Poland’s defense allocation for fiscal year 2017 received approval from the country’s highest legislative body on January 4. The defense oversight element, the Senate National Defense Commission, remarked positively on the planned PLN37.152 billion ($9 billion) military budget, which represents a 3.4 percent year-on-year nominal increase from 2016.
For 2016, defense received a 9.3 percent uptick in nominal investment, thus making the latest boost seem rather small. Nonetheless, the latest allocation will meet the NATO minimum spending target by being equal to at least 2 percent of national GDP – a national requirement under the July 24, 2015 alteration of an earlier law, the Act of May 25, 2001, which mandated that defense spending be equal to 1.95 percent of GDP.
Despite the occasional economic and/or fiscal hiccup that has served to slow budgetary growth, Poland continues to invest in its defense with a broad military modernization in mind and a multi-tier (air, sea and land) deterrent capability as the goal.
The modernization push has long been in the making, dating back to Poland’s admission into the NATO Alliance in 1999. Having entered the post-communist era with a large, static conscript- and armor-heavy force, Poland began scaling down its manpower and planning a broad cleansing of its Warsaw Pact-legacy military hardware. The former initiative, involving a reorganization and professionalization of personnel, kicked off first, while the latter – the pricier element in the reform equation – has proceeded more slowly.
But with Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in March 2014, successive Polish governments have sought to accelerate the “Technical Modernization Plan for the Polish Armed Forces 2013‑2022” unveiled on December 11, 2012. The threat of Russia remains a powerful security motivator for Poland, which in its history has suffered invasions by both Tsarist- and Soviet-led Russian governments.
Elements of the Technical Modernization Plan include air defense systems (forming the so-called Shield of Poland), investments in cyber defense and C4ISR, combat support helicopters, the ORKA submarine acquisition program, medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) drones, supplemental armored vehicles, fixed-wing aerial tanker-transports, and advanced jet trainers.
Also included in military planning since the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) Party government of Prime Minister Beata Szydło took power in November 2015 are efforts to increase the number of personnel in the military ranks, intensify troop training, and stand up volunteer territorial defense units. These steps are intended to beef up the homeland defense element of a military apparatus that throughout much of the previous decade had focused on out-of-theater operations in support of U.S.-led missions in Afghanistan and Iraq.
However, the FY17 defense budget provides just PLN9.2 billion ($2.22 billion) toward the Technical Modernization Plan, down 1.07 percent from the FY16 level. This is somewhat surprising given the weakness of the national currency, the zloty, and its negative effects on the purchasing power of the Polish state on the global arms market. Nonetheless, this appears merely to indicate a level of planned annual investment in the modernization plan, rather than a yearly swing that may suffer from shifting economic and fiscal winds.
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