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Cablegate: Colombian Military Spending More Transparent Than

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

191339Z Aug 05



E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A. BOGOTA 011331

B. BOGOTA 6598


1. (U) Vice-Minister of Defense Eastman praised the results
of the Security and Democracy Foundation (FSD) and the Latin
American Security Defense Network (RESDAL) study of
transparency in Colombia's defense budgeting and spending
released on 9 August, while acknowledging that more needs to
be done. The study concluded that a series of internal
reforms, such as restructuring the defense sector to better
address the internal armed conflict, and the appointment of
civilians to high level defense ministry positions, have made
defense spending more efficient and transparent. Surprising
results of the study include that Colombia has fewer soldiers
per capita than Chile or Spain, and that Colombia's spending
per soldier is only average for Latin America. The study also
offers several recommendations to reduce corruption and
improve transparency, such as the creation of a legal
framework for the defense sector and the centralization of
purchases. End Summary.


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2. (U) On August 9, The FSD, an independent, well-respected
security think tank, and RESDAL, a regional security network,
presented findings on transparency in Colombia's defense
budgeting spending over the past decade. The study indicated
that a series of important recent security and defense
innovations at the national level have garnered significant
benefits. The Ministry of Defense (MOD) has restructured the
defense sector to better address Colombia's armed conflict;
appointed civilians to high level defense positions; created
the Presidential Department for Defense and Security to
coordinate and supervise policy implementation; formed
counterinsurgent brigades; developed a cadre of professional
soldiers; and established the Justice and Security Unit in
the Department for National Planning, which has helped
fortify the participation of civilians in the formulation of
defense budgets.

3. (U) Despite the GOC's efforts to increase its public
security budget, deficiencies still exist, according to the
study. Troop levels are insufficient even for a country at
peace. Colombia has fewer soldiers per capita than Chile and
Spain; Colombia's spending per soldier is average for Latin
America, despite its active conflict; and military spending,
including pension costs, as a percentage of GDP reaches only
3 percent (most recent Embassy reporting indicated that the
Colombian Congress approved a 7 percent increase this year in
military spending over 2004).


5. (U) The study proposed a series of recommendations to
further the MOD's reform process:

- Legal Framework: The most important reform, according to
the study, would be to create a legal framework for the
defense sector that clearly defines the responsibilities of
each department.

- Centralize Spending: To reduce corruption, measures such as
centralization of purchases and the reorganization of
logistics will help improve transparency.

- Streamline Spending: The fusion of the Armed Forces' (Army,
Navy, and Air Force) budgets would contribute to the overall
simplification of management and execution. Moreover, the
National Police, which falls under the MOD but operates as an
independent ministry, should later be included in an overall
defense budget.

- Training: Train the Ministry of Defense Executive Unit's
administrative and battalion personnel responsible for the
daily budgeting for the defense sector to reduce costs and
increase efficiency.
- Information Sharing: In the medium term, every group should
integrate with the Integrated System of Financial Information
(SIIF), a computer program designed to help integrate
information sharing and public finances. The SIIF could
assist in facilitating internal control and help conduct
necessary auditing.

- Reorganization: The Ministry of Defense's Internal Control
Office should report directly to the Office of the Minister
instead of the Vice Minister.

- Congressional Leadership: Congress needs to assume greater
leadership on topics related to security and defense. The
creation of a parliamentary commission that is dedicated
exclusively to those topics could help increase
participation, elaboration, approval, and budget monitoring.
Moreover, by getting Congress more involved, the GOC could
better prioritize its Democratic Security policy.


6. (U) Vice Minister of Defense Jorge Mario Eastman appeared
with the think tank presenters and praised the results of the
study. He acknowledged the need to continue moving forward
with reforms the MOD has developed over the past decade.
Eastman argued that increasing public approval of the
military and police force (75 percent and 64 percent,
respectively) was the result of the progress made in the
recent years. Eastman explained that the MOD has been
working hard to address corruption and offered the example of
the MOD's efforts to modernize its logistics system. He also
cited the unprecedented recent discussion in Congress of the
purchase of the Brazilian "Super Tucanos" military planes,
which he said signals the MOD's commitment to increase
transparency in such high level purchases.


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