The military is looking forward to a windfall like it has not seen in half a century. Minister Klaudia Tanner (ÖVP) had to note a setback.
The infantry fighting vehicle Ulan in the photo above is running with 650 liters of diesel in the tank. It needs regular maintenance and the 30mm ammunition it fires costs money too. The shooter next to him must be fed, medically supervised and regularly trained. He also wants a salary.
Austria currently spends about 0.6 percent of its gross domestic product on this annually. In euros, that was about 3.2 billion in 2021. In an international comparison this is not much: Germany or the Netherlands spend about 1.3 percent of GDP on their armed forces, more than twice as much. And Austria wants to go there too.
Budget increase on three levels with imperfections
In the wake of the war in Ukraine and with the support of the Chancellor, Defense Minister Klaudia Tanner called for an ambitious defense budget increase in the spring, which is now manifesting itself shortly before the new 2023 budget: First, the resources for the army to 1 percent per year, then to 1.3 percent and even to 1.5 percent of GDP in 2028. Hundreds of millions more would be available in euros for the coming year, budget planners calculate in an interview with the ‘Krone’.
But the calculation has a small flaw: pensions should be included in the target GDP share. It is true that they are not paid directly by the Ministry of Defence, but by the Ministry of Social Affairs. However, they are included in the internationally customary GDP figure and reduce the amount by 0.15 percentage point. In nominal terms, the military initially has only 0.85 percent at its disposal instead of 1 percent, in 2028 instead of 1.5 percent de facto “only” 1.35 percent. A share that has not existed in Austria for more than half a century.
In the “Krone” interview in August, Chief of Staff Rudolf Striedinger already outlined what he needs the money for: “First, protective equipment and better weapon effectiveness for our troops. Second, we want to invest in the mobility of our soldiers, both protected and unprotected. And thirdly, the self-sufficiency of the army to guarantee our performance even in times of crisis.”
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