(Source: Dutch News; published April 8, 2011)
THE HAGUE --- The cabinet is virtually certain to announce enormous cutbacks at defence today. According to a leaked draft version of the measures, 12,000 jobs and complete army units will disappear.
Defence Minister Hans Hillen already announced permanent budget cuts of 1 billion euros per year earlier. The cabinet already considered the far-reaching cutbacks last week. The decision was however postponed and will likely be made today.
Public broadcaster NOS has already obtained the plans. It says that all 60 Leopard tanks will be divested. The 17 Cougar helicopters are also to go, as well as four of the 10 mine-sweepers. At least one-third of the 86 F-16s will also be sold.
Some 12,300 jobs will disappear. Around 6,000 soldiers will face forced redundancies. NOS has not yet discovered where the blows will actually fall.
The unions are furious and derisive. Bigger missions such as that in Uruzgan - four years, 2,000 personnel - will no longer be possible in the future, says ACOM chairman Kleian. "The Netherlands will have a Belgian armed forces. Flying now and then. And if there is money and petrol, then we will do a trick."
According to defence sources, the Apache helicopters and Bushmaster heavy armoured vehicles will take over the tasks of the Leopards. The Netherlands can also step up European partnership, for example with Germany. But for this, there appears to be more willingness within the Netherlands than outside it.
The Netherlands and Germany do already have a combined army unit. Allies are however hesitant about awarding full air force or army tasks to a specific country.
One in seven of the military must fear for their jobs. Defence currently employs nearly 69,000 people, including 48,300 military. Hillen will sharply prune the number of officers. Generals will also not escape the cutbacks.
A sour detail for the military who are virtually on the street is that the cabinet will likely also approve the purchase of a second F35 JSF test aircraft today. This US fighter aircraft is to replace the F-16s. The investment will cost many billions.
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