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Welcome to the Winter 2016/2017 edition of Defence Procurement International. It seems like this issue has been a long time in the making, which is perhaps fortuitous given the economic and political changes that are sweeping the global defence and security agenda.
What will the world of defence look like in a post-Trump, post-Brexit landscape?
Although Brexit is still not a reality, and Donald Trump remains President-elect until the 20 January, 2017, when he will be inaugurated as the next President of the United States, in this edition we’ve tried to provide some insight into how the defence industry is likely to be impacted by ‘Trumpism’, if I can use such a phrase.
All we really have to go on, so far, in addition to his defence appointments, are statements Trump made during the election campaign. Whilst Presidents don’t always deliver on campaign trail promises, Trump appears to be in favour of spending more on the US’s armed forces and bolstering missile and cyber defences.
His relationship with NATO, however, may prove more circumspect. Again, if electioneering is anything to go by, will Trump be happy to sit back and let the US spend more on defence and come to Europe’s rescue whenever it is needed, whilst European countries continue to drag their heels on defence spending? As we know, however, it is not just how much you spend on defence, but what you spend it on.
Given his comments on the cost of Boeing’s new 747 Air Force One—Trump initially called for cancellation of the contract—it will be interesting to see what, if anything, the billionaire-businessman makes of the inefficiencies and cost overruns that are typical of most large-scale defence projects.
In our NATO story in this issue, the Alliance’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg suggests that defence spending is on a more positive upward trajectory in Europe, but there is still some way to go before all NATO members achieve the 2% of GDP target.
Some may never achieve it, given their size. The EU will need to step up to the plate, with plans to increase spending on R&D in defence and for greater levels of collaboration between EU member states on defence acquisition projects and operations.
Another factor that needs to be considered is the potential role the UK will play in European defence and security, post-Brexit. There is still no real clarity surrounding the UK government’s Brexit strategy, and although the UK is likely to remain a committed member of NATO, the EU is already pinning its defence and security future on greater collaboration and cooperation with the US and NATO.
Where does that leave the UK? Whilst the special relationship that exists between the UK and France in defence industrial matters is likely to continue, this is the exception perhaps, rather than the norm.
With elections scheduled across Europe in the coming months, which could see a lurch to the far right in some countries, this is likely to prove challenging for NATO and the EU. The only thing that is certain, is that the future is uncertain.
Uncertainty is not good for the defence industry, but only time will tell whether regime change in some European countries means wholesale shifts in national defence strategies and policies, or just more of the same.
Anita Hawser - Editor