a cost of 3 billion euros in 5 years

In one of its reports, the Court of Auditors analyzes the total cost of the Sentinel operation deployed throughout the territory for seven years.

In a new report published on Monday, September 12, the Court of Auditors is interested in Operation Sentinel, its strengths and its limits. The last part of the report, dedicated to the economic cost of the operation, caught the attention of Contributables Associés. Our interest is particularly focused on the amount disbursed, which amounts to three billion euros, since the deployment of the operation in 2015.

The Court of Auditors was able to note the significant reduction in the costs of Sentinel, going from 414 million euros in 2015 to 251 million euros in 2020. However, a clarification is in order: “This assessment must be considered with prudence and put into perspective since even if the Sentinel format has been significantly reduced since 2018, the number of soldiers deployed has varied over the years according to the requisitions”, specifies the report.

A cost of several billion euros spread over 5 years

The overall cost of Sentinel, spread over five years, is significant. More than 2 billion euros – even 3 billion if you take into account the days during which the army is not on patrol – have been spent. Operation Sentinel represents the largest share of all MISSINT (domestic missions of our armed forces) expenditures.

As a reminder, Operation Sentinel began in January 2015 a few days after the Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher attacks. From 2015 to 2017, in a context of strong terrorist threat, 7,000 men were dispatched throughout the territory to ensure security. During periods of high risk, the number of troops deployed was up to 10,000 per day!

Since then, the Court of Auditors has observed a decline in the number of staff assigned to Sentinel. The wise men of the rue de Cambron are of course happy about this because, for this high financial jurisdiction, the Sentinel operation must evolve.

Sentinel: an “excessive” deployment for the military?

The Court leaves on paper two recommendations that, if applied, could reduce the expenses of the Ministry of the Armed Forces. The first speaks of “a position of subsidiarity to be sought in the areas that fall within the specific competences of the armed forces”.

Clearly, the army must be more available to participate in missions “with high military added value, combining reactivity and rapid disengagement”. Committing 10% of the Earth Task Force’s strength, Sentinel prevents troops from training for more intensive engagements.

This impossibility to carry out the activities planned by the army due to lack of time undermines the morale of the troops. Senior officials do not hesitate to talk about the misunderstanding of some soldiers tired of “repetitive deployments for six years”. In any case, the essays recognize that the decrease in the attractiveness of the army and the loyalty of the army “cannot be directly linked to Sentinel”.

In its second recommendation, the Court of Auditors considers that the operation should be gradually transferred to the internal security forces (police, gendarmerie). Indeed, the strengthening of its equipment since 2015 allows it to face the terrorist threat which, according to the report, “has become endogenous”. The Court does not close its eyes to the threat that, even if it decreases, is still there and is sometimes embodied “by foreigners who are refugees or illegal residents”.

The Ukrainian conflict is a game changer and prompts the financial magistrates to organize “a substantial reduction of Sentinel’s commitments”. A major decision that could intervene in the event of an increase in the power of international tensions. The reduction of commitments like Sentinel, would then be necessary to prepare “a coercion operation of high intensity”.

Internal security forces are capable of containing the terrorist threat. Thus, a reorganization of Operation Sentinelle would be advantageous, as the Court of Auditors affirms, both for the military and for taxpayers.

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