PARIS – France will slash 54,000 defense jobs and boost funding for space- and land-based military intelligence, according to a new strategy aimed at adapting the country's forces to evolving threats.
President Nicolas Sarkozy will present the plan — the biggest review of France's defense posture in 14 years — to military and security officials Tuesday.
The plan, obtained by The Associated Press from the French president's office, foresees leaner but more high-tech fighting forces that can quickly deploy to battlefields in evolving conflicts from Afghanistan to Africa.
It is a long-term plan that seeks to defend France better over the next 15 years, and its effects may take years to be felt.
The document confirms France's interest in eventually returning to NATO's military command and its plans to work for a stronger European Union defense policy. Sarkozy discussed both at a NATO summit in Bucharest in April.
The strategy, which goes to parliament later this month, foresees no expansion of France's nuclear forces though says they will remain the country's "life insurance."
France has one of the world's major military forces but the average age of its ships is 21 years and its Puma helicopters and Transall airplanes are "worn down to the tread," Defense Minister Herve Morin said in an editorial in the daily Le Monde published Monday.
"Our military tool must adapt to globalization and to new threats," Morin wrote.
He called for more investment in anti-terrorist intelligence and technology to prevent cyberattacks. He warned of shifting "centers of gravity" in the fight against nuclear proliferation.
Morin defended the new strategy against criticism that it would weaken France by cutting personnel and closing little-used military facilities.
The plan foresees 54,000 job cuts over the next six or seven years, largely from support and logistics teams. The total French military force today, including gendarmes, is believed to be about 350,000.
The plan counts on $581 billion in military spending until 2020. That would keep defense spending at about 2 percent of GDP.
The plan would nearly double investment in space intelligence, including spy satellites, $1.07 billion in 2020. Military intelligence would also be boosted by more surveillance drones and other new equipment.
The plan puts off a decision on whether France will build a second aircraft carrier until 2011-2012.