Budget Crunches Large and Small

The United States accounts for 75 percent of NATO defense spending, but small- and medium-sized air forces in NATO face many of the same challenges as the much larger US Air Force, said Norwegian air force Col. John Olsen. Like the United States, smaller NATO air powers face declining defense budgets almost across the board. Speaking at AFA’s Air & Space Conference in National Harbor, Md., on Sept. 15, Olsen said only four NATO nations meet the alliance’s agreed-upon goal that nations invest two percent of gross domestic product on defense. The NATO nations actually average about 1.5 percent of GDP in defense, he said, with the United States leading the way at four percent of GDP. Smaller NATO nations must weigh the relative merits of purchasing multirole capabilities, or investing in niche areas that can offer “discriminate dominance,” said Olsen. Despite the tough fiscal times, some major equipment upgrades are coming. Norway is one of several NATO nations partnering in the F-35 program, and the nation will purchase 52 of the fifth generation fighters to replace its aging F-16s.