The defence sector has long been seen by many outside observers as an obstacle to economic and social development in Uganda. Despite a major DDR process in the early 1990s supported by the World Bank, defence has continued to swallow a large share of the resources available to the country. External actors thus informally tied their assistance to a cap on military expenditures of 2% of GDP. The Ugandan government argued that this cap was not sufﬁcient to provide security to its citizens,
particularly in the North. A signiﬁcant portion of military spending went off-budget and military budget data became increasingly unreliable, which — combined with other cost overruns — resulted in total spending effectively exceeding the cap every year. At the same time, donors were critical of the involvement of the Ugandan armed forces in the DRC.
The defence review process was triggered by the recognition among a number of donors, including the World Bank and UK DFID, that the spending cap was not having the desired effects. They were willing to go along with the view of the Ugandan military and political leadership that higher expenditures were needed to improve security, but they also were concerned about the ways in which money was spent. A 1998 expert Defence Efﬁciency Study provided suggestions for improvements in transparency and management but could not solve the underlying issues of the appropriateness of Ugandan military spending. The logical next step in facilitating a rational debate between donors and the Ugandan government about the appropriate level and spending of defence funds was a detailed assessment of security threats to Ugandan citizens and defence needs. This was initiated
by the Ugandan government in the form of a thorough defence review process supported by UK DFID
Broadening the process — The defence review process involved more than the military — it was a cross-governmental initiative and included some civil society organisations. It started out with an overall assessment of threats to the security of Ugandan citizens and territory, including an assessment of all potential policy responses available to the government, before focusing on options and issues for defence reform.
Professional approach — Sequencing of the various steps within the defence review process was well deﬁned in advance. Implications for force planning and structure, as well as procurement and personnel, were logically derived from the threat and capability assessments.
Limited transparency — The military refused to provide transparency on all of its relevant activities; for example, some sections of the budget would remain classiﬁed. Outside observers, including external actors, thus were sceptical of the results of the review process, particularly of the proposals to greatly increase spending on equipment and to improve military capabilities.
Underestimating the fundamental nature of the problem — The main objective of the defence review, namely to improve the quality of dialogue on military spending, was undermined by a lack of common understanding about the main reforms necessary: those to improve military capabilities and governance reforms.
While the defence review process has not resulted in an agreement between donors and government about the appropriate level of military spending in Uganda, it has laid the groundwork for additional reforms in the Ugandan defence sector. Work has been done on a Defence Corporate Plan, and the Defence Reform Unit established as part of the Review has now become the Defence Reform Secretariat.