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French army to downsize

A government white paper seeks to reduce the number of fighting men and shifts emphasis to Europe.

A government white paper on restructuring the composition of the army seeks to reduce the number of fighting men and shifts emphasis for foreign intervention to Europe.

The reforms, the first since the army was professionalised and conscription scrapped 14 years ago, are a response to the changing global security climate.

Like most European countries, France is more vulnerable today than it was in the 1990s

The authors of the white paper say the terrorist threat has become a "structural threat" using 21st Century technology that makes expensive traditional army formations less relevant.

Guy Teissier, chairman of the National Assembly’s defence committee, said: "Previous governments had shifted reform. It has pushed the budget hump for years.

“Today, we have no choice. We must lower the sail.

The document calls for a greater emphasis on intelligence work, and a reduction in numbers of traditional arms of the service like infantry, artillery and armoured divisions.

Savings made by cuts will be reinvested in operational and intelligence areas.
The 36 members of the commission have also put forward a strongly European agenda in the white paper.

The European Union should, according to them, be able to deploy 60,000 troops outside its borders, reducing the responsibility of individual nation states for overseas deployments.

The French will also rejoin the command structures of Nato, adding to the French army’s international outlook.

The army itself is worried about the proposed reforms.

Generals believe the measure will weaken France’s power status irrevocably.

Photo: Espansera Berrios, USAF

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