SOFIA (BGM) – Three important things happened a week ago in the defence policy: from the US came the news that the negotiations for the acquisition of a new combat aircraft continued, amendments to the Defence and Armed Forces Act were adopted at second reading and the National Assembly adopted the Annual Report on the Status of Defense and Armed Forces in 2018.
We published an article in our media and briefly depicted what the report said: poor combat preparation, lack of staff and the unclear implementation of the three key projects for Bulgaria – new combat aircrafts, ships and armoured vehicles.
What does not the report say?
The financial information is again too scanty and devoid of a real opportunity for analysis. In this case, the protection of the “classified information” cannot be an excuse. We can be sure that the foreign intelligence agencies would hardly rely on the official parliamentary report.
The issue is particularly important as it affects over BGN 1.2 billion, over BGN 300 million of which are for capital expenditures. For example, it would not be difficult to specify which the financed investment projects for over BGN 1 million are, along with the time for implementation and the expected results. And what the big contracts that have been suspended are and why. The latter is important not only for a better understanding of the good and bad practices in the defence resources management. In the Bulgarian context, it is important to understand what part of the funds is really intended for investments and what part – for repairs of old equipment. The latter is not just a political issue. Because it may turn out that while we are declaring the Western equipment as too expensive for us, we have put aside more than the same amount for maintenance of the Soviet equipment in the last 20 years.
What is missing? Solutions
The main absent are the solutions. While the status of the army is more or less clear, there is huge uncertainty about the intentions of development.
The parameters of the three major investment projects – for combat aircrafts, battalion battlegroups and multipurpose corvettes – are more or less known. The common point for all the three (without this being mentioned in the report) is that great compromises are needed in finding an acceptable quality/scope/price/term ratio.
However, what is missing is a perspective for the rest of the army. For example, the assertion that the battalion battlegroups project leads to rearmament of the Land Forces cannot be true – it partially encompasses one of the two major brigades without considering the third. Taking into account the ascertainment of the condition of the equipment available, the question arises whether is a solution being looking for at all for the rest and what will their combat value be in 10 years?
This applies equally to air and naval forces.
When we also add the issue of people, the idea that there is practically no overall vision for development is beginning to strengthen. The main reason for this conclusion is the following – an impression of attempts to improvement is making, but which do not cover the whole army, have no clear timeframe and, most importantly, they do not have a working and validated financial statement. And that is exactly what will make it clear whether the intentions about the new equipment, recruiting and keeping the necessary people, and enhancing preparation can be realized at all. It is clear that since the report is drafted by the executive branch of government, its purpose is not to criticize the governing but to focus on their efforts. But this should not lead to saving information or evasive wordings. For both the National Assembly and the public, as well as for the army, it will be useful to be provided an analysis showing the real status and the proposed solutions.
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Translator editor: Monika Evgenieva