As defence funding increases, the question of the public good becomes more pressing. The State Audit Office has concluded that deficiencies in planning hinder the development of Latvia’s defensibility mainly.
The defence budget will exceed 600 million euros in the coming years, of which more than 200 million euros are used for purchases by the National Armed Forces. The Ministry of Defence should improve its defence planning system, improve inter-institutional cooperation and be aware that spending does not end when equipment is purchased.
Military capabilities cannot be developed suddenly – funding must be stable
Since 2015, funding in the amount of 2% of GDP as stipulated by NATO is allocated to the defence sector. It will exceed 600 million euros in the coming years, and more than 200 million euros are used for purchases by the National Armed Forces.
“Funding for the development of Latvia’s defensibility is only a number basically. Yes, the government demonstrates its commitment to strengthening national defence by meeting the 2% benchmark set by NATO. However, the benefit to the Latvian public of investing in defence can be assessed actually only on the battlefield. Therefore, one can evaluate the results achieved in defence only by the purposefulness of the Ministry of Defence to implement the national defence concept and by the actual readiness of our armed forces to respond to real military threats at a critical moment,” explained Auditor General Elita Krūmiņa.
The resources available should be predictable for the successful implementation of multiannual projects to develop defensibility and avoiding the risk when massive investments are permanently lost due to a lack of resources to continue the project. In this case, the public benefit from the defence investment may not be equal to the expected one.
A striking example is the development of the Zemessardze (National Guard), which was halted actually in 2009 when funding was cut by 70%. The development of the air defence capability was similar, as it was impossible to maintain the missile system purchased for 4.4 million euros due to lack of funding and the system was inoperable. With the sharp decline in funding, the launch and implementation of several significant capacity-building projects of the National Armed Forces were postponed, such as infantry mechanisation capability, combat engineer capability, and an artillery capability, which are developed very fast.
High-quality planning is the cornerstone of the development of Latvia’s defensibility
The State Audit Office has concluded in its audits that long-term vision is lacking in planning the purchase of defence equipment. Without comprehensive long-term and medium-term planning, procurements tend not to happen or are rushed on the contrary. This causes the risk of inefficient use of funds. For example, when assessing the use of the funding allocated for the development of the National Guard in 2015-2017, one concluded that individual equipment was lacking for full-scale training of national guards because procurement of material and technical equipment was planned poorly. Delays in starting infrastructure development also illustrate the shortcomings in planning processes, although funding for this purpose was already available since 2016.
The Ministry of Defence is determined to improve the long-term planning system following the recommendations of the State Audit Office to rely its medium-term and current year procurement planning on. One can expect in the result that the National Armed Forces will receive the necessary equipment in the right time and right amount, and the infrastructure necessary for exercising like polygons, shooting grounds, and other objects will be available in due course.
Life cycle planning is the weakness of the defence sector
During its audits, the State Audit Office has repeatedly found that the entire life cycle is not identified before the equipment is purchased such as the cost of maintenance, service, and storage, what additional skills the staff needs, how the new purchase will be integrated into existing provision and, eventually, how the equipment will be disposed of.
The largest development project of the National Armed Forces so far is building the capability of infantry mechanisation capability, which is allocated the funding of at least 240 million euros by 2024. Along with armoured vehicles, weapons, ammunition, communication devices are also purchased, and their maintenance is planned. However, the audit of the report of the Ministry of Defence on 2018 concluded that only discussion on the establishment of a service and repair base for armoured vehicles was begun, although the base should have been operational since 2017.
Meanwhile, the armoured vehicles purchased are already used in exercises, and proper maintenance is essential to make the most of it. The Ministry of Defence should address shortcomings in life cycle planning so that the acquired armament is compatible with existing equipment, and one could use it immediately without any unplanned delays and additional spending. This is especially important when buying used equipment.
The term ‘development of defensibility’ in defence refers to the development of infrastructure, personnel skills, material and technical means (weapon systems, equipment, software) and other structures required by the armed forces.
The audits by the State Audit Office in defence during the last 5 years:
On the Correctness of Drafting the Report 2015 by the Ministry of Defence
On the Correctness of Drafting the Report 2016 by the Ministry of Defence
The Efficiency of the Provision Planning and Logistics System of the National Armed Forces
On the Correctness of Drafting the Report 2017 by the Ministry of Defence
Is the Development Path of the Young Guard of High Quality?
On the Correctness of Drafting the Report 2018 by the Ministry of Defence