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Thomas Gassilloud: "With this LPM, France will be able to act fast, hard and far".

Chairman of the National Assembly's Committee on National Defence and the Armed Forces, the Renaissance deputy from the Rhône discusses the drafting and content of the 2024-2030 Military Planning Law (LPM), which takes account of the "change of world" following the war in Ukraine.

THE VOTE ON THE LPM 2024-2030 IS NEARING COMPLETION.

CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE PREPARATORY WORK THAT WENT INTO MAKING THIS REPORT?É BY YOUR COMMITTEE?

The National Assembly's Committee on National Defence and the Armed Forces began preparing the LPM in July 2022. All our work in 2022-2023 has been geared towards this major event. In addition to the work on the 2023 Finance Bill, we have organised four major cycles of hearings on the state of French defence, feedback from the war in Ukraine, nuclear deterrence and the armed forces models of our main international partners. The cycles on Ukraine and deterrence have been compiled and are available on the National Assembly website. We have also carried out 5 fact-finding missions to inform our thinking ahead of the LPM: a large-scale mission assessed the implementation of the first annual instalments of the LPM 2019-2025, while 4 so-called "flash" missions enabled us to take stock of ammunition stocks, ground-air defence, the military challenges of the seabed and operational readiness. 

Finally, we have increased the number of meetings. On the one hand, by making more than twenty visits to our international partners to understand their perceptions, contribute to the convergence of our strategic cultures and support the capability dimension of our partnerships. Secondly, with the defence community in our territories, with military units, DGA centres and defence companies. We have also focused on involving our fellow citizens by organising 4 public debates across the country (in Brest, Périgueux, Biscarosse and Pau), each attended by nearly 200 people, as well as several thematic exchanges online, notably on the Discord social network.

"MORE THAN 1,700 AMENDMENTS DISCUSSED, OF WHICH 342 WERE ADOPTED.

The draft text was submitted to the National Assembly on 4 April 2023: we then focused on its content, its normative contributions and the underlying financial and capability balances. Once again, we involved a wide range of Members of Parliament, well beyond the Defence Committee. Half of the Assembly's standing committees were consulted on the text, not counting the European Affairs Committee and the Parliamentary Office for the Evaluation of Scientific and Technological Choices (OPECST).

The debates were particularly rich: we spent more than 90 hours discussing the text, first in committee and then in session. More than 1,700 amendments were discussed, 342 of which were adopted. The result is a text that has been enriched and clarified on a number of points, with 408 votes in favour, 19 more than for the last LPM.

While several points of consensus were confirmed, such as the army model, support for the defence industry, reserves and the modernisation of deterrence, the debates also highlighted certain differences of opinion. In particular, the NUPES was divided on the subject of our alliances and its ambiguities on deterrence, as were the RN's aporias on our membership of NATO and the European Union.

TO WHAT EXTENT HAS THE WAR IN UKRAINE INFLUENCED THEÉ WHAT DOES THIS LAW ENTAIL?

WITH A RETURN TO HIGH-INTENSITY WARFARE, ARE WE QUESTIONING OUR ARMY MODEL?

The war in Ukraine is indicative of a change in the world and makes us realise that the use of force is once again a possibility in Europe, in a context marked by the disintegration of the international order based on law. The revisionist powers are no longer hiding: they are openly assuming that violence and fait accompli are at the service of their ambitions.

France is drawing conclusions for its defence. This explains why the 2024-2030 LPM replaces the one passed in 2018 before the latter has been completed.

What do we see? Firstly, that our interests remain global, from French Guiana to Polynesia, from Europe to Africa; and that, to guarantee their protection, France still needs the widest possible military "toolbox", what we call a "complete army model", even if it is not completely complete.

We also note that France is not in the same situation as Ukraine, that it has a sovereign nuclear force and some of the strongest alliances in the world, in particular through our membership of the EU and NATO; in drawing lessons from the war in Ukraine, we must therefore be careful not to spontaneously duplicate what Kiev needs hic et nunc. The threats we face are not exactly the same as those in Ukraine, either in nature or in time. And this is undoubtedly what separates us from the assessment of our German friends, who, given the structural limitations of their army model, think more in the short term. The 2024-2030 LPM should help us to consolidate the army of today, but above all to prepare the army of tomorrow, beyond 2040.

"THE WAR IN UKRAINE HAS HIGHLIGHTED THE IMPORTANCE OF THE COMBAT INDUSTRY".

We also note that contemporary warfare uses hybrid strategies and that the scope of conflict is constantly expanding: information warfare, the militarisation of space and the seabed, the intensification of cyber threats and the proliferation of indirect strategies have all accelerated at an incredible pace. At the same time, we are discovering that our armies, built for asymmetric conflicts, need to regain lost capabilities, for example in air defence. We therefore need to adjust our capabilities to be able to act over an even wider spectrum, while making up for our shortcomings.

The war in Ukraine has finally highlighted the importance of the combat industry. In war, an army's resilience depends crucially on its industrial capabilities. We have rediscovered that an army like the Russian army can fire up to 20,000 shells a day, a third of what Nexter produces every year. To be able to 'withstand' harder shocks, we need to relearn the industrial grammar of warfare, by organising the conditions that will enable us to move into a 'war economy'. Being able to produce more and faster if the need arises, reducing dependency, guaranteeing supplies, relocating (following the example of "large calibre" gunpowder production in Bergerac)... there are many areas for progress. Ensuring the long-term viability of our armed forces model also means consolidating a more sovereign and resilient defence technological and industrial base (DTIB).

DOES THIS LAW MARK A CHANGE IN OUR DEFENCE POLICY AND IN THE COMPOSITION OF OUR ARMED FORCES?

The aim of the work on the LPM was to respond to the observations I have just listed and to reexamine the army model that the LPM 2019-2025 was intended to achieve, in the light of our needs. The conclusion is that we must retain our broad and coherent army model, but that certain parts of it need to evolve to better respond to the widening areas of conflict.

Our army model has therefore been adapted without being revolutionised. It is based on the idea that between now and 2030 we will not have to face aggression of the kind currently being suffered by Ukraine, but that some of our interests could be suddenly and brutally called into question. To meet these challenges, the LPM opts for coherence and responsiveness rather than mass and endurance. France will be able to act fast, hard and far (for example, with a fully "scorpionised" division deployable in 30 days by 2027), but its ability to last and "multiply" will rely on its alliances and the capacity of its industrial base to support a rapid increase in power.

The LPM provides for a presence in all areas of conflict, particularly in emerging areas where indirect strategies can be implemented to circumvent our strengths in more traditional areas; this is all the more important as the technological revolution has an "equalising function" that sometimes allows the "weak" to trip up the "strong".

"WE'RE NOT GIVING UP ON ANYTHING, BUT WE'RE ADJUSTING OUR COURSE".

In order to finance this extension of the range of capabilities, while remaining within a reasonable budgetary framework for our public finances, the decision was made to postpone certain deliveries planned in the previous LPM, without affecting the final target. Some commentators have expressed concern about this, without understanding the overall balance: we are not giving up on anything, but adjusting the trajectories.

The LPM will be accompanied by real transformations. For example, 10,500 army jobs will be transformed, by recreating electronic warfare units in melee units, reinforcing engineering or artillery units or creating new commands such as those dedicated to deep or hybrid actions. But this will also be seen in the air force, which will be able to act in space and no longer just "from" space. The Navy will be renewing more than 65% of its ships between now and 2030, and developing new submarine capabilities.

At the same time, structuring capability programmes will prepare our forces for the post-2030 era: these include the Vulcain and Titan projects for the French Army to robotise and renew its "heavy segment", with the MGCS. (Editor's note: Main Ground Combat System) on the horizon, including the Rafale F5 standard, which will be fitted with an unmanned aerial vehicle based on the Neuron demonstrator, and the SCAF [Future Air Combat System]. which will arrive in 2040; it is the SNLE  [Nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine] of 3e generation aircraft carrier, which will enter service around 2038.

WITH A BUDGET OF 413 BILLION EUROS, THIS LPM IS A RECORD.

HOW WILL THESE LOANS BE DISTRIBUTED?

The effort made by the nation between 2024 and 2030 is considerable. The draft LPM, as voted on first reading by the National Assembly, provides for €413 billion in requirements, €400 billion of which will be funded from budget appropriations, to which will be added €5.9 billion from extra-budgetary resources and €7.4 billion from deferred charges or the inevitable shifts in milestones (known as "frictional margins"). The House has been particularly careful to ensure that aid to Ukraine does not crowd out the annual budget envelopes: it will therefore be financed in surplus year after year.

The trajectory is both sincere, since all the assumptions used in its construction are legible (including inflation estimated at €30 billion over 7 years), and respectful of public finance constraints. Despite the scale of these amounts, there is "no luxury, ease or comfort", in the words of the French President.

"THE WORKFORCE WILL REACH 275,000 BY 2030".

What will they fund? Firstly, the determined modernisation of our nuclear strike force, to ensure that it can keep pace with changing threats: around 13% of the LPM will be devoted to this. More broadly, €268 billion, or 65% of the LPM, will be devoted to equipment and its maintenance. This represents an increase of 56% compared with the 2019-2025 LPM. Major efforts are targeted at specific areas: €100 billion for the main weapons programmes (aircraft carriers, SNLE, SCAF, SCORPION, Rafale F4 and F5, etc.), €5 billion for UAVs and €5 billion for ground-air defence. Ammunition will benefit from a substantial effort of €16 billion, an increase of 45% compared with the previous LPM.

The LPM also accentuates our capacity for action in hybrid fields and common spaces: intelligence will receive a new boost (€5 billion), enabling the DGSE to begin transferring to the new fort at Vincennes, cyber defence will receive €4 billion and special forces €2 billion, while space capabilities will be allocated €6 billion, This will enable the renewal of optical and electromagnetic intelligence satellites and the development of the ambitious ARES space action programme, while increasing space communications capabilities by building on the European IRIS satellite constellation project.2.

"MORE STAFF, MORE EQUIPMENT, MORE TRAINING, MORE LOGISTIC THICKNESS".

To be more responsive, the LPM also strengthens our military presence overseas with €13 billion.

Human resources have not been forgotten: €97 billion will be devoted to them, with an increase in the workforce of 6,300 full-time equivalents, to reach 275,000 jobs in 2030, not to mention the doubling of the reserves to 80,000 military personnel in 2030 and probably 105,000 in 2035. So €413 billion means more personnel, more equipment, more training, more logistical "thickness". It's muscle. But no fat. With few replacements.

The text is currently before the Senate. We hope that we will be able to reach an agreement in the Joint Committee before 14 July so that the LPM can be symbolically promulgated on that date and quickly provide the framework for the 2024 Finance Bill. Our military capabilities need this to begin their transformation without delay. In a dangerous world, the defence of France demands it.