January 04, 2013
Contributor: Andrew Elwell
Posted: 12/19/2012 12:00:00 AM EST | 0
This week Defence IQ had the privilege of sitting down with Madame Claude-France Arnould, the Chief Executive of the European Defence Agency, to discuss what the organisation has achieved over the last few years under her leadership and what its focus will be going forward.
Could you please briefly outline what the EDA does and what its goals are?
"EDA supports member states in improving their defence capabilities, which, particularly under the pressure of the financial crisis, means running and supporting cooperative European defence projects. We also support research and technology development, which is a key issue. In essence, the EDA seeks to boost and support the European defence technological and industrial base.
Could you please give an overview of some of the EDA's key achievements and milestones over the last few years?
"For me the most important achievement has been delivering on our activities and programmes that address some of the main shortfalls we [i.e. the European defence industrial base] have. As an example, first is air-to-air refuelling. The campaign in Libya has shown how dramatic our shortfalls are in this area. The Americans had to provide 80% of the air-to-air refuelling in Libya and have clearly said since that they will not systematically do it again – they expect that we will be able to that sort of thing autonomously, by ourselves. The defence ministers, our board of defence ministers, gave us the task to urgently look into the situation. Recently, at the last board of ministers, ten member states signed a letter of intent to work together on strategic capabilities. That is for the medium-term – for the short-term we have already worked on how to better use the existing capabilities, including commercial capabilities as well as those that the Italians have recently acquired.
Another success we've had is the Helicopter Training Programme, which for me is one of the best examples we have of something that really makes a difference in-theatre, be it in an EU theatre or a NATO theatre. It's clear that the Helicopter Training Programme has helped our member states deploying helicopters in Afghanistan with properly trained crews.
In addition there's the medical field hospital project, which was launched in May 2011. It's an essential capability but at the same time an expensive one. That's why we have proposed a modular field hospital which allows several member states to come together in a format that will be adaptable to the different scenarios and theatres. It's led by Italy and we have 15 member states. They are coming together with a clear roadmap by having the Common Staff Target [the aim of which is to establish a common capability baseline to start the preparation phase of a project] finalised next year and to then procure assets and initial capability from 2014.
Another element, which is more technical but is really important, is working on enablers. One of the key enablers to pool and share and be interoperable is everything around standardisation and qualification. We do it with airworthiness, allowing the member states to agree common standards, which in this case is called the EMAR [European Military Airworthiness Requirement]. The first example has been applied for the A400M and we are doing the same in the field of ammunition qualification – you can save a lot of money if you have common standards and you can recognise each others qualifications and tests. With that you are interoperable and again ammunition was clearly also one of the shortfalls from the operations in Libya."
What about priorities for EDA? Do you work towards improving interoperability between multi-national forces as matter course, or is cost-savings too?
"The big challenge is that it goes in the same direction! In a way you don't have to choose. Interoperability is key but at the same time doing so by having common standards it's also clearly saving money. But what I don't say, which I'd like to be clear about, is that we can be better in regards to our military capability by saving money; it's not about doing more with less – I don't believe that we can do more with less. We can do more with what we have but I don't believe in the idea that you can keep squeezing the defence budget."
What will the EDA's focus be over the next few years? What will you prioritise?
"Well for me it's pooling and sharing, and there are two dimensions to that: It means having significant and concrete projects and at the same time supporting member states in having a more systematic and long-term approach to cooperation. That's why the code of conduct [which encourages cross-border competitiveness in defence procurement through standard procurement practices and public announcements] is so important.
Another priority, but along the same lines, is to implement and respond to the tasks from the European Council today. We have vey important tasking on how to improve the development of defence capabilities and how to strengthen Europe's defence industry. For me, this year will be where we really have a chance at the levels of state and government to raise those issues about how to better affect defence capabilities and strengthen the defence industry.
And the last thing I would like to make sure of is that the EDA is absolutely fit to interact with the member states on all those issues; to increase our interaction with the member states in a more fluid way."
What's been your personal highlight since becoming EDA Chief Executive? What are you most proud of?
"I would say that the quality of the people and their commitment to EDA allows us to work on concrete programmes and at the same time provide support to the member states. We have the mandate and we have the proper people."
How hopeful are you for the future in terms of getting more member states on board with EDA programmes?
"For me, in the future, to have more commitment from the member states we need to use the à la Carte approach and begin projects only with those member states who need to do something specific and are ready to do it. That's why we'll often work on the basis of two or three member states, or regional clusters of member states, that share the same need, the same approach to strategic challenges. But we need to combine that à la Carte approach with coherence by offering the possibility for other member states to join [at a later stage].
I really think that to get commitment from more member states we should not systematically look for one activity that attracts a big number of member states. Instead, we need to combine the idea of beginning really small and following the conditions which allows those member states to really achieve something, but at the same time keep the door open so that when they are ready other member states can join too."
What would you say to the doubters? What would you say to convince them that multi-national collaboration is essential?
"The key is to begin by including a small number of member states that share the same requirements and the same views. I think we have to be realistic about that. On this basis you can then open it up more [to other member states and then slowly begin to implement large-scale programmes and standards across Europe]. People will cooperate if they think it's the most efficient way to deliver.
You recently delivered the Future Land Systems study report to member states – could you please elaborate a little more on the project, what the findings of the study were and what the goals are?
"The findings show the importance of the land sector – it accounts for 25% of all defence expenditure and employs 128,000 highly skilled people. It's an important sector for the European economy and a driver of innovation and creates spin-offs into the civil sector. Most of the troops deployed abroad are land forces, so it is really a key sector both operationally and for industry and growth. On the basis of the study, which we discussed last week with the member states, we have a roadmap and an implementation plan for the key industrial capabilities on future land systems. The three areas in particular to be worked on are firstly to launch European demonstrator programmes in priority areas where member states can efficiently cooperate and mitigate the identified gaps; second, to have actions on key enabling technologies; and third, with regards to industry, exploring new models for an efficient industrial supply chain to support pooling and sharing."
What's the one thing you'd like people to know about EDA?
"It's important to remember that there are some false impressions about EDA at the moment, such as saying that you need to get the consensus of 26 member states to get anything done. No – we can work à la Carte according to what each member states wants to do – the EDA is about working à la Carte and at the same offering the possibility for coherence.
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