The Ministry of Defense used funds successfully in 2020 - but also at the cost of overpriced acquisitions

The Ministry of Defense used funds successfully in 2020 - but also at the cost of overpriced acquisitions
Caption: VERA NG
21 / 01 / 2021, 10:00

In 2020, the Ministry of Defense drew the best budget for the last period, says an article on the website of the Ministry of Defense (, stating that last year the defense used up 97.5% of its budget and did not consume 1.8 billion, transferred to the new year. Only 782 million destined for the program financing (ie investments in acquisitions and modernization) were not drawn. Is that clearly good news?

Lubomír Metnar has been Minister of Defense since the end of June 2018. He took office at a time of a significant increase in the defense budget, and also at a time of gradual reduction of the unspent amount annually. It amounted to a total of 4.395 billion (7.7%) in 2017, a year later, under Minister Metnar, 3.546 billion (5.6%), in 2019 it was 2.662 billion (3.8%), and last year ie 1.8 billion (2.5%). At first glance, this trend is unquestionably positive, and the result seems to confirm the impression that military acquisitions and the modernization of the armed forces in general are moving, despite a number of problems, forward.

On a closer look, however, some questions arise. The big case of 2020 was, among others, the purchase of Deployable Passive ESM Trackers (DPET) VERA NG. Advances for their producer, the Pardubice-based company ERA from the Omnipol Group, the amount of which was criticized by the opposition as non-standard and considered even by the Prime Minister, were in the end reflected in the „positive“ economic result.

See also: Passive radars, helicopters, tanks: A trio of controversial orders approved

It was a total of 454 million crowns, approximately 30% of the total amount, which amounts to 1.5 billion crowns. Many experts have described this as up to three times the price at which the North Atlantic Alliance purchased the same systems in 2014. According to the saying "the end is good, everything is good", these high advances from the dubious acquisition price are now counted in the positively evaluated economic result. However, it would be a little worse if the price of the systems were not suddenly doubled at the turn of 2019 and 2020.

Similarly, the result is influenced by the more expensive modernization of helicopters and the dubious technical evaluation of tanks. And, for example, 820 million for STARKOM jammers, the purchase of which at a higher price than originally announced was, together with VERA NG systems, the main reason for the resignation of Filip Říha, Deputy Minister for Acquisitions, back in spring 2020.

A very important expenditure was also the payment for the Venom and Viper helicopters, with their total price to reach 17.6 billion crowns. In 2020 1.3 billion were paid for them, in 2021 it will be over 2.8 billion, a year later 4.45 billion and in 2023 6.6 billion crowns. If we recall that the competitive offer was less than half in total, even in this case, the satisfaction from the successful drawdown of the designated funds may be somewhat bitter.

On the one hand, as many of us repeat, it is essential for the future of the modern and effective armed forces to maintain the trend of increasing defense spending. It is the only possible answer to a long period when the needs of the Czech (and not only the Czech) Army were grossly underestimated. On the other hand, it must not mean a blank check for the Ministry of Defense and its acquisitions section. The results of modernization processes cannot be assessed by a high ability to spend the planned amount, but by the ability to spend it efficiently, without doubt and transparently, and this has certainly not happened and does not happen in many cases.

See also: The Government is running out of time to deal with the Defense budget

The Government must now keep its promise to return ten billion to the defense, which the Communists "ordered" to place in the budget reserve in exchange for support for the state budget. The Government is postponing the decision, and Minister Metnar will probably have to link his future with this issue, although the election will be forthcoming. At the same time, the Government is not in a comfortable situation, because it also relies on communist voices on other and unrelated issues, such as the extension of the state of emergency.

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