarine-kilo class, frigates and radars.

He declined to give details on the Army’s priority list.

“As we plan to turn Indonesia into a maritime axis, we should strengthen our presence in airspace and the sea,” Gatot said.

He also said that there was little that the TNI could do to change the budget-cut plan, as it was considered final by the government.

It was reported that the government planned to cut its defense allocation for next year by 6.3 percent, or Rp 7 trillion (US$490 million), to Rp 95.8 trillion.

The lower budget allocation for the defense sector could also affect the welfare of soldiers and weapon systems procurement.

In recent years, the government has continued to increase budget spending.

In 2010, the government gave Rp 17 trillion to the Defense Ministry but in 2015, the amount increased to Rp 102.3 trillion.

Despite the reduction for next year, the defense budget is the second-largest allocation in the draft state budget after the public service sector with an earmarked Rp 764 trillion.

Although no details are available yet on the exact reduction for 2016, House Commission I overseeing defense and foreign affairs chairman Mahfudz Siddiq said that weapon systems procurement would suffer the most.

Mahfudz also declined to say which weapons system projects would be shelved.

Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu previously revealed that several weapons procurement plans might be postponed or scrapped due to the weak rupiah.

Some of the available funds available would be used to finance other important procurements, such as communication equipment and radars, he said.

“There may be a slight change in procurement plans,” he said recently.

Initially, the defense sector and military needed an additional Rp 35 trillion to achieve the Minimum Essential Force (MEF) target.

The additional funding was to fill the gap, as the rupiah continued to slide against the US dollar.

“When we drew up the draft 2015 state budget, we assumed that one US dollar would be worth Rp 12,500. The fact now is that one dollar is equal to Rp 14,000,” Gatot said.

Mufti Makarim, a military expert from the Institute for Defense and Peace Studies (IDPS), said that the decision to decrease the defense budget was a tough choice faced by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, who planned to focus more on infrastructure development to accelerate economic growth.

“The President must have carried out a thorough assessment before cutting the military budget,” Mufti said, adding that a consequence of the budget cut was a slowdown in the pace of the transformation of the TNI to becoming a modern military.

Previously, lawmakers from Commission I expressed similar concerns about the government’s decision as it had earlier planned to revamp the country’s weapons and associated defense systems.
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