The Norwegian Defence Commission launched its report on the 3rd of May 2023. The Commission describes an extremely challenging security environment for Norway and proposes a significant increase in defence spending.
Norwegian Defence Commissions have generally been established at times of fundamental geopolitical change. This is the fourth Commission since World War 2 and the first since the end of the Cold War. It was appointed by the Norwegian government in December 2021 and tasked to provide advice on matters of national security in a 10-20-year perspective and what consequences this should have for the development of Norway´s Armed Forces.
The Commission concludes that the post-Cold War era has been replaced by a period defined by a dangerous Russia and intensified geopolitical rivalry between China and the United States as the dominating actors. Trade, technology, and energy have once again become security policy. Securing value chains that support vital interests and societal functions is becoming more important. Rapid changes, technological advances and digital transformation bring challenges and vulnerabilities as well as opportunities. Meeting these challenges requires national and international cooperation and interaction across sectors and domains.
With its exceptionally strong economic position, Norway has ample opportunity to adapt to the gravity of the situation. The Norwegian Armed Forces must grow, and Norway’s readiness must improve. A new and historic national conversation on defence and security is needed. The Defence Commission recommends a unifying political solution to this challenge: a binding political agreement across all political parties to secure a long-term strengthening of the defence of Norway, including a significant increase in Norwegian defence spending.
An increased level of ambition should be achieved through three distinct and simultaneous steps:
- Critical measures to increase responsiveness, combat power and endurance. The Norwegian Armed Forces must be better equipped to perform at a higher operational tempo with a real risk of combat situation. Identified gaps and vulnerabilities must be reduced immediately.
- Increased capability for joint operations in the maritime domain. This includes relevant capabilities from all branches of the Armed Forces, and not just strengthening the Navy. The Norwegian Armed Forces must cooperate more closely with civilian institutions and businesses, with the defence industry and maritime sector, as well as with Allies.
- Strengthen Norway’s overall defence capability. The Norwegian Armed Forces must grow. There is an imbalance between the force structure and available human and economic resources. In the future, the population will age, and the competition for skills and expertise will intensify. The Norwegian Armed Forces must recruit and retain the right personnel with the right skills. The Defence Commission believes that immediate measures must be implemented to secure better recruitment and retention in the future, as a growing deficit of officers and specialists already poses a significant challenge. The entire organization offering military education must adapt to mitigate these challenges.
The Norwegian Defense Commission proposes a three-step plan to increase defense spending, which it has calculated will provide Norway with a balanced military structure capable of meeting necessary requirements:
- First, the Commission suggests an immediate increase of the defense budget by approximately 30 billion Norwegian kroner to bolster personnel and fill stocks of ammunition.
- Second, the Commission proposes that 40 billion Norwegian kroner per year over a ten-year period are set aside for increased investments in military equipment.
- Finally, the Commission proposes that a permanent increase in defense spending of approximately 10 billion kroner to adjust for increased operating expenses due to higher activity and a larger force structure.
Leader of the Commission, Knut Storberget, says the report serves as the starting point of a debate on Norway taking up a greater role in allied security at a time when the resources of many western allies are under considerable pressure:
“We are in a new security situation. Europe must take far greater responsibility for its own security. Norway’s defense capabilities are not adapted to this challenge. This requires a national debate on the defence of Norway to ensure that we invest in what is most important: our peace and freedom”.