In the wake of the twin terrorist attacks in Paris that killed 17 people three weeks ago, the French government has decided to scale back planned cuts to its military. The government was due to cut 34,000 military personnel in the next four years, but will reduce that figure by 7,500. The decision comes just days after President François Hollande told the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, France would be undertaking an active foreign policy and the country will remain a primary partner in the U.S.-led airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.
The government also plans to hire 2,680 staff to bolster the anti-terrorist activities of the Finance, Defense, Interior and Justice ministries.
The decision was made at a high-level Defense Council meeting last week, with Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls in attendance. The reductions in military spending are part of the current government’s pledge to cut the deficit.
"During the council meeting, [Hollande] decided to cut by 7,500 the staff reduction planned by the Ministry of Defense over 2015-2019 under the military budget law, of which 1,500 is in 2015," the president's office said Monday.
Hollande said it was not just France that was affected by the attacks. "It’s freedom. It’s democracy. It’s the ability to live together. It’s the very foundation of our societies which have found themselves under attack. All countries, wherever they are in the world, are vulnerable to terrorism," he said in Davos.
The French parliament recently voted overwhelmingly to continue its involvement in the war against ISIS in Iraq.
While the hiring of staff for anti-terror activities will be funded by the four ministries, the president’s office said, the choice to keep 7,500 military personnel has been criticized by politicians in Paris who say there are no funds to finance the decision. François Cornut-Gentille, a right-wing member of parliament who is special reporter on defense spending for the Finance Committee of the lower-house National Assembly, said the decision was “worrying.”
A defense specialist speaking to Defense News said France will have to find $2.7 billion from external funding rather than rely on government finances. While $337 million of that funding will come from government property sales, the rest will come from state-owned projects.