PARIS — European government and industry officials hope the newly formed European Defense Agency (EDA) will succeed in federating Europe’s still-divided defense-technology procurement efforts, an achievement that has eluded the half-dozen other European institutions that preceded it.

EDA was created by the 25 European Union (EU) governments in mid-2004 and has been given a budget of 20 million euros ($26 million) for 2005 — enough to hire a staff of about 75 people.

How much power it will be given to harmonize EU defense procurement — and especially the defense-technology research spending — remains unknown. But European officials say the timing now seems right given the trans-national character of several European defense companies, and given the widely held view that no individual EU government can invest sufficiently in defense research.

Coupled with similar but unrelated developments on security-related technology under way at the European Commission and the European Space Agency, the EDA is viewed as a force multiplier that could result in greater EU military space spending.

Bertrand de Montluc, until recently in the space office of the French Defense Ministry’s strategic-affairs delegation, said EDA should be used to fill spending gaps that hobble the interoperability of EU defense forces acting in coalitions, often with the United States.

De Montluc said C4ISR — command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance — should be handled through EDA, which would then delegate contract work through Europe’s space agencies. Interoperability, he said, is an urgent requirement.

“Take Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan,” said de Montluc, who recently moved to the French Foreign Affairs Ministry. “There we had 100 ships from 10 nations that had to work together, in real time, reporting to 10 capitals.”

Gerhard Brauer, head of the security office at the European Space Agency (ESA), said EDA “inherently will have some space capabilities” but that ESA hopes to be EDA’s go-to agency for space-related technology.

Mike Dillon, chief executive officer of Esys, a space and defense consultancy in Guildford, England, that has analyzed Europe’s space-defense sector for the European Commission, said EDA could perform a service in assembling the security-related space-technology requirements of all EU member states.

“We need an interlocutor,” Dillon said. “Nobody is collecting or aggregating requirements. “In 2005 we hope to kick off strategic reviews of operational requirements to find out: What do battle groups or cross-border control teams need?”

EDA’s initial mandate is broad. It has been given six specific areas in which EU nations should opt for EDA-coordinated technology development including long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicles; interoperability relating to command, control and communication; and defense test- and evaluation-based rationalization.

Friedrich W. Kriesel, commander of the German Defense Ministry’s strategic reconnaissance command, said he is skeptical about whether a body like EDA will be able to harness the resources of Europe’s current 25 separate defense-procurement agencies. Kriesel said that in the near term, having two or three nations decide on a program that eventually could be widened to other partners is the most realistic way of proceeding.

The Assembly of the Western European Union, a grouping of EU members of parliament specializing in defense issues, has urged EU governments to create formal ties between ESA and the EDA and to make space technology a centerpiece of EDA work.

“The [EDA] should give priority, in the framework of its remit, to space programs and related technologies,” the assembly said in a Nov. 30 report called “The space dimension of the ESDP,” or European Security and Defense Policy. “It is only logical that this agency should be able to draw on the European Space Agency and the national agencies with a view to developing the new programs that are needed.”

The Council of the European Union, the EU’s principal decision-making body, agreed partially with the assembly — and partially with Kriesel — in a document called “ESDP and Space” and dated Nov. 16: “In the longer term, the requirements for space capabilities needed for security and defense as well as for other purposes should be developed and agreed upon, and drive future programs that may be the subject of multilateral cooperative projects or possibly managed by the EDA on behalf of member states,” the council said.


Peter B. de Selding was the Paris bureau chief for SpaceNews.