|03THEHAGUE2743||2003-10-31 14:31:00||UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY||Embassy The Hague|
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
1. (U) Summary: Defense Minister Henk Kamp outlined drastic
plans to restructure the Dutch armed forces during the
annual parliamentary defense budget debate on October 21-23.
Faced with mandated average spending cuts of 380 million
Euros a year, Kamp called for cuts in certain major
operational capabilities and personnel to save money and to
free up resources for substantial new investments. Kamp
successfully defended his program to make the armed forces
"leaner and meaner," and Parliament has largely approved his
plans (a formal vote is expected November 4). The only
concession parliament forced was a one year delay in the
elimination of the Navy's P-3 Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA)
fleet, and to provide additional justification for the
intended procurement of Tomahawk missiles for Dutch navy
frigates. End summary.
2. (U) Defense Minister Kamp strongly defended his plans to
restructure the Dutch armed forces during an intense three
daythree-day parliamentary debate from October 21-23. He
argued that if the Dutch armed forces were to continue to
play a role on the world stage, parliament must accept his
choices. His goals are to make the armed forces "leaner and
meaner," to create a new balance between the armed forces'
size and resources and to improve their quality and
deployability in crisis management operations. Kamp wants
to make all Dutch forces deployable - and has stressed that
he has made a deliberate choice for expeditionary forces.
Because of the necessity to cut spending, he added the armed
forces could no longer perform tasks that must be considered
Main points of restructuring plans
3. (U) In addition to seeking to keep the armed forces
affordable and better deployable in the long term, Kamp
seeks sufficient funding for new investments (he wants to
raise the proportion of the defense budget devoted to
investment from 16 to 20 percent). To this end, operating
costs are to be reduced, staff units scaled down and merged,
and efficiencies improved. Kamp is seeking to eliminate the
separate chiefs of staff for the three main branches of the
military. Cuts will also be made in operational
capabilities. In the period 2004-2008, the number of
frigates will be reduced from 14 to 10, tanks from 180 to
110, Apache helicopters from 30 to 24, and F-16s from 137 to
90. Personnel will be downsized through elimination of
about 12,000 positions, while at the same time about 5,000
new positions are created for mainly young active personnel.
Overall, the total number of personnel will have been
reduced from well over 70,000 at present to about 65,000.
Further, the bases at Valkenburg (2004), Seedorf (2005),
Soesterberg (2007) and Twenthe (2007) are to be closed,
while all P-3s MPAs are to be phased out.
4. (U) The spending cuts should yield sufficient funding to
invest in ready capabilities and sustaining participation in
military missions over a longer period of time. Investments
planned include expanding the armored infantry battalions,
procurement of a DC-10 transport aircraft, updating of the
remaining Apache helicopters, as well as procurement of
Tomahawk missiles for the navy's four new air defense and
command frigates. Further, appropriations are made to
strengthen specific military capabilities to contribute to
the NATO Response Force (NRF).
Parliament gains delay on P-3s; questions Tomahawks
5. (U) While largely supporting Kamp's plans, parliament
succeeded in getting him to postpone elimination of the P-3s
until 2005 and the related closure of their home, Valkenburg
AB. (Valkenburg serves as The Hague's VIP airport - some in
parliament argued it should remain open during the Dutch EU
Presidency in the latter half of 2004.) Owing to skepticism
on the part of some Members about the proposed acquisition
of Tomahawks, Kamp was obliged to agree to provide a study
on the future of the navy, including an explanation of the
potential role of these systems.
6. (U) Under pressure from MPs concerned about the local
effects of closing Valkenburg AB as well as the importance
on the counter-drug missions performed by Dutch P3s flying
out of Curacao, Kamp agreed to keep Valkenburg AB open and
the P-3s in the air for one more year until January 2005.
In so doing, Kamp laid down a marker that his ultimate
conclusion could be that there are no viable alternatives to
phasing out the P-3s and closing Valkenburg AB. His
intention remains to sell them to either Germany or
Portugal. Kamp also rejected as too expensive and
impractical the suggestion of permanently stationing five
P3s at Curacao.
7. (U) Leftist opposition parties expressed opposition the
minister's plan to buy Tomahawk missiles for the Navy's new
frigates because, according to Labor party defense spokesman
Frans Timmermans, Tomahawks are "first strike" missiles that
are "political tools at a high spectrum of violence" which
should be left within NATO to only larger powers such as the
U.S. and the UK. Timmermans further suggested the
Netherlands could never decide to use these missiles without
U.S. consent because the highly classified software to use
them remains in U.S. hands. Thus, the Netherlands would
make itself entirely dependent on the U.S. Other parties
such as the center-right Christian Democrats challenged Kamp
to explain how the Tomahawks would add value beyond those
capabilities already possessed by Dutch F-16s. Kamp
countered that the Tomahawks, with their extended range, are
far more capable than F-16 launched munitions. Moreover,
Tomahawks will add considerable value to the new frigates --
"the new frigates cost 500 million Euros a piece and it
would be waste of taxpayer's money if they are not armed
with the best available weapons," said Kamp. Further, Kamp
stressed that the the frigates need to have a full spectrum
of capabilities if they are to be an effective part of the
new NATO Response Force.
8. (SBU) Kamp has brought new energy and visibility to the
defense portfolio, one that has typically taken a back seat
to more powerful cabinet ministries such as Finance and
Foreign Affairs. In presenting this budget he has sought to
make the best of a bad situation -- significant mandated
budget cuts -- using them as an opportunity to thoroughly
reorganize the Dutch military on more deployable lines.
While displeased at the delay in cutting the P-3 force
(which Kamp claims will cost MOD 13 million Euro) his
general philosophy of restructuring and reinvestment was
accepted by parliament. For example, his plan to trim the
number of F-16s to increase available funding for enhancing
the capability of the remaining aircraft was not challenged.
Previous proposals to trim the number of Dutch F-16s have
met with vocal parliamentary opposition. Kamp is also
confident that he can convince a majority in parliament of
the utility of equipping the Dutch navy with Tomahawks.