Restructuring Europe's Armed Forces in Times of Austerity

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The RUSI European Security Programme has worked in conjunction with three of Europe's leading think tanks to publish a report concerning defence spending and the restructuring of European armed forces in times of austerity. The report is a comparison of UK, German, French and Polish responses to the economic crisis and its effects on European defence budgets.

In co-operation with the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP), Institut des Relations Internationales et Stratégiques (IRIS) and the Polish Institute for International Affairs (PISM), RUSI's European Security Programme published, in November 2010, an analysis regarding the current political and financial situation of armed forces in Europe.

The project explores the policy options available to achieve savings, structural reform of the armed forces and the strengthening of the European Defence Technological and Industrial Base.

Its aim has been to take stock of the financial crisis' impact on the defence budgets of Germany, France, the UK and Poland. A companion case-study delivers an overview of national austerity measures, how they impact upon the restructuring of the armed forces and how the crisis affects industry and government-industry relations.

A look at the situations of these countries reveals that policy responses, to date, have largely remained confined to the national or bilateral level. However, in many circumstances, co-ordinating restructuring efforts would enhance the potential of European armed forces, but policymakers in the EU need to overcome an apparent fatigue with European multilateral co-operation.

The report explores a number of cost-saving policy options, such as: Accelerating the establishment of a European Air Transport Fleet, exploring the option of a European Air Defence Fleet, consolidating demand for defence goods, and launching a strategic European industrial policy based on Industrial Headline Goals for 2030.

The report finally calls for a European Strategic Defence and Security Review to assess ongoing reform efforts across national borders and to identify capability gaps. It encourages the security-defence diversification in European Industry to mitigate the social cost of a necessary consolidation. It finally calls for bilateral co-operation efforts such as that between France and the UK to keep an open door for the inclusion of additional partners.

A copy of the report is available here and the companion study is available here.

Please contact Alastair Cameron, Head of the European Security Programme at RUSI at for more information.

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