OCCAR was established by a Convention, which was signed by France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom in 1998. The OCCAR Convention, which is an international treaty, came into force in 2001, giving OCCAR its legal status and allowing it to recruit its own staff, establish cooperative relationships through treaties with other organisations, place and manage contracts. The aim was and still is to provide more effective and efficient arrangements for the management of certain existing and future collaborative armament programmes.
Ever since OCCAR’s inception, there have been significant changes and quite a number of developments in the European Defence sphere. The creation of the European Defence Agency (EDA) and the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA) are but two examples. Recently, there has been the appearance of yet another new party in the European Defence arena, namely the European Commission (EC). Cooperation between these organisations is fundamental to help maximising the output and quality of Member States’ investment in defence. Cooperation is the only solution to make future technologies affordable again for the Nations. Cooperation is also the biggest trump card OCCAR can play when realising European Defence objectives, now and in the future.
If there is enough political appetite to promote cooperation between Nations, defence industries and international organisations, OCCAR can pick up the role in which it has been successful for decades, namely complex cooperative armament programme management.
OCCAR currently manages 16 programmes with a combined budget of close to 80 billion Euro, which will increase to about 100 billion Euro in a short timeframe following the signature of the TIGER MKIII and MALE RPAS Stage 2 contracts, as well as contracts related to some additional programmes under integration. OCCAR will continue to monitor cooperative armament opportunities, in coordination with the Ministries of Defence of the OCCAR Member States. However, if Nations have the desire to only rely on their national Defence Industrial Base, this could lead to a situation where Europe again faces a duplication of effort and possibly a decreased level of interoperability and standardisation.
European leaders are boosting cooperation at industrial level, while on the other hand, fragmentation on the procurement management scene can be observed as well. Duplications should be avoided, not only from a programme management perspective, but also from a procurement management perspective. The imminent risk of overlapping and/or competition amongst procurement organisations across Europe needs to be urgently mitigated. A split of economic resources, amongst a larger number of programme and procurement management organisations, a waste of skills and expertise, as well as redundant administrative expenditures need to be avoided as the resulting increased financial expenses will be to the detriment of technological development.
Avoiding duplication and fragmentation, improving interoperability and standardisation, and minimising additional costs can be materialised by identifying centres of excellence, that can coexist as partners by performing on the basis of their experiences and skills and by sharing knowledge. This approach can support a more integrated, innovative and cooperative European Defence for the benefit of both Nations and Industries.
The OCCAR Convention clearly states that OCCAR was specifically created to increase the Member States’ armaments cooperation.
Hence, Nations should adhere to this objective and refrain from doing the opposite by creating competition between international organisations.
OCCAR and EDA consider each other as privileged partners in the domain of cooperative European Defence capability development and delivery. Under the European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP) umbrella, Contribution Agreements for the Eurodrone and ESSOR Programmes were signed between OCCAR and the European Commission, assigning the management of both programmes to OCCAR. Later, a third programme was assigned to OCCAR, namely Responsive Electronic Attack for Cooperation Tasks (REACT). Service Level Agreements have been signed with NSPA to cooperate in the In-Service Support domain for different programmes such as A400M, Tiger, Cobra. OCCAR manages the Multinational Multirole Tanker Transport Fleet acquisition phase, including the first two years of In-Service Support, as the Contract Executing Agent for the NATO Support & Procurement Agency (NSPA). All these examples show that cooperation is possible provided the will exists at all levels to cooperate.
It is clear that, when looking beyond the horizon, OCCAR does not only look at the integration of programmes emerging from bilateral/multilateral agreements amongst Member States or through EDA. The picture would be incomplete if OCCAR were not to look at growth opportunities through EDF co-funded projects, PESCO initiatives or from new non-Member States.
As Nations’ defence budgets are continuously put under pressure, OCCAR strives to work towards doing more with less, lowering costs and increasing efficiency.
Together with Nations, OCCAR can play a vital role in ensuring that the European Defence industry remains competitive and that capabilities are delivered to protect European security. Although OCCAR continues to be pro-active in the defence capability arena, it is ultimately up to the Nations to decide on OCCAR’s future. The support of the Member and Participating States is paramount to ensure that Europe obtains a more important footprint in the defence arena. OCCAR is ready to step into this arena, whenever it is called upon to do so.