In the last decade the Armed Forces have been faced cuts on a great many occasions during the transition from a defence force with large reserves designed to meet the threat of invasion to an overseas mission oriented force prepared for active service, and in large part actually actively deployed. The prime purpose of the Armed Forces invasion defence orientation was deterrence; by contrast, today’s mission orientation is meant to be effective, both nationally and, not least, internationally, in furthering Sweden’s security interests.
We are talking about an enormous transformation that has occurred incredibly quickly and has had colossal consequences for the way in which the military is organised and the activities it undertakes. It is widely claimed that the Armed Forces have always cost 40 billion, but this can be misleading. A better and more credible picture emerges, however, if one views this sum in relation to GNP. If the level of today’s defence budget were to correspond to the same proportion of GNP as at the end of the Eighties, it would reach around 70 billion. That is not our situation today. Indeed, as is well known, the defence budget stands at around 40 billion, a significantly smaller sum Nonetheless, the Armed Forces can, naturally, be better at financial control. Support here is given by the exceedingly professional Swedish National Financial Management Authority (Ekonomistyrningsverket), with whom we already enjoy a fruitful collaboration.
That is part of the reality in which we live. But there are other issues that are important as well. For, while we discuss financial figures, live missions are underway in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Chad and elsewhere. In Afghanistan we see a continued expansion of criminal networks, the illegal arms trade, corruption and opium trading. Conditions in Kosovo are unstable since the declaration of independence. Riots and other disturbances seem to be a part of daily life for the new Kosovo. Our soldiers can, together with others from the international community, be a force for stability in the region and contribute to a safer future. We have only just landed in Chad. Here at home discussions are underway on the merits of extending the length of the mission, at the same time as we are wrestling with a number of logistical challenges. A particularly concrete example: how do we transport all the requisite supplies, quickly and securely? Chad has nearly three times the land area of Sweden, but with only 270 kilometres of tarmac road, compared with Sweden’s 12970 kilometres. This is only one of many dilemmas with which we are confronted during missions overseas.
The debate on the Armed Forces financial straits will continue during 2008. It is critical that light is shed on the tasks assigned to the Armed Forces in relation to the resources allocated for performing those tasks. The tight financial situation has consequences, not only for 2008, but also for the future. But challenges facing the Armed Forces are not limited to financial matters. Our international commitments are becoming more and more complex. Dealing with the situations we face is not so seldom difficult, challenging and, sometimes, dangerous. This is what it is like day in and day out for Armed Forces personnel. In short, a part of daily life’s problems and challenges.
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