Virus broadsides sub procurement plan
Funds sliced from defence to support containment measures
The navy has decided to delay its procurement of two controversial submarines and related facilities as part of its 33% budget cut with the money to be contributed to the Covid-19 fight.
The move comes after critics of the defence spend ramped up pressure by demanding a review of weapons procurement plans including those on the submarine purchases so more money could be saved and injected into efforts to stop the spread of Covid-19.
Navy spokesman Prachachart Sirisawat said yesterday the proposed budget cut valued at 4.1 billion baht is the largest offered by all the armed forces.
It also exceeds the government's requested cut of 10% across ministries to help finance Covid-19 containment measures.
Vice Adm Prachachart said yesterday navy commander Admiral Ruechai Ruddit has instructed units in the navy to look for funds which could be sliced, with the money saved to go back to the government. The budget cut was under way earlier as national priorities shifted to virus containment.
The cut was agreed by naval top brass before details were conveyed to the navy commander-in-chief. The force's budget cut came down to 4.1 billion baht or 33% of the annual fund allocated by the government.
The budget reduction has resulted in several naval projects being halted including the planned procurement of the second and third submarines originally slated to begin in the next fiscal year starting in October.
The navy's decision to put the procurement on the back burner marked a reversal of its reported insistence last week that the navy cannot defer procuring the two submarines worth a total of 22 billion baht with a payment plan spread over seven years beginning in the next fiscal year.
Adm Ruechai said last week the submarine purchase deals have already been agreed with China with strict contractual obligations involved.
However, talks with the manufacturers may be possible to lower the payments during the Covid-19 outbreak.
As a next step, the budget revisions will be compiled and presented to the Defence Ministry for approval, he added.
The navy chief also explained the money will be sliced from several projects while other plans including construction work, which is not deemed urgent, will be put on hold.
Funds for training and overseas study tours will also be cancelled, Adm Ruechai said.
Yesterday, Vice Adm Prachachart said the navy was ready to assist government policies and ease people's plight from the disease.
However, the defence force will manage its defence capability with available resources.
Also, the budget cut will delay plans to build submarine dockyards and lead to funds for future maintenance of the submarines being trimmed, according to the navy spokesman.
Other projects to be pushed back include anti-submarine warfare helicopters improvement and repair, the network-centric data-link system, and the installation of naval warfare training simulators.
On the non-combat front, the navy is also suspending plans for a housing project to accommodate 64 naval staff and their families.
Vice Adm Prachachart said the navy attaches importance to the welfare of its staff and their families, but "sacrifices have to be made".