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THE GOVERNMENT HAS A PLAN: Prime Minister Erna Solberg (H) and Minister of Defense Frank Bakke-Jensen with Norwegian soldiers in Lithuania in September. On Friday, they will present a revised version of the long-term plan for the Armed Forces. Photo: Helge Mikalsen, VG

According to the Minister of Defense, the government will meet NATO’s two percent target now in 2020. But those who expect more money in the updated long-term plan for the Defense will be disappointed.

The government is now sending a new version of the Armed Forces’ long-term plan to the Storting, following the opposition sent the plan in return to the government in May.

– The framework is the same as in the plan we presented earlier this year: NOK 16.5 billion more for the Armed Forces over the next eight years. The Storting did not ask for more money, but a clearer plan, says Minister of Defense Frank Bakke-Jensen (H) to VG.

– If the Storting wants more capacities in the Armed Forces, they must also be willing to finance it, he adds.

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Exceeds two percent of GDP

The reason why Norway is now exceeding NATO’s common goal of spending two per cent of GDP on defense is not that the defense budget is increasing. But that the Norwegian economy is shrinking in the corona crisis:

– Already now in 2020, and in 2021, we will be over two percent of GDP. Unfortunately, says Bakke-Jensen.

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Sent in return

In mid-April, the government sent its original long-term plan for the Armed Forces to the Storting. But instead of the “usual” four-year plan, the Storting now got a long-term plan that stretched eight years forward.

The FRP, which in January went from government to opposition, signed an agreement with the Labor Party, the Socialist People’s Party and the Socialist People’s Party on seven specific demands to the government, packed up the plan and sent it back to Bakke-Jensen.

It had never happened before.

The common denominator was that the plan was too weak, too little concrete, and left a defense that would be too small.

Concrete plan

Bakke-Jensen now believes that he has met the requirements:

– The long-term plan has been given a specific timeline with which investments will take place when, he says.

Within four years, the staffing will increase by 550 employees and 700 conscripts.

– We will increase the defense budget by NOK 2.1 billion on average every single year for eight years. It is a significant investment, says the Minister of Defense.

Here is the government’s detailed plan for the Armed Forces, as published in the Armed Forces’ long-term plan on Friday.

– I have no problem saying that we would like to increase staff more. But that presupposes that we can offer education to them, and that we have the money to equip them, he adds.

Bakke-Jensen argues that even if the plan is not bigger now, it is at least clearer and more detailed than the one that the Storting sent in return.

– It is absolutely crucial that we maintain the balance between ambition and funding, he says.

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Vessel plan in 2022

But the government is now coming to the Storting with a promise of a faster plan to renew the Navy’s surface vessels, and thus also replace the frigate “Helge Ingstad” which was lost in a shipwreck in 2018.

The Navy’s vessels will be upgraded in anticipation of new submarines and eventually new vessels that will replace the current frigates and coastal corvettes.

– In the plan that was presented this spring, we said that the report should be ready during the four-year period, Now says that we will come to the Storting with a proposal for a new vessel structure in 2022, says the Minister of Defense.

The government wants a new vessel project in the Norwegian Navy to draw on Norwegian maritime technology and Norwegian shipyards. At the same time, Bakke-Jensen sees the weakness in the fact that the Navy’s various vessels are renewed at about the same time, and that they thus also become old at the same time.

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