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France seeks to ax military jobs but keep clout

AFP-JIJI

France plans to ax nearly 10 percent of all jobs in the armed forces but maintain significant spending as it tries to maintain its status as a top military power, a government review showed Monday.

The white paper, which sets the general direction of France’s defense policy, attempts to balance the need to protect France from high-level threats and risks with ever-decreasing financial resources.

While reducing France’s deployable forces, it calls for better cyberdefense and intelligence, with a particular focus on drones of its own that it found would have helped in its military intervention in Mali.

The white paper, officially handed over to President Francois Hollande, recommends that 24,000 military posts be axed by 2019 on top of the 54,000 job cuts already announced by former leader Nicolas Sarkozy in 2008.

It also calls for a reduction in the number of soldiers able to be rapidly deployed abroad, from the current 30,000 to between 15,000 and 20,000.

But the military will still have a total budget of ?179.2 billion ($235 billion) between 2014 and 2019, maintaining its position as the country with the second-largest defense budget after the United Kingdom in the European Union.

This is France’s fourth security and defense white paper, after those of 1972, 1994 and 2008.