Pentagon ‘Very Concerned’ About EU Joint Defense Programs

PARIS AIR SHOW—The Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer is using her time at the Paris Air Show here to speak with European industry and government officials on the unintended consequences of not providing U.S. defense contractors access to joint European Union programs.

The U.S. is “very concerned” with provisions outlined in the European Defense Fund and the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) for joint defense development programs between European Union members, Ellen Lord, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, told reporters at the show on June 17. The show runs through June 23.

“Working together is of critical importance. Right now, European companies enjoy an enormous amount of business in the U.S. and we want to make sure that U.S. companies have the same opportunity,” Lord said.

The U.S. is not concerned about receiving “EU grant money.” Instead, the Pentagon wants the opportunity for the U.S. defense industry to participate in joint programs with partners and allies, she said.

Lord and Andrea Thompson, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security affairs, wrote a letter May 1 asking about restrictions on access by non-EU countries to PESCO. News outlets reported the letter said: “It is clear that similar reciprocally imposed U.S. restrictions would not be welcomed by our European partners and allies, and we would not relish having to consider them in the future.”

The U.S. is discussing a range of actions if the U.S. defense industry is not allowed to participate in PESCO programs.

“Within the last 24 hr. I have had several discussions with Amb. [Kay Bailey] Hutchison as well as Amb. [Gordon] Sondland about this,” Lord said. “I think it’s a healthy dialogue to have because I’m not sure that the Europeans understand the unintended consequences of some of the language they have included in the document.”

For example, Lord met with a team from Thales and had “very, very productive” discussions, as the company was unaware of the Pentagon’s concern.

“We would like to make sure that there is not language that excludes the U.S. from sharing technology as well as the Europeans sharing technology with the U.S.,” Lord said. “We want it to be a two-way street and we want to make sure the EU has the opportunity to take advantage of any global technology as they move forward.”

The language currently reads that European-based subsidiaries of U.S. corporations that have European facilities and employees would not be able to participate in intellectual property exchange.

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