With its Message on the Army 2020, the Federal Council has proposed for the second time to the Federal Chambers a ceiling on army expenditure. For the period 2021 to 2024, it will amount to 21.1 billion Swiss francs.
In addition, within the framework of the armament program, the acquisition of army equipment and the DDPS real estate program, it also requests a commitment for appropriations of up to 2.7 billion. Finally, it submits to the federal Assembly a proposal for the withdrawal of the Rapier anti-aircraft system.
Spending limits for defense investments
Investments of nearly 15 billion francs will be required in the next ten years: 8 billion for the protection of airspace (Air 2030 program) and 7 billion for the other defense components. All expenses will be funded from the regular military budget.
Parliament is required to approve a spending limit for periods of four years. An initial ceiling had been set at 20 billion within the framework of the development of the army to cover the expenses of the years 2017 to 2020. Besides investments, this amount also covers operating expenses amounting to 3 billion per year.
For the period 2021 to 2024, the Federal Council forecasts a real growth rate of the current defense budget of 1.4% per year. This more or less corresponds to the average real growth in Confederation spending.
Thus, the spending limit that the Federal Council submits to Parliament stands at 21.1 billion francs.
Modern means of telecommunication
For investments relating to the year 2020, the Message on the Army sets three priorities. With regard to the first priority, the ability to drive, the Federal Council wants to improve the military’s voice communication and data transmission.
In order for the military to remain operational in the event of crises and cyber attacks, it must have robust and modern technology information and communication systems. They must also function in extraordinary situations, that is to say, be resistant to crises. This is why the Federal Council wants to modernize the telecommunications means of the army.
A total of 600 million francs will be invested in new systems such as radio and directed-wave devices and the integrated military telecommunications network. In addition, the control elements of the Florako airspace surveillance system will also be replaced for an amount of 155 million francs.
Mobility in the face of threats
As the second priority of the Message on the Army, the Federal Council proposes that the essential capabilities of the ground troops be maintained, which is in line with the fundamental decision it took in May 2019.
Land forces must better adapt to conflicts involving a large number of actors and presenting various forms of action and, to do this, the military must be mobile and better able to support civilian authorities. In this regard, the Federal Council proposes to renew the equipment for disaster aid – which is over 30 years old - for an amount of 116 million francs, and to adapt it to current standards. New equipment (vehicles, pumps, hoses) is required, in particular for extinguishing large-scale industrial fires. In addition, soldiers must have safe protective equipment and respiratory protection.
In addition to disaster relief, the military’s ability to secure mobile engagements in the event of armed conflict must be maintained. This capacity is covered today in particular by Grenadier Tanks 2000. Due to their age, certain components are no longer available for purchase. If no action is taken, these tanks will no longer be operational from around 2023.
To continue using the fleet and maintain its value, it is planned to extend the use of these grenadier tanks until 2040 for an amount of 438 million francs. Replacing them with new, lightly armored vehicles would be significantly more expensive.
In its armaments program, the Federal Council also proposes a commitment appropriation in the amount of 45 million francs for the upgrade of the PC-21 turboprop planes used for the training of jet pilots. These aircraft are used for basic training and will be adapted to current configurations, as for the other countries which use them.
Finally, as in previous years, the Federal Council also submits appropriations for army equipment (837 million francs). They will be used in particular to improve the means of cyber defense.
Reduce the housing stock
The third priority of the Message on the Army concerns the size of the real estate stock, which is due to be replaced to reduce as foreseen by the garrison plan. The development of Chamblon barracks (29 million francs) will allow the transfer there of the training hospital school currently stationed in Moudon, and the subsequent closure of the Moudon barracks.
The enlargement and general renovation of the Frauenfeld military center (stage II, 86 million francs) will make it possible to close other sites at a later date.
In addition, the Dübendorf Air Base will be concentrated on a new federal base mainly accommodating helicopters. For this project, the Federal Council proposes to invest 68 million francs in construction works.