EDA Sets Out Long Term “Vision” for Europe’s Defense Base
The EU’s European Defence Agency recently released a “Long-Term Vision report” intended to serve as a compass for defence planners over the next twenty years. The report was the product of 11 months of study involving officials and experts from governments, defense bodies, academia and industry across Europe, and was debated by the EDA Steering Board which consists of the Defence Ministers of the Agency’s 24 participating Member States and the European Commission.EDA head Javier Solana:
“Given the lead times typically involved in developing defence capability, decisions we take, or fail to take, today will affect whether we have the right military capabilities, and the right capacities in Europe’s defence technological and industrial base, in the third decade of this century…”
Against Solana’s speech, we offer the Jane’s Group’s description of their October 10, 2006 conference “Europe – Policies. Budgets. Markets“:
“This conference is designed to provide a critical analysis of European defence and of the prospects for those who supply it. Unlike the United States, Europe has no huge and excellently financed buyer with the power of the [US] Department of Defense. The ministries of the European Union have neither collective vision nor individual budgets that are capable of shaping European provision, acquisition and the positions of defence industry suppliers. Can this situation change and can Europeans unite over defence policy and encourage innovation, competitiveness and efficiency among its defence contractors?
It is in the demand side of European defence that the greatest obstacles to efficiency and economy lie and this conference will present a number of speakers who will comment on this problem now and over the next ten years…”
The question is whether anything in the EU’s “vision” paper offers any guidance that might lead to change, or address the key issues raises in this conference description.
DID has criticized “strategic” reports that were nothing of the sort before; this example is, if anything, even worse. Solana’s words may be true, but it’s difficult to see how this report constitutes help. It trells us that Europe will be older, less prosperous in relative terms, with an emphasis on precision weapons and expeditionary conflict in unstable regions, “against opponents whose tactics, aims and values will often be radically different.” Coordination between civilian agencies and military planners will be important. R&D spending is really low and needs to rise. Etc. Etc.
Tired bromides, restatement of the obvious, and vague generalities are not a strategy. Nor do they constitute guidance. If there’s a concrete discussion of changing threat patterns, force mix imperatives, or anything else in this document that speaks to on-the-ground realities and guidance in making hard choices, we’d be grateful if someone could point it out to us because it wasn’t obvious upon reading it. To take a recent counter-example, Air Power Australia’s F-22A vs. F-35 analysis for Australia [PDF, 6.7MB] is open to debate and disagreement – but it is a strategic report in all senses of the term, and possesses a genuine vision whose case it argues.
Other EDA initiatives show a bit more promise, precisely because the thing this EDA report most lacks is the very “vision” it trumpets – despite military trends in Europe like containerized forces, global procurement partnerships, et. al. that could have been built upon to produce an intriguing and genuinely helpful document.