At a time when the European Union and the United States are both facing moderate to severe austerity in the years ahead, it's more important than ever to do more with less.
Claude-France Arnould, chief executive of the European Defense Agency (EDA), told the European Institute's Transatlantic Roundtable on Defense and Security Affairs that the effects of the financial crisis in most EU nations has begun to hit "full force," and the defense ministries of many EU members are experiencing cuts of between 15 and 25 percent in some cases.
Arnould, who is in the midst of a weeklong visit to Washington to consult with officials from the departments of Defense, State and Commerce, told a luncheon at the Cosmos Club in Washington that "the military priorities of the European Union are mirrored in those of NATO."
EDA's top priority, Arnould says, is helping EU member states in the area of "pooling and sharing," the ability of the military to work jointly, sharing key resources like supplies and logistics. Such pooling and sharing, she adds, is more important than ever at a time when monetary resources for weapons systems are becoming scarce.
She spoke in advance of informal talks among EU defense ministers later this week in Poland, and added that pooling and sharing will also be a key topic at a more formal meeting of defense officials at the end of November.
Arnould sees her agency's role as that of a "facilitator," attempting to help the EU define the agenda and priorities for pooling and sharing.
As an example of the kind of collaborative work her agency does, she points to a new forensic laboratory that the EDA recently built in Spain to perform investigations of improvised explosive devices, which injure and kill more coalition troops in Iraq and Afghanistan than any other weapon. The lab, she says, is a "good example of the capability within EDA."
In addition, Arnould says her agency has helped coordinate a training program for helicopter crews, which fly choppers provided by NATO. So far, she says the EDA program has trained 150 crews, of which half are currently deployed to Afghanistan.
Arnould also reports EDA is working in areas that include space, satellites and cyberdefense, stressing the need to continue to coordinate with NATO on efforts to protect IT infrastructure.
She says that in general, one of the most important lessons learned of pooling and sharing, no matter what the venue, is for EU forces to always be aware of whether a military capability is available when it is needed. For example, she says it's important that the European Air Transport Command always be prepared with information on what aircraft it has available to support military missions.