Brussels, 9 February 2006
Research and technology - an imperative for European defence
Speech by Javier Solana, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Head of the European Defence Agency
I am convinced we must do three things:
- First, spend more. I know this is difficult in a world of tight national finances. But it is an imperative nonetheless. Where defence budgets as such cannot be increased, we must work on redeploying funds within those budgets.
Manpower costs currently account for more than 50% of European defence spending. But do we really need more than two million men and women in uniform in Europe? Much of our defence infrastructure is duplicative - between countries and between governments and industry. So let us find savings from rationalisation, to increase the proportion of money spent on investment.
- Second, we must spend better, so that we get more output per euro spent. Above all, this requires a focus on key technologies of the future. Concretely, this means finding more flexible ways of doing business, particularly at the intergovernmental level.
It also means looking at how we can embed new technologies quickly in existing platforms. And it involves matching the ever-shortening cycle times of the civilian world. We should also look at ways how we can harness the ingenuity of companies and universities that are not traditionally seen as part of the defence industry. The same goes for small and medium-sized firms which are often the source of innovation.
- Third, and perhaps most important, we must spend more together. This is a fundamental issue and the main raison d'être of the Agency.
Last year, there was an excellent report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies. It reminded us that integrating Europe's defence efforts should no longer be seen as an interesting idea. It is an absolute necessity. Industry has urged that the proportion of R&T expenditure in Europe which is spent collaboratively should increase from the current level of less than 5% to 20%.
I am convinced that they are right – and we must now, urgently, decide how best to achieve this aim.
Some argue that it can be done by increasing the pace and scale of ad-hoc collaborations – the traditional approach, but done better. Others argue that this leaves cooperation at the mercy of different national budget cycles, and diverging national priorities. They stress that the necessary step-change will only come about if some funding is pooled, readily available for joint R&T endeavours. Following this logic, there are arguments for a substantial R&T budget for the Agency.