The French approach to a European defense industrial base.

AuthorAuroy, Patrick

As the man in charge of strategy at France's Delegation Generale de l'Armement (the French Armaments Agency), the subject of European cooperation on procurement is obviously important to me because of my responsibility for getting our troops the weapons they need. More than 25 percent of our current programs are led in cooperation. France played a major role in the creation of trans-national defense industries such as Eurocopter and MBDA, EADS or THALES. The main developmental axes of the defense-industrial policy in Europe center on: using more competition and market forces, fostering cooperative programs, providing visibility and a common reference base, notably through the publication of a strategy for a European Defense Technology Industrial Base (DTIB). I will then try to show how these efforts should be perceived--as an opportunity for expanded transatlantic relationships at the political and the industrial level.

French contractors occupy a big place in the European defense industry, which assigns an important role to exports. They account on average for 20 to 30 percent of the continental part of the business--and also play a major part in shaping the European industrial base.

A transformation of the European industrial base is in progress. In the last decade, significant consolidation has al ready taken place in the aerospace and electronics fields. Four large, diversified European groups rank among the world's top 10 defense suppliers: BAE Systems, EADS, Thales and Finmeccanica. Some smaller-scale restructuring has occurred in naval and land systems activities, with more and larger to follow.

As far as France is concerned, defense-acquisition policy is considered an important lever for developing the per formance of this defense industrial base. This policy is based on a principle of competitive autonomy relying on domestic suppliers but also on European capabilities. Our main goals include optimizing the economic efficiency of the investments made by the Defense Ministry to meet the French armed forces' requirements. To do that, a large priority is given to market mechanisms and competitive bidding, whenever possible. Another goal involves guaranteeing access to the industrial and technological capabilities needed for the long-term fulfillment of these requirements. This, in turn, involves three important objectives: long-term security of supply for the armed forces (a matter clearly of paramount importance); unrestricted use of the equipment procured; and the possibility of exporting the equipment to friends and allies in accordance with international regulations.

We pursue the "competitive autonomy principle" in terms of each specific type of equipment. The first category is equipment that can be acquired through cooperation with partner nations and allies. This option is systematically entertained whenever possible. It is a natural basis for European cooperation, but also an opportunity for extra-European partnerships if they can be set up on a well balanced basis, either bilateral, multilateral or, for instance, within NATO. This category includes the A-400M transport aircraft, Tiger and NH 90 Helicopters, Multi-Mission frigate, Meteor and Aster missiles, earth observation satellites and some other equipment. A second category concerns equipment involved in France's protection of its national sovereignty and weapon systems aimed at defending our vital interests--for example, nuclear deterrence. For technologies of this kind, France intends to maintain its control and preserve its own ability to...

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