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WIDESPREAD CRITICISM OF EUROPEAN DEFENCE PROCUREMENT

WIDESPREAD CRITICISM OF EUROPEAN DEFENCE PROCUREMENT POLICY

05 Jun 05. Peter Speigel of the FT wrote that Europe is at risk of falling severely behind the US in weapons technologies unless it increases spending on military equipment and research by as much as €45bn a year, a panel appointed by Michele Alliot-Marie, the French defence minister, will warn this week.

According to people who have read the panel’s report, which will be presented at a symposium attended by Ms Alliot-Marie on Wednesday, it found that spending on military hardware in the European Union is equal to only a third of the Pentagon’s equipment budget, and research spending Europe-wide totals only a fifth of US outlays. While the panel found that Europe’s defence industry continues to be competitive in several sectors – fighter aircraft, military helicopters and defence electronics – it warns that heavy US spending on high-technology networks that can link weapons together could leave Europe’s capabilities in so-called “systems of systems” far behind. It calls for the establishment of a ministry working group, the College Operationnel des Systemes de Systems, to plot French strategy in the area.

The report was compiled by the Defence Economy Council, a panel set up by
Ms Alliot-Marie after taking over the ministry three years ago to assess the health of France and Europe’s defence industries and to give a higher profile to defence spending.

The nine-member council is chaired by Philippe Esper, a long-time government and defence industry official, and includes General Henri Bentegeat, chief of the French defence staff, and François Lureau, head of the defence procurement agency. People who have read the report said that it finds France and Britain have accounted for nearly half of all spending on military equipment in Europe over the past three years and more than two-thirds of all EU defence research budgets.

France and Britain are also two of only four European countries that spend 2 per cent of gross domestic product on defence (the US spends more than 3 per cent), and the report says an EU-wide budget of 2 per cent of GDP would increase military spending by €45bn, which would help preserve Europe’s defence base.

Although the study includes several recommendations for European co-operation in defence spending, it is also said to include a call for increased transatlantic partnerships, urging French industry and officials to overcome past difficulties to work more closely with the US. It notes that Britain’s BAE Systems remains the only European defence company with a big US presence, and provides encouragement to French and European groups to achieve a similar standing. Indeed, people who have seen the report said it cites the UK as a model for several defence spending initiatives, particularly its recent push to outsource Ministry of Defence activities – including some front-line missions, such as air-to-air refuelling tankers – to the private sector.

On June 9th NATO chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer slammed “across the board” shortfalls in spending by member states, as a new report gave a run-down of what they pay into the military alliance’s coffers. At the same time U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld voiced “concerns” about progress in making the alliance — which has expanded on several international fronts in recent years — able to deploy its forces more rapidly. The NATO chief, speaking at a meeting of the alliance’s defense ministers in Brussels, said that new figures, which show that only seven out of 26 NATO members spend more than 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense, were a cause for concern.

“Across the board — with good exceptions — defense spending is not up to standard in this alliance. I will not go and beat around the bush: we need more defense spending,” he told reporters. According to a new report presented to the ministers, the United States remains the top military spender wi

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