The armed forces will undergo "a substantial reduction," announced Italian Defense Minister Giampaolo Di Paola to both chambers of Parliament. Thus the Monti government intends to show that given the crisis everyone should make sacrifices.

In the Minister’s own report, it emerges, however, that such sacrifices have become necessary not so much on account of budget cuts, but because the shape of the Italian armed forces is currently akin to that of an overweight and out-of-shape boxer in need of a radical diet.

The report envisions therefore a reduction in military personnel from 183,000 to 150,000 members and civilian cuts from 30,000 to 20,000, resulting in a 30% decrease over five to six years. This will slash personnel expenses from 70% to 50% in relation to total expenditures, permitting a net growth in operations and investment spending.

Land, sea and air forces will undergo cuts, particularly as regards heavy units and those of coastal and air defenses. Following this "diet", according to the report, the armed forces will be smaller but more efficient, with less girth but technologically more advanced. They will be "truly ready and deployable" with "more resources for operations" at their disposal.

This confirms how illusory is Monti’s promise to reduce military spending. The armed forces, the minister maintains, will acquire a more efficient C4I system (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence) allowing them a tighter integration with US/NATO operations with heavier reliance on special forces and intelligence-gathering units.

In this context, "it is not possible to refuse" the acquisition of the most advanced aerial defense components, the key element of which is the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the best available, according to Di Paola. Italy has already invested 2.5 billion Euros in this program but will purchase 90 instead of a planned 131 fighters. The Minister did not specify the total projected cost because the total cost of the plane is not yet known. One can in any event estimate the cost to be about 10 billion Euros for 90 planes, added to which is an equivalent amount for the projected acquisition of 100 Eurofighter Typhoons. The F-35, whose deployment costs will be higher than those of current fighter planes, will also engender additional expenses due to the upgrades they will require as soon they come on line.

To compensate -according to an official press release- the air forces will be equipped with "a multi-purpose aerodyne with a marked capability for air-ground attack, stealth capacity for low radar detectability and high survivability able to utilize armaments on a vast scale and to operate from rudimentary or damaged air strips. An aircraft that allows deep long-range operations by air forces, offering excellent close air support to ground forces."

In this technical description one sees the image of the future wars of aggression Italy will participate in. Today, as Minster Di Paola explains, "the defense of Italy and the Italians will not be only or even really on its borders but from a distance, wherever threats are born and nourished." It is therefore necessary to update Article 52 of the Constitution in order to specify that it is the sacred duty of the citizen to defend the homeland "from a distance."

Michele Stoddard