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A New Professional Army for France
The Reform Schedule (Part 3)
At the President of the Republic's request, the Government launched talks in July 1995 on the adequacy of our Defence tool. Within a new constitutional context, it was essential to draw all the consequences, including the financial consequences, of the geostrategic analyses made in the White Paper dated February 1994.
1. The works carried out by the Strategic Committee
A Strategic Committee was set up, chaired by the Minister of Defence, Charles Millon and seated by major civil and military ministerial officials, the General Secretary of National Defence and members of the President of the Republic's and the Prime Minister's cabinets.
This committee was requested, with reference to the major points set out in the White Paper and on the basis of the conclusions reached by five work-groups comprising members of the Defence departments and qualified personalities from the industrial and economic world, to make proposals to the Government on five main subjects : the modernisation of our force of deterrence, the adequacy of our classic forces, professionalisation and the future of National Service, the destruction of our Defence industry and the modernisation of the management methods within the Ministry.
The aim was to sketch, on the horizon of the coming century, the outline of a profoundly renewed Defence, adapted to present or foreseeable threats on our country at the lowest possible cost to the Nation.
2. The conclusions reached by the Defence Council
The works carried out by the Strategic Committee were launched at the beginning of the summer and contributed to the debates carried out in the Defence Council which met several times between September 1995 and February 1996.
This instance, founded by the Constitution and the statute dated 7th January 1959 concerning the general Organisation of Defence, reunites the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister, the Ministers in charge of Defence, of Foreign Affairs, of Economy, of the Home Office and any other competent personality.
The Defence Council's deliberations have successively focused on the missions allocated to our Armed Forces, on the modernisation of our Force of Deterrence, on the choice between the present mixed Armed Forces and professional Armed Forces, on the size and equipment of our forces, on the financial means to be allocated to our Defence and on the future of National Service. Subsequent to these deliberations, the President of the Republic decided on the future trends for our Defence.
3. The (1997-2015) plan decided by the Head of State
The Head of the State announced all these options to the Nation on 22nd February 1996. They give an outline of what the French Armed Forces will be in about twenty years time, that is to say in the year 2015.
The new-style Armed Forces, that is to say all the human, technical and financial means placed at the disposal of clearly identified missions, constitute what is called a plan in military terms.
4. Drawing up a new programming bill (1997-2002)
Once the general framework of our Defence policy has been decided upon, the next step is to establish how, year by year, the Armed Forces are to reach the goal set out in the plan.
Such is the aim of the programming bill which concerns the years 1997-2002.
Its preparation will give rise to a debate in Parliament in the second half of March.
Following this debate, the Government will draw up a draft for a military programming bill, which once approved by the Defence Council and by the Cabinet will be brought before the House of Commons in mid-May and should be adopted before the beginning of Summer.
5. The debate on the future of National Service
At the same time as the new programming bill is being drawn up, a broad debate will be launched on the future of National Service and will give rise to discussion and to a draft bill in Parliament.
Sources: French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Defence
French Embassies in London and Washington.
For more information, go to French National Defense.