September 03, 2012
Credit: Credit: Italian Navy
Andy Nativi Genoa
Italy will carry out a major armed forces reform, with the ambitious goal of increasing or at least maintaining its operational capabilities while cutting personnel, infrastructure and support components. This is what Defense Minister Giampaolo di Paola wants to achieve through a special law, expected to be approved by parliament before winter, followed by a number of decrees.
But di Paola is not waiting for legislators and is already pushing forward, according to an updated 2012 defense budget released in July, which includes a new approach to allocate resources to the various modernization programs. The government is adamant that additional funding provided earlier on top of the core defense budget to finance military operations abroad is going to be slashed. The provision for 2012 is set at €1 billion ($1.23 billion), with a 30% reduction from previous levels. This will require the ministry to gradually reduce force commitments; for instance, the provision for deployed troops, including in Afghanistan, for 2012 has now been cut to 6,600 from 7,400. The idea is to trim the Afghanistan force gradually by 1,200, to 3,000, by March 2013.
But it also means that, hopefully for Rome, the Afghan mission will change from counterinsurgency to training and supporting local forces sooner, rather than later. Several small operations will have to be wrapped up, regardless.
Hope is part of the strategy elsewhere, too. Given the crisis in Syria, it will be difficult to reduce the contribution to U.N. missions, and so far NATO's attempts to bring back troops from Kosovo have been frozen, due to the tense situation in the country following ethnic clashes in 2011.
Still, by the end of the year Italy will probably have no more than 6,000 troops deployed there, and the money granted by the treasury will allow for proper training, equipping and meeting some urgent operational requirements without touching the core budget.
Di Paola further plans to reduce the uniformed personnel from 180,000 to no more than 150,000, with civil servants going down to 20,000 as soon as possible. New laws recently approved or being approved will allow transfers to other government branches, if possible, as well as a reduction of the officer corps and non-commissioned cadre.