In this article Nick Witney, Chief Executive of the European Defence Agency (EDA), sets out the Agency’s objectives, ambitions and prospects. Operational for a year now, the EDA is destined to help modify profoundly European Security and Defence Policy through improved European military capabilities and R&D. Forward-looking, it is developing a long-term vision for the next 20 years.
The European Defence Agency (EDA) is barely two years old, has fewer than 100 staff and an annual budget of just over e20 million. So it is reasonable to ask how such an organisation could talk about a ‘paradigm shift’ in European defence, still less how it could help to bring one about. The short answer is that neither the phrase, nor the aspiration it suggests, originated with the Agency. Nor will anything resembling such a change be achieved by one institution alone. The necessary transformation of Europe’s military capabilities will only be achieved by the concerted efforts of national governments, industry players, sis-ter organisations and many other stakeholders. But the fact that our Agency exists at all is a clear indication that the European Union’s political leaders recognise the need for a decisive step forward. In its short life, the EDA has definitely found a place in the landscape of European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP). This article provides some background about this new Agency, its scope, goal, ambitions and perspectives, and what role it can play in helping change, even a ‘paradigm shift’, to occur.
Why an EDA?
EU Member States together spend some e180 billion on defence annually. Though this is less than half of US spending, it is roughly a quarter of global defence expenditure. In recent years Europeans have maintained around 70,000 troops constantly deployed in different parts of the world. Fourteen operations have been undertaken under ESDP auspices, in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Despite those valuable achievements, there is still considerable room for improvement of what the Europeans get from their investment in defence. The 70,000 deployed troops look less impressive when compared with the 2,000,000 military personnel that Europe maintains. Moreover, between us we still have some 10,000 main battle tanks and approach-ing 3,000 combat aircraft–numbers which underline our collective difficulty in escaping from the requirements of the past. Adapting to the challenges of the future is necessary, as is closer cooperation among Europeans. Given budgetary constraints, we have no choice other than to pool our efforts and find cooperative solutions to solve the more difficult capability shortfalls.
This is where the EDA has an important role to play. Established to improve Europe’s military capabilities for ESDP crisis management operations, it has been designed to overcome the most important deficiencies: fragmentation and lack of coherence. This lack of coherence exists both across Member States and among different communities–capability planners, Research & Technology (R&T) experts, armaments experts and industry. The EDA is the first EU-wide institution in this area which has the aim of putting into place a systematic and comprehensive approach, consciously tying together, at the European level, all the different agendas: defence capability development, R&T activities, armaments cooperation and strengthening the defence technological and industrial base in Europe.
What is the EDA?
The political decision to create the Agency was made by the European Union’s Heads of State and Government, meeting in Thessaloniki at the end of the Greek EU Presidency, in June 2003. The legal act formally establishing the Agency, the Joint Action, was adopted by the EU Council of Ministers on 12 July 2004 and 24 EU Member States became EDA participating Member States.1 It took a year to recruit 80 staff to the Agency, drawn from 18 different nationalities, and to get the EDA established in its new premises in Brussels. When the EDA celebrated its first anniversary in July 2005, it had just reached ‘full operational capability’.
The Agency’s mission is defined in the Joint Action as follows: ‘to support the Council and the Member States in their effort to develop defence capabilities for crisis management operations, to sustain the European Security and Defence Policy as it stands now, and will develop in the future’. It prescribes four functions:
· to work on European military capability development;
· to promote cooperative defence R&T in Europe;
· to promote armaments collaborations; and
· to work for the strengthening of the European defence technological and industrial base and for the creation of an internationally competitive European defence equipment market.
It is worth underlining and further explaining two ideas translated into this carefully balanced mission statement. Firstly, its supportive role towards the Member States means that the Agency is not there to direct their defence efforts, but rather to advise them, to act as ‘conscience’ and as a ‘catalyst’ of new ideas and collaborative initiatives. It is for the Member States to take decisions and bring about the necessary transformation of their military forces.
Secondly, the Agency is ‘capability driven’: it focuses on capabilities required to carry out EU crisis management operations. These operations require: multinational and deployable forces; precision, speed and situational awareness; maximum force protection and minimal collateral damage. While trying to tie its different agendas together–capability needs, armaments cooperation, R&T efforts and industrial potential–the Agency seeks to ensure that Europeans get a better output from what they spend on defence.
The Agency tasks can be partially derived from the analysis of capabilities required to achieve the Headline Goal 2010, adopted by the EU in 2005. It gives valuable indications for the Agency’s short-term work. Nevertheless, most of the Agency activities require medium- or longterm planning. Armaments cooperation and, even more, R&T activities, have to be undertaken years in advance if they are to satisfy future capability needs.
In order to complete the picture set by the European Security Strategy, the Agency has undertaken work on defining a Long-Term Vision (LTV) for ESDP’s future capability and capacity needs. The LTV will look 20 years ahead and be based on three strands of analysis: (1) the global context relating to such issues as the economy, society, demography, the environment and law; (2) the nature of future crisis management operations; and (3) science and technology trends. This initial assessment of what we must prepare for will be the starting-point from which, with the Member States, we can work to identify key technologies and industrial capacities of the future that will match foreseeable capability needs, while supporting European competitive excellence and the required degree of technology autonomy. In due course we will need to develop a shared understanding of what sort of future European defence technological and industrial base we want and how to get from here to there–just as we must similarly use this view of the future to converge Member States’ thinking on how to continue to develop their defence capabilities to meet the challenges of the future. The EDA work on LTV draws on the experience and reflections of many stakeholders: representatives from Member States, the Council General Secretariat, the European Commission, eminent scientists and technologists, and representatives from the defence industry. The EU Institute for Security Studies in Paris has undertaken a study on the first theme, while the second theme is being analysed by the EU Military Committee and Military Staff. The initial summary of the results will be presented to Defence Ministers in autumn this year.
Code of Conduct on Defence Procurement
Time is not on our side. We cannot wait until all possible analyses are complete before acting. We need early starts and early progress. The first two years of EDA activity have seen some important achievements in selected priority areas. The best example is the major breakthrough on the European Defence Equipment Market, with the agreement by Defence Ministers in autumn 2005 on a Code of Conduct on Defence Procurement. The regime based on this Code will be implemented on 1 July 2006. It will consist of opening Member States’ defence procure-ment to cross-border competition, on a voluntary basis. It will cover defence procurement contracts with a value of over e1 million. In the past, the exemption of defence procurement from the rules of the EU’s single market was used to protect national markets but, at the same time, resulted in their isolation and in duplication of procurement development efforts. Today, none of the national defence budgets in Europe, not even the biggest, can afford to sustain a full spectrum of defence technological and industrial capacities on a national basis. The Agency’s aim is to encourage Member States to take advantage of competitive offers, to allow the European defence industry to achieve economies of scale and to help emerging European centres of excellence. Restructuring and consolidation of the defence technological and industrial base in Europe is therefore both an economic necessity as well as an operational imperative, paving the way towards greater mutual dependence and interoperability. The expectation is that nearly all of the EDA Member States will join the regime, understanding that there is more to be gained than lost.
A particular impetus for the Agency’s activities came from EU Heads of State and Government at the end of last year. At their informal summit at Hampton Court in October 2005, during the British Presidency, the EU leaders asked for ways to improve defence capabilities by increasing levels of research spending, finding opportunities for research collaboration and tackling capability gaps. In the follow-up to this so-called ‘Hampton-Court Agenda’, Javier Solana, as Head of the EDA, presented his ‘initial orientations’ to the European Council in December 2005, in which he pointed out the difficulties with reorienting defence investment programmes toward new capability needs. He further suggested focusing on R&T as a particularly promising area, both because R&T programmes are more flexible than major equipment programmes and because successful collaborations require convergence at the earliest stages of exploitation of new requirements and possibilities. He called for spending more, spending better and spending more together in this area. Although European defence spending is about half of the United States, the Americans spend five times more than Europe on defence R&D. Moreover, European efforts are not coordinated. Only 5 per cent of European governments’ defence R&T funds are spent collaboratively, while industry and think tanks consider that this proportion should increase to 20 per cent, or more.
The Agency has been tasked to pursue this, aiming for results by the end of the Austrian Presidency in June 2006. The main tracks include:
- Assembling accurate data on defence R&T spending in Europe, in order to allow the Member States to consider targets to raise their spending levels, overall and collaboratively.
- Encouraging ad hoc collaborations, in particular in those promising technology areas that match European capability priorities. Several areas were initially identified by the Agency Steering Board, meeting in December 2005: robotics, information fusion, fuel cells, infrared sen-sors and unmanned land, sea and air vehicles.
- Developing a European Defence R&T Strategy in order to get a jointly developed view of crucial R&T areas and create collaboration opportunities–an exercise clearly linked to the LTV work.
- In addition, and also as part of the Hampton-Court Agenda, the Agency is pursuing work on certain key capability areas: strategic lift, air-to-air refuelling, and C4ISTAR.
The year of defence R&T
In February this year, the Agency organised an R&T conference, conceived as the first of an annual series of gatherings dedicated to defence R&T, attended by some 300 national government experts, industry executives, academics and representatives of European institutions and international organisations. There was a widely shared perception that European R&T efforts need new procedures and innovative financing tools. The President of the Aerospace and Defence Industries Association of Europe, Dr Thomas Enders, called it a necessary ‘paradigm shift’. It was also emphasised that future priorities should be determined not only on the basis of anticipated capability needs, but taking into account the health of European industry and the need to preserve critical technologies.
Defence Ministers meeting as the Agency Steering Board in Innsbruck on 7 March made R&T the main theme of their discussions. The Agency elaborated on different options allowing for spending more, spending better and spending more together. The Ministers tasked the Agency to prepare proposals for a possible new mechanism to facilitate joint investment in discrete R&T areas, involving associated budgets, controlled by coalitions of contributing Member States. EDA efforts are currently focused on designing this ‘vehicle’ for joint R&T investment. In parallel, work has started on identifying what could be the first ‘cargo’ for this ‘vehicle’: military staff are working together with technologists to derive an R&T programme answering the main capability challenges in the area of force protection.
EDA’s comparative advantage
This very challenging agenda has been entrusted to a relatively small institution. The Agency relies very much on the expertise of Member States and different stakeholders. But its comparative advantages include the ability to bring the results of working-level exchanges to Ministers and high-ranking MOD officials meeting in its Steering Board. The battle-rhythm of the Agency’s activities so far has necessitated three or four Steering Boards per year involving the Ministers themselves, with Javier Solana as Head of the Agency in the chair. This year, The Hampton-Court Agenda adds the particular attention of Heads of State and Government. Their interest confirms the determination of EU leaders to jointly tackle challenges of necessary defence transformation in Europe. Is it already a paradigm shift? Perhaps not yet, but it certainly seems to be the right starting point to achieve one.
1 All EU Member States except Denmark.