Brookings Examines Transatlantic Defense Policy
On July 8 and 9, the Brookings Institute hosted the “EU Defense Washington Forum 2020,” in partnership with the EU Delegation to the United States, a virtual conference that consisted of transatlantic security experts and policymakers discussing a host of contemporary issues in international security. One panel in particular focused on defense spending and capabilities after COVID-19, and featured a keynote speech by Department of Defense Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord, as well as a discussion with: Chairman of the EU Military Committee Claudio Graziano, the Chief Executive of the European Defence Agency Jiří Šedivý, European Commission Director-General Defense Industry and Space Timo Pesonen, and Center for American Progress Vice President of National Security and International Policy Kelly Magsamen.
When asked about how the pandemic and its affects would affect the defense-industrial base, Secretary Lord laid out several key points. She repeatedly emphasized the need for cooperation and coordination both domestically and internationally and said that she had set up daily meetings with leaders from the different branches of the military in order to understand their needs in protecting the defense-industrial base. She also said that she had been working with state governors and international allies in order to ensure supply chains were not interrupted in states and countries that are heavily affected by the pandemic, such as Mexico. She then stated that she saw a silver lining in how the post-pandemic environment could affect the defense-industrial base, in that it underscored the need for international cooperation, resiliency, and a reconsideration of supply chain policy going forward. She concluded her remarks by mentioning the three lines of effort her office was focused on—lethality, strengthening partnerships and alliances, and reforming business to be more efficient—and how her office had worked to enhance those through measures such as the CMMC and a focus on increased efficiency in software development.
Following Secretary Lord’s remarks, the different panelists largely echoed her sentiments about the need for increased cooperation and interoperability in the aftermath of the pandemic. All of the panelists stated that the pandemic could exacerbate regional tensions and increase global fragility and as a result the EU could not afford to cut defense spending during this precarious time. They also stated that while the economic downturn caused by the pandemic could result in fiscal pressure being put on defense budgets, the ability of the transatlantic alliance to be able to respond to global crises could not be impeded. Ms. Magsamen in particular noted that having a strong EU Defense Fund and strong NATO capabilities was not a zero-sum situation, and that the two entities were mutually reinforcing in providing for the common defense. The panelists concluded by stressing that while the pandemic was the current most important global crisis to deal with, it largely underscored the need to increase cooperation, efficiency, and resilience going forward in order to innovate advanced solutions to the problems the transatlantic alliance will face in the future.