European Pact Embraces Shared Defense Capacity

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PARIS — The European Defense Agency (EDA) said Dec. 13 its 26 member governments have agreed to “systematically” review options for the pooling and sharing of defense capacity in their upcoming procurements.

In a decision that could increase the prospects of a multination next-generation military telecommunications satellite system in Europe, EDA ministers adopted an agency-proposed code of conduct that, while voluntary, nonetheless orients defense planners toward cooperative efforts.

The three-page code calls for EDA members to “systematically consider cooperation from the outset in national defense planning.” EDA said the code was formally approved by its governments’ defense ministers Nov. 19. EDA members include all 27 European Union governments except Denmark.

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EDA already is sponsoring a small test of pooling and sharing, with five member states agreeing to use EDA and its contractor, Astrium Services, to find spot-market satellite bandwidth. EDA hopes this three-year test program will demonstrate that satellite bandwidth is much less expensive, per megahertz, when several nations combine their purchases — either by virtue of a larger order or by ordering the same amount of bandwidth for a longer period.

The five European nations that have their own national military satellite communications infrastructure — Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain — are all facing decision points on next-generation systems between 2017 and 2025.

For some of these nations, next-generation decisions need to be made starting in the next two years to avoid service interruptions.

Multiple studies, including one performed by EDA, have concluded that European governments could save hundreds of millions of euros if they coordinated their military satellite telecommunications purchases.