Several rounds of negotiations took place in Brussels and Washington D.C. to bring a final text for signature in April 2023, formalising a framework for cooperation. The Administrative Arrangement provides for stronger transatlantic cooperation in defence in specific areas, including in the exchange of information.

In the following column, EDA Chief Executive Jiři Šedivý reflects on what the Administrative Agreement means for the Agency and for transatlantic relations.

The stakes could not be much higher. We have seen the return of full-scale war to Europe, and two powers – China and Russia – seek to reshape the international system of the past seven decades. In this light, the transatlantic bond is not just a unique relationship stretching across the Atlantic Ocean. It is the strength and shield of our democracies, our values and the rule of law.

So what better way for the EDA and the U.S. Department of Defense to show their commitment than to cement ways to work more closely together? The question is rhetorical, but I believe that we have also designed a new agreement that is a basis for a new, broad cooperation.

We at EDA have so far concluded Administrative Arrangements with four other countries: Switzerland, Norway, Serbia and Ukraine, as well as with two organisations - OCCAR and the European Space Agency. An AA is a legal instrument. Each is tailored to the respective third country or organisation and therefore is different in every case, while the scope of cooperation can evolve over time, based on mutual interest and EU Member States’ agreement.

In the case of the United States, the Administrative Arrangement will enable a substantial defence dialogue on selected topics within EDA’s areas of expertise. It will allow invitations for the U.S. Department of Defense to attend relevant meetings of EDA’s Steering Board – as well as vice-versa, with EDA joining meetings convened by the U.S. DoD as appropriate.

Secondly, the arrangement allows for U.S. participation in the open session of the European Defence Standardisation Committee (EDSC), as we strive to work towards interoperability and even interchangeability across all our forces.

Thirdly, the AA is only the beginning of structured dialogue. As my colleague Bill LaPlante explains in European Defence Matters (see page 18), our areas of discussion are not limited to any strictures, although during our negotiations, it was agreed that the initial scope of cooperation must avoid any export-control implications.

We will start with supply chains, military mobility, standardisation, climate change and information exchange on some wider EU policies such as REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) and its impact on military activities and the defence sector at large.

As the war in Ukraine and the COVID-19 pandemic have shown, our supply chains are vulnerable. In support of NATO and to maintain the readiness of our troops, we must also be able to move our armed forces and materiel quickly across borders. Climate change is both a crisis multiplier for the military and an opportunity to use carbon reductions to become more efficient. The EU Green Deal has shown our world-leading level of ambition. But it will not, on its own, solve the climate crisis. Most importantly, as well as demonstrating the transatlantic partnership in action, through the AA we at EDA can help deepen our involvement in developing a stronger and more capable European defence that is complementary to, and interoperable with, NATO. The potential threats in the EU’s neighbourhood call for the development of credible capabilities. At a time when the United States must focus more of its limited resources on the Indo-Pacific, we can uphold our security in Europe. Meanwhile, the overlap between NATO’s Strategic Concept and the EU’s Strategic Compass, and the third Joint Declaration on EU-NATO Cooperation show how we can reinforce our relationship.

This Administrative Arrangement is part of one of the most important things that we can do together: to foster a healthy transatlantic relationship and seek a more equal division of labour in security.

I am reminded of U.S. President Joe Biden’s words at the 2021 EU-U.S. summit. Quoting Irish poet W. B. Yeats, he said: “The world has changed, changed utterly.” We in the West are facing enormous challenges today, but our transatlantic bond will remain. The timing of this Administrative Arrangement could not be better. We must stick together, we must cooperate.


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Dr. William A. LaPlante is the United States Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, responsible for areas ranging from logistics and materiel readiness to the industrial base. A physicist by training and former president and chief executive of nonprofit engineering innovation company Draper Laboratory, Dr. LaPlante speaks to European Defence Matters about why the Administrative Arrangement can help sustain the transatlantic bond.

The framed photo portraits of former European Defence Agency (EDA) chief executives look down from the wall as the Beaujolais meeting room empties and U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Bill LaPlante leans back in his chair. With the photo call, speech, signing ceremony and inaugural meeting in the Agency’s Brussels headquarters now over, so come the questions. What exactly is the Administrative Arrangement all about?

As a scientist with almost three decades of experience in defence technology and a former assistant secretary of the U.S. Air Force – where he aligned a multi-billion-dollar budget with aviation strategy – La Plante is surely well-placed to explain the U.S. perspective.

“I would say it starts with the U.S. national defence strategy of last year. A key part of that is: allies and partners,” he says. “That’s not just words, it is really meant to be actions, because we know that collective security in the world is going to rely upon like-minded nations sharing the same values and the same principles. This (Administrative Arrangement) is an action.”

Given that the European Union is already a strategic partner of the United States and that the broader American strategy is guided by its desire for a ‘Europe whole, free and at peace’, an Administrative Arrangement might seem unnecessary to all but the connoisseur.

But in the sensitive world of defence and technology – and after full-scale war has returned to Europe in 2022 – LaPlante asserts that the arrangement provides a framework for regular dialogue that did not exist before, allowing both sides to iron out aspects for unhindered and technical exchange of information that were not as easy in the past. “We have put together a safe platform for collaboration. We didn’t have that before this agreement.”

the genesis of the Administrative Arrangement was in the EU-U.S. summit of 2021, LaPlante underlines that the war in Ukraine has made the need to work together more crucial. “It’s taken it out of the theoretical and the abstract,” he says. “We need to take actions together ... which will be followed up with other common approaches ... even doing joint production. I think what (the war in Ukraine) did is made it all starkly relevant and urgent.”

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Who, or what?

A nagging question is whether this kind of agreement might have just been done through NATO. LaPlante is matter-of-fact, but also confident of EDA’s potential. “I suppose it could have been, but I think as the EU matures, as the EDA matures and gets where its centre of mass is going to be, it’s going to be complementary,” he explains.

For LaPlante, one clear example is the EU’s decision to replenish Member States’ stocks and help arm Ukraine to defend itself, including on the issue of joint procurement of 155mm artillery rounds. “It’s very, very complementary to many things NATO is doing, or individual countries are doing.”

Indeed, for LaPlante, the focus should be less on the separation of the kinds of work by institution and more on the tasks at hand. “I think if we focus less on the ‘who’ and more on the ‘what’, then we can say: ‘well, who is best postured to do it? Is it the EU, EDA? Is it NATO? Is it somebody on their own?’ I always find if you focus on the ‘what’ then the ‘who’ often sorts itself out.”

Potential cooperation on 3D printing

Although not yet foreseen, industry may one day be part of the Administrative Arrangement, LaPlante says. “There could very well be an Industrial Advisory Group, for example, where industry could come together and tell us what their challenges are, what their requests are, and vice-versa, and be able to have a constant dialogue.”

It is in such an approach that LaPlante reaches for examples of how the Administrative Arrangement should bring benefits, whether it be on supply chain issues – where both sides can share information, lessons learned and where the bottlenecks are – or the production of individual items. “And the 155 is a great example where we can look together at what countries can produce them, what ability these different companies or government facilities have to search for them,” LaPlante says.

Beyond 155mm artillery rounds, LaPlante has other examples where this new forum could yield results, namely in additive manufacturing. “If you could 3D-print a part that would go on an airplane and that was airworthiness-critical, that would be a major achievement,” he says. He envisages cooperation where EDA and U.S. DoD can share with each other designs and technical data packages to allow the 3D printing of parts that previously would only be able to be produced in one country.

Ukraine’s approach, for example, to overcoming weapons’ supply chain and stockpile delays has been to 3D-print spare parts, even if intellectual property concerns might normally be an issue in peacetime. With as many as 600 different weapons systems now being operated by Ukrainian forces, repair and the need to overcome inventory shortfalls are crucial. “We’re seeing this right now in Ukraine and that is exciting,” says LaPlante.

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Climate, security

Meanwhile, the Administrative Arrangement is foreseen to address military issues linked to our changing climate. In the United States, officials already look at policy from a ‘mission success’ perspective, making operational energy improvements that should in turn help with reducing the armed forces’ carbon footprint and impact on the climate. But they should also enable any military mission to be more effective.

“Think about all the energy – no pun intended – and money spent on the resupply of fuel, particularly for air power and how much is consumed,” La Plante says. “As we move to more efficient ways of working, with engines that are more efficient, or go to electric vehicles on the ground, it benefits the planet, it also benefits the military,” he asserts.

When it comes to such issues, the United States has a very committed partner. Through the European Green Deal, the EU aims to become climate neutral by 2050. “I think there’s a lot that the Defense Department of the U.S. can learn from the Europeans, because in some of these issues, the Europeans may be ahead of the United States.”

LaPlante says U.S. and European efforts already overlap. “We’re putting energy capacity requirements into the new weapons and military systems, and I think the Europeans are doing the same thing.” For example, new surveillance aircraft might be designed to have 30% more fuel efficiency than today. In the Administrative Arrangement, both sides can share their best practices and also research.

Ultimately, LaPlante says, the Administrative Arrangement sends a very strong message to friend and foe alike that the transatlantic bond is alive. “We’re all after the same thing, which is economic, collective and national security for our citizens,” LaPlante says.


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