Support for an increase in defense budgets – Senate of the States-General

On Tuesday, July 12, the Senate debated with Minister Ollongren and Defense Minister Van der Maat to increase the defense budget, including buying the F-35 and harvest dronesbuying. Later in the day, the Chamber approved the four amended budget proposals. The House also voted on a proposal by Senator Frentrop to stop subsidies from organizations fighting investment in the defense industry.

By making additional resources available, two investment projects, which were announced in the 2022 Defense Memorandum, can be launched this summer. Specifically, it concerns the order for six F-35 aircraft and four additional MQ-9 aircraft (harvest drones† When the first supplementary budget was prepared, it was not yet clear that the US JSF Program Office wanted a final agreement before the summer of 2022. An order for the expansion of the MQ-9 aircraft is required before 31 August 2022, because the production line is by being over.

The proposal by Senator Frentrop (Fractie-Frentrop) notes that there are private organizations campaigning to get Dutch pension funds not to invest in the defense industry; is of the opinion that these organizations are free to do so, but is also of the opinion that it is not the task of the government to provide grants for activities that are contrary to the national interest. The proposal therefore calls on the government to examine whether it is desirable and possible to repeal the subsidy to organizations fighting against investment in the defense industry, given that strengthening Dutch defense capacity serves the national interest. The proposal was discouraged by Minister Ollongren. Only the parliamentary parties Nanninga, PVV, Frentrop and FVD voted in favor of the proposal

Senator Koole (PvdA) pointed to the war in Ukraine as the background to the debate. The PvdA supports the increase in the defense budget and the purchase of the F-35 and harvest drones† Koole wanted to know if harvest dronesat the moment it is only about data collection and there is no question of armaments. In addition, he asked whether the purchase of these drones does not preclude the possibility of equipping the drones with weapons at a later date. In the case of the PvdA, the obligation for non-proliferation (non-proliferation of nuclear weapons) and international arms control must not be lost sight of.

Senator Van Apeldoorn (SP, also on behalf of the PvdD) said that the adjustment of the budget is understandable given the war on our continent. Yet, in the defense memorandum, he lacks the rationale for why we should do so much more. According to him, the big risk is that if NATO starts spending even more, other countries will do the same. Then follows an arms race that will not increase our security. Van Apeldoorn also wanted to know where the government is harvest droneswants to deploy the armed in the longer term as intended. It is war, but we should not make careless and hasty decisions, he said. This is a big expense that usually goes through the normal budget process. SP and PvdD regret that the budget amendment proposals must be sent through the Folketing as soon as possible.

Senator Frentrop (Fractie-Frentrop) said it is a good thing that the government wants to strengthen the defense of the Netherlands again after many years of lethargy. Yet there are civil society organizations that are against this. He pointed to NGOs urging pension funds not to invest in the arms industry. Strong defense is in the national interest, urging pension funds not to invest in the arms industry is against the national interest, Frentrop said. Among other things, these NGOs receive grants from the public sector. He called for the subsidies to be stopped. He asked the minister if she was prepared to investigate closing the grant tap to organizations operating against the government’s interests.

Senator Arbouw (VVD) said that a military force can be dismantled very quickly, but that rebuilding it again takes a lot of time and money. He argued that the proposals before us are a good start and a wise choice. The F-35s and drones are also a good investment in light of NATO membership and the necessary deployment at Europe’s eastern border. He wanted to know if the Minister and the Secretary of State still see opportunities to procure accelerated equipment in other areas as well in order to get the defense in order more quickly.

Minister Ollongren said the war in Ukraine is a historic turning point in history. The defense memorandum is designed in that context. It had already been agreed in the coalition agreement to invest more in the defense. As a result of the war, the Cabinet decided to go one step further.

The purchase of the F-35s had been planned for some time, but due to operational and efficiency considerations, the proposal was now made to speed up the purchase. Orders should be placed this summer, Ollongren said. She showed understanding that Parliament is not happy with the state of affairs. Nevertheless, this urgency procedure was chosen because the government is convinced that it is important to proceed with the purchase now and not at a later date.

Around harvesting droneshe said the cabinet has not yet formally decided whether to continue with armaments. It’s now about information gathering, but it’s true that drones can do more. Because armament is another task too harvesting dronewill be discussed with the House at another time.

Secretary of State Van der Maat said the cabinet only knew in June that orders needed to be placed more quickly. Adaptations of the various tendering procedures, including in the European context, are being examined so that these processes can be accelerated in the future.

When asked about stopping subsidies to NGOs representing an opposite interest in relation to the government, Ollongren replied that this is a real point, which is also being discussed in a European context. Only the solution proposed by Senator Frentrop is not recommended by the Minister. According to her, NGOs have an important place in our country and in our democracy, and there is room for all opinions.

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