Belgium slashes defence spending for 2010 budget
Belgium will slash military spending by about 10% over the next three years under a savings plan to start in next year's budget, defence officials said Tuesday.
Under the plan, aimed at saving around EUR 100 million (USD 148 million), military personnel numbers would drop from 38,000, including civilian personnel, to 34,000 by the end of 2012.
Numbers stood at 44,000 in 1994.
Around 30 military "installations" could be closed, including about a dozen of Belgium's 30 bases.
As part of the savings drive, the army would only have two combat brigades or around 6,000 troops, a drop of around 1,000 soldiers. The number of F-16 fighter jets would fall from 60 to 54, with six planes being mothballed.
Top military officials have spoken out against the austerity plan amid concern that the kingdom will not be able to carry out its military missions, particularly those abroad.
According to newspaper reports, personnel in Afghanistan already face a shortage of protective flak jackets. Belgian troops are also deployed in Kosovo, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Lebanon.
Even before the cuts, Belgium was spending around 1.1% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on defence, well below the two-percent level sought by the NATO military alliance.