Senior Pentagon leaders want to make sure that as the European Union moves forward to craft new policies surrounding future national security and defense investments, U.S. companies still get a seat at the table.
The U.S. military is supportive of ongoing European initiatives such as the European Defence Fund and the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) that will lead to a more structural integration of the continent’s defense capabilities, Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist said Nov. 14 in a keynote speech at the annual NATO Industry Forum in Washington, D.C.
However, “those initiatives must allow the United States and other non-NATO allies to participate and compete for business,” he said. “A lack of cooperation could lead to duplication of NATO efforts and undermine transatlantic security.”
The European Council announced Nov. 12 that it had adopted 13 new collaborative projects under PESCO, bringing the total of projects up to 47, with 25 countries participating, many of which are NATO member nations. These projects include efforts such as airborne electronic attack capabilities for manned and unmanned aircraft; space-based early warning systems and an advanced command, control and communications service architecture for unmanned anti-submarine systems, per a Tuesday release.
Norquist lauded such initiatives as a way to enable greater NATO-EU cooperation and interoperability, but said the U.S. government is “actively engaged” to ensure its own defense contractors are not left out of future opportunities to participate in the projects.
“We also appreciate that the EU is negotiating PESCO with many member states that recognize the benefit of third-state participation, and appreciate the value of U.S. contributions to efforts such as military mobility and tanker refueling.”
Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord told reporters at the forum that the Defense Department and its European and NATO counterparts discuss the European Defence Fund and PESCO on a regular basis.
“We are trying hard to align all interests,” she said, noting there are “some concerns about some of the language,” especially with regard to import-export requirements, but emphasized that the whole NATO alliance is working “very hard to make this complementary.”
The buildup of the European Defence Fund, which includes about $14 billion, and the standup of PESCO in 2017 are intended to help the continent fuel its organic defense market, but have prompted concerns over duplication of efforts between the EU and NATO as well as a potential limiting access for U.S. and non-European defense contractors.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday at the forum that he welcomed European defense efforts, but that the two alliances must complement each other.
“Nations shouldn’t have two sets of capability requirements,” he said in the opening speech of the day. “Forces and capabilities development under PESCO … must also be available for NATO.”
He noted that once the Brexit negotiations are formalized and the United Kingdom separates from the EU, 80 percent of NATO defense spending will come from non-EU countries. “We need the fullest possible involvement of non-EU allies,” he said.
In terms of NATO partnerships and readiness, Norquist said the U.S. government is encouraged the alliance’s goal to establish a coalition of 30 air squadrons, 30 combat vessels and 30 mechanized battalions that would be ready to fight within 30 days or less. “We hope to have 100 percent of these important contributions identified” by the time NATO leaders meet in London in December.