How France seeks to streamline and simplify the acquisition of weapons and ammunition

A French pilot demonstrates the Dassault-Rafake Marine to an international audience at the 53rd Paris Air Show, France, June 18, 2019. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Apollonia L. Gaspard)

PARIS — As with the U.S., the conflict in Ukraine has shown the French military that it needs to streamline its procurement procedures and ensure the armed forces build up their ammunition stockpiles as the country raises geostrategic concerns, according to a recent government report.

The report was published on September 9 after a meeting between the French Minister of Defense, the CEOs of the country’s main defense manufacturers, the Chiefs of Defense Staff, the Director of the Procurement Agency DGA (Générale de l’Armement) and the Secretary General of Defense and National Security.

Defense Minister Sebastien Leakorniu later told the media that normally acquisition processes are difficult and complicated, a peacetime luxury. “But in times of war,” he said, apparently referring to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, “when we have to go fast and take risks, we need a different approach.”

Lekornyu organized the meeting in response to the demand of President Emmanuel Macron speech at the opening of the 15th biennial Eurosatory land weapons show in Paris in June. There, the French president called on the industry to “go faster, think differently about production rates, increase […] to be able to recover faster [stocks of] the equipment needed for our armed forces, for our allies and for those we want to help.”

But the meeting was also a response to Macron’s traditional speech to the armed forces ahead of Bastille Day on July 13, in which he said he wanted to pass a new military program law (MPL) to prepare France for a “possible high-intensity conflict”. for 2024-2030, undermining the current MPL for 2019-2026, which he believes is already insufficient. The MPLs, approved by the French Parliament, set defense priorities and provide a framework for acquisition.

The Ministry of Defense has three levels of qualification of geostrategic events: competition, dispute, confrontation. According to a statement released by the ministry after this month’s meeting, “the war in Ukraine has pushed France to the level of ‘conflict’ readiness.” This evolution of the threat implies the necessary adaptation of our production tool.’

To help the industry adapt to the new situation, Lecornu emphasized four points during the meeting:

1. Focus on quantity and simplicity. Lecornu said he wanted procurement requirements issued by the ministry to focus on both manufacturing capacity and design. He emphasized that innovation should not interfere with simplicity. To meet the need for more materiel, the DGA and Army Acquisition Agency “must formulate requests that are easier to fulfill. Every option on the equipment is an obstacle to the speed of production,” he warned.

In a press conference after the meeting, Lecornu explained that “the more options you have, the more sophisticated the equipment, the more complex it is, the less rustic it becomes and the longer it takes to produce.”

2. Streamline the acquisition process. At the meeting, the minister noted that “since February 24, the concepts of risk and danger have evolved significantly and require a change in approaches” to acquisition. Therefore, according to him, it is necessary to simplify administrative procedures for manufacturers. Emmanuel Chiva, the new head of the DGA, and his deputy, Thierry Carlier, were given the mandate to work with manufacturers to figure out a process that would simplify procedures without sacrificing quality requirements.

“This does not mean that we are going to lower our quality standards, but we certainly need to know how to accept some risks, including in our procedures, by reducing them,” Lecorneau said.

3. Bring the tech home and protect the supply chain. Lecornu wants the manufacturers to move their subcontractors to France or at least to the European Union (EU) to not depend on foreign know-how and to protect French know-how. “The COVID crisis has shown us that anything that is not produced on our territory, or at least on the territory of Europe, cannot be considered a safe source of supply,” he reminded them.

4. Prepare for the long term. The war in Ukraine showed how important it is to have supplies, especially ammunition. In the transition to a war economy, the French armed forces will replenish their stocks of ammunition, which will now be evaluated in light of the potential for major combat. In addition, the minister asked the manufacturers to create stocks of raw materials to be able to respond promptly to the ministry’s orders.

The idea that defense companies could pool their stocks is now being explored. “For many years, having shares was considered bad management,” Lecornu told the media after the meeting. “But today we need to get back to good management and, to continue the metaphor, have enough food to last us.”

For their part, manufacturers have also undertaken to significantly speed up the production of priority materials. For example, 155 mm caliber shells will have to be delivered not in nine, but in three months. Caesar’s Gun, 18 of which are given will be produced in Ukraine in just 12 months, half as much as now, according to the Ministry.

“This need for speed is not just a mindset in France,” Lecornu noted. “The same reasoning is happening all over the Western world.”

Lekornyu told the media that he also discussed with the industry the risks of espionage and sabotage in the coming weeks and months, including “Cold War practices that we thought were behind us.”

“In the last few years, we have had cases of industrial espionage, which involves stealing technology to take home. Sabotage is something else. It hurts the production chain, and you can understand the dramatic consequences that can have,” he said. “We have noticed and are monitoring a number of activities that I can’t say more about because they are confidential, but our services have identified a number of things and so our defense industry is working with a number of our services to increase resilience to avoid any malicious activity. or even sabotage on vital materials.” How France seeks to streamline and simplify the acquisition of weapons and ammunition

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