European Affairs

Recently I read the EU defense ministers’ statement on Europe’s “defense and technological industrial base study.” It was very well crafted, a worthwhile effort by the EU to come at this issue of harmonizing disparate programs, not at a programmatic level but at a strategic level. But as I read the document, it really got my blood boiling. As a defense ministerial communiqué, it had – and I saw it – a recognition of the need to try to get our hands around the technological base in Europe. But whose hands?

I saw fortress Europe in the document [titled A Strategy for the European Defense Technological and Industrial Bases]. In it, I read the paragraph, in particular, that starts identifying technologies, with its little subparagraph in there that screamed to me “fortress Europe.” [At this point, he referred to the communiqué’s heading about identifying key technologies]. It said:

“We need to identify, from a European perspective, the key defense technologies that we must seek to preserve or develop. Military capability need is the prime criterion, but we must also have regard to the needs of autonomy and operational sovereignty, and the need to sustain pre-eminence where this is economically valuable.”

At the same time, if well-intentioned governments come at it from the standpoint of pursuing teaming arrangements, then I think there is promise, there is a path to offset the decline in defense spending and the overall decline in capability. I also think that technology is moving on in ways that enable us to do more and different kinds of cooperation. Technology has evolved to the point where we can actually fashion a deployable battle management capability that different nations then can come to the fight and put their French Sam-T right next to the Patriot Missile Defense System, right next to the S300 that Greece has – you name it, it can be deployed. This is exactly the right path upon which we should be, and it is a path that I think the EU also is looking to pursue.

A good example is software-defined radios. Now NATO has been working on interoperability of communications systems for 50 years and we still haven’t fixed these interoperability problems. But from modern computing to the ability to use software to bridge wave form cultural differences – you name it – there is great promise.

For example, the software defined radio idea alone has got enormous potential for suddenly allowing units from different countries to all communicate on the same wave form. And you get, out of this whole mess about national crypto – and whose particular architectural standard we are working on – a CD-ROM. Whether it is NATO standard or EU standard, it is a CD-ROM: You put it in your computer, in your radio, and now you will be able to talk to whoever also has the same CD-ROM.

Whether you are first responders; whether you are on the commission side of the house, hospital, firemen, others that need to be able to interoperate in a domestic civil emergency kind of situation; or whether you are talking about getting NATO forces to be able to communicate better with the Pakistanis or Afghan national forces, or even with each other.

So again, I see great promise there. You are able to maximize – computers, computers, computers – the use of what you already have.


This article was published in European Affairs: Volume number 8, Issue number 2-3 in the Summer/Fall of 2007.