‘Bang, Bang!’ Ammo-starved Dutch soldiers 'forced to imitate sound of firing'
According to a confidential e-mail from the Defense Ministry, seen by Dutch broadcaster RTL, the acute shortage of ammunition has been allegedly creating major problems for the military. While ammo shortages have reportedly plagued the Dutch army for years, the situation has become so dire there's a sense of frustration among army personnel.
"Even if you have no bullets, you have to train with your weapon," Jean Debie, chairman of the military union VBM, told RTL. "That means, as a soldier, you say ‘Bang, Bang!’ This is obviously disastrous for the morale of the military. You do not want to do this to a professional."
Soldiers are meant to be refining their shooting techniques and firing positions on a daily basis. But with no practice for months, their skills are no longer relevant, RTL quoted retired Major-General Harm de Jonge as saying.
"You get a hole in the course, and then have only a few months to rebuild confidence in the weapon," Jonge said, adding that the loss of confidence is “extremely serious.”
The Defense Ministry has acknowledged the problem, according to RTL, saying that while it has "over 400 types of ammunition,” there are "sometimes tight inventories."
"There is not always sufficient ammunition available for exercises and training. The Defense Ministry understands that troops are not always happy with this. Once additional funding is available, the stockpiles will be replenished in 2015."
The Dutch government has raised its defense budget to €8 billion for this fiscal year, up from €7.6 billion in 2014. From 2015, the government has also pledged an annual increase in defense spending in real terms of €100 million. According to a report commissioned by the European Leadership Network (ELN), this is a "significant break" from their long-term budgetary policy.
"In fact, it is the first time for over a decade that Europe’s fifth-largest economy will spend more rather than less on defense," the report said.
According to Defense Ministry figures cited by Newsweek, defense spending now accounts for 1.15 percent of GDP.