Nr 2-3  2011


Collaboration in Times of Austerity

It is striking how similar the problems are that presently face most European organizations dealing with collaborative arms development and acquisition. The European Defence Agency, the Letter of Intent/Framework Agreement, the European Technology Acquisition Program, the Group on Aeronautics Research and Technology in Europe, and others, all seem to suffer from similar difficulties: reduced funding in most nations, and concern over the implications of the extensive bilateral French-UK agreement from late last year.

In Brussels, and elsewhere, it is often claimed that reduced funding provides a strong incitement for increased collaboration between nations, providing cost share benefits. So why donít we see this? NATO/CNAD, in a recent point paper, addresses the issue eloquently: It has been said that in the current economic environment, multinational approaches are often the only viable option, for many nations, to acquire certain critical capabilities. If that is so, why are we not seeing nations queuing up to participate in multinational cooperative programs, now over two years into the economic crisis?

Is the reluctance due to the traditional arguments against multilateral collaboration, viz. complex decision making, spiraling overhead costs and delayed delivery schedules? Or is there still a tendency to protect national defense industries, in spite of recent initiatives by the European Commission that will be transposed into law in EU member states later this year, and that will put much more stringent restrictions on exempting defense contracts from competition? Or are there other reasons?

The track record of multinational collaborative defense programs is far from impressive, and the challenges seem to multiply in proportion to the number of participating nations. What is called for is an in-depth study of the issues involved. This should include not only best practices and lessons learned from past programs, but also thinking from management theory, psychology and political science.