Friday, December 30, 2011

More, More, I'm Still Not Satisfied

General Rene Osorio was hoping that the 2012 budget would include an increase in the size of the military, by 1000 to 2000 soldiers.

He said he'd be happy if they even had to do it in increments, say 1000 this year, and 1000 next year. He also made it clear he wants 40 million lempiras more (slightly more than $2 million) just to support Operation Lightning, the military deployment with the police which Porfirio Lobo Sosa ordered back in October.

Why you ask, does the military need to increase in size?

Osorio cites an increase in the size of the Salvadoran military as justification. We are hoping that doesn't mean he is planning for another Central American war.

Closer to home, he argues that he needs more troops to support Operation Lightning.

Then there's forest protection, part of the mission creep in the military we wrote about here and here. Osorio already got funded in the 2012 budget to add the 2000 new soldiers destined for a special "forest protection" brigade. Congress member Rigoberto Chang Castillo noted that the 100 million lempiras dedicated for the forestry protection brigade are part of the 2012 budget.

Apparently Osorio wants the 2000 soldiers already funded for the "forest protection brigade", and 2000 more soldiers on top of those.

Mainly what he got handed in the 2012 budget was a 25% across the board budget cut.

So he's going to talk to his boss, Porfirio Lobo Sosa:
We are thinking of talking with president Porfirio Lobo to explain to him that the Secretariat of Defense should not have its budget cut, and logically also the Secretariat of Security.

So far, Osorio says, the deployment of troops in Operation Lightning has cost $17 million lempiras (about $900,000):
We cannot stay in the streets with the ordinary budget we have... If the president makes the decision that we need to increase (the soldiers in the streets), he better have more budget.

Osorio clarified to El Heraldo that the extra funds to support Operation Lightning are needed for food and fuel.

Public reaction (in the form of comments on newspaper articles) suggests that Osorio's arguments aren't persuasive to most El Heraldo and La Prensa readers, who oppose any additional funds for the military.

One commenter noted that both the police and the military have the same excuse, "they don't have sufficient budget to do anything" so they just get paid and sit on their ass for the last two years.

Another pointedly noted, "didn't we pass a Security Tax to cover these costs?"

Osorio's boss, Defense Minister Marlon Pascua said he's not that worried about the cuts to the military in the 2012 budget. He noted that there will be funding available shortly from the seized assets program (the proceeds of selling allegedly drug related assets), funding which is split between the Defense Ministry and the Security Ministry.

Rigoberto Chang Castilllo noted that the Finance Minister has set aside a special fund to help pay for Operation Lightning. He argued that the cuts to the military could be easily absorbed by reducing their office equipment and supply budget by 20%, without endangering their military readiness.

Now to wait for Osorio to explain why photocopiers are indispensable to the mission of the armed forces.

(title with apologies to Tom Lehrer)

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