The Military programming law (MPL) 2019-2025 was then created, as part of an effort to ensure France’s decision-making autonomy in the 21st century. Despite this, two points are important to consider:
- The MPL stretches over a 5 year plan, but the higher tiers of the budget increase is only planned to take place in 2023 (+3 billion vs. +1.7 billion between 2019 and 2022).
- The financial commitment of 295 billion euros of the MPL is significant: it is the second largest item in the State budget after national education. However, the health and economic crisis will likely cause French public finances to significantly deteriorate, thereby potentially questioning this commitment.
Another key element for the Armed Forces, the number of military staff, has also been on the rise since 2015. The MPL plans to create 1,500 new jobs between 2019-2022. Nonetheless, recruiting and retaining staff has proven difficult due to the very strong competition coming from the civil sector and the very demanding nature of the arms industry. Given cyber threats and digitization, the recruitment of computer engineers and data scientists has become essential. To this end, the military does need to become a more attractive career option.
In a context of the technology race taking place between military powers, strengthening an army requires innovation. There are numerous technological breakthroughs to take into account: UAVs and autonomous systems, connectivity and the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, hyper-velocity, etc. Appropriating these technologies is not only a matter of funding, but also of the industrial apparatus being able to meet these military needs. The French Ministry of the Armed Forces has placed this challenge at the heart of its priorities, through the creation of the Defense Innovation Agency (AID) in 2018. Difficulties remain, however, and more work is needed in order to scale up, to fund startups and SMEs, and to develop a common culture around military innovation.