Brazilian Defense Minister Nelson Jobim said Tuesday his ministry will cut up to $2.4 billion from its budget this year, without affecting a pending multibillion dollar fighter aircraft contract. Jobim said the Defense Ministry has a budget of 15 billion reals this year (about $8.9 billion) but will cut just over 26 percent of its spending.
He met with President Dilma Rousseff for over three hours to discuss the budget. “I will meet with representatives of the different branches of the armed forces and distribute the cuts among them,” Jobim told reporters, but emphasized the cuts would have no impact on Brazil’s stalled purchase of 36 fighter planes.
France, Sweden and the United States are vying for the contract, which has an initial value estimated at $4 to 10 billion, with the possibility of many more aircraft in the future. “There are no budget expenditures this year for the fighter,” Jobim said, noting that it would take “at least a year” to choose the best bidder and begin complex negotiations on technical matters and the terms of the deal. He said he expected a decision this year. The competition has dragged on for years, with Rousseff inheriting it from her predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Jobim has said the only fighters under consideration were the French-made Rafale, the Swedish Gripen NG and the US F-18 Super Hornet. Brazil wants the deal to include not just the aircraft but also technology transfers. Lula had said he favored the Rafale, but in the end opted to leave the decision to his successor.