Øystein Bø: "Developing Strategic Partnership for the Future"
(Source: Norway Ministry of Defence; issued Sept 27, 2016)
Norwegian State Secretary Øystein Bø addressed this keynote to the French - Norwegian defence and industry co-operation seminar in Paris, on September 26th 2016.

M. Délégué Géneral pour l’armement, Flag officers, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Bon Apres-Midi,

Please allow me at the outset to take this opportunity to thank our hosts - CIDEF and the Norwegian Defence and Security Industry Association (for simplicity reasons, let us call them the industry associations) – for holding this seminar. I also wish to thank Mr Collet-Billon for supporting the seminar and for promoting co-operation between Norway and France. France has for a long time been a close ally and partner to Norway – and we are constantly developing our partnership further.

The objective of this seminar is a mouthful: "To foster serious conversation among the industry participants, identify areas for co-operation, and establish a basis for developing stronger ties between French and Norwegian defence industries. Preparing for the possible submarine program and industrial co-operation." This is an aim we should all endorse and keep in our minds as the seminar unfolds.

Developments in the security environment

Looking around us, we see a security environment that has changed fundamentally in a relatively short time. Russia is upgrading its military capabilities significantly, and has demonstrated both willingness and ability to use force to achieve its political aims. The Russian annexation of Crimea and the ongoing destabilization of Eastern Ukraine violate international law. Russia´s behaviour has created uncertainty and unpredictablity.

In the South, we are still experiencing the largest refugee crisis since the Second World War. Developments in the Middle East and North Africa have taken several turns to the worse over the last few years. The war in Syria has gone on for more than five years, and does not seem to be ending soon. Again Russia is playing a questionable role.

Looking at the security landscape, a resilient and robust NATO, as well as a strengthened relationship between close Allies are more important than ever.

I am pleased to see increasing co-operation between our two countries. We have several common security interests, including in the maritime domain. We highly appreciate French forces training and exercising in Norway. France was a substantial participant in the Cold Response 2016 exercise, supporting security in the North.

To the South, Norway is contributing tactical air transport to MINUSMA in Mali, a country and a region in which France has strong interest.

In Warsaw, the Alliance displayed strong unity and a clear commitment to transatlantic security. NATO took important steps to strengthen allied deterrence and defence against threats from wherever they may come.

Russia constitutes a long-term and potentially serious security challenge to transatlantic security, including in the North Atlantic. We see increased Russian ability to disrupt sea operations and project force into the Atlantic, as well as to deny allied maritime and air operations east of the Greenland-Iceland-UK-gap. Hence, we are pleased with the decision in Warszaw to focus more on the maritime domain. We need to pay more attention to this domain, including increased Allied presence and situational awareness. We are grateful to have France as a partner in this endeavour.

Long Term Defence Plan

On June 17, the Norwegian Government presented a new Long Term Defence Plan to Parliament, proposing an historic increase in the Norwegian Defence budget. It is a 4-year plan with a 20-year perspective. We will apply a three-step strategy to improve our defence capability, both in the short and the long-term.

It comes with an historic increase in the defence budget, beginning next year. The plan ensures a solid improvement of our operational capability, including our readiness levels.

And, for the first time ever, we are introducing the experienced cost growth (or the defence specific cost growth) into our budget planning. This is in itself a major achievement.

We will start with making all our current capabilities fully operational. We will accelerate the purchase of spare parts, ammunition and stocks, and we need to increase our maintenance activity.

Building on this we will in step two increase the level of operational activity across all services. We will sail more, fly more, train and exercise more, and improve our overall operational capability

As a third step, we will invest in new, strategic capabilities. We will continue our 10 billion Norwegian kroner CV 90 combat vehicle program. The procurement of the new F-35 fighter aircraft is on schedule. Coupled with the Joint Strike Missile, it represents a major improvement of our military capabilities. As do new submarines, Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) and air defence systems.

We are making significant investments in intelligence, surveillance, survivability and combat power to strengthen Norway and NATO’s ability to prevent and deter use of force, and maintain situational awareness in the North Atlantic and the High North.

National defence industrial strategy

While working on the Long Term Defence Plan my Government has also focused on the Defence industry. Last fall we presented to the parliament a white paper on a new National Defence Industrial Strategy

Norway has for long time been promoting a well-developed cooperation between our armed forces, the research and development community and the Norwegian defence industry.

The white paper is clear on why we have – and still need – a national defence industry: an internationally competitive defence industry is a vital contribution to our overall national security interests.

History has taught us that even a small nation may need its own independent industrial capabilities. Hence, the strategy refers to our defence industrial capabilities as strategic assets to Norway.

Our defence industry is niche oriented, and will never be able to cover the full spectrum of products that our defence forces need. Nevertheless, we have expressed clear priorities to some technology and competence areas, all important to our security interests.

There are seven core elements of the strategy. Industrial cooperation and market access to foreign markets are among the most important ones. When the Norwegian Parliament debated the white paper last spring, they reinforced the emphasis on industrial cooperation.

Norway procure about 70 per cent of all our defence equipment from suppliers abroad. Hence, it becomes imperative to develop good industrial cooperation programs that enable Norwegian defence industry to develop their capabilities.

This is also a question of market access.

The Norwegian defence industry is not among the largest, but it is technologically advanced and highly competitive within a number of areas, such as air defence systems, missiles, ammunition technology and combat management systems. Our industry has shown both innovation and endurance. This has paid off, and resulted in a significant growth, both at home and abroad. Norwegian defence industry punches well above its weight, exporting 70 per cent of its production.

Future submarine programme

As you all know Norway’s current submarine fleet, the ULA class, will reach end of its life-time by 2028. We plan for procurement of new submarines with delivery starting in 2026.

The submarine programme will be subject to political considerations and final approval in Parliament before we make the final decisions. We have two highly qualified candidates. We put a lot of effort into equal treatment - this is essential to us.

We will seek a holistic approach to the final considerations in this program. Our technical experts will make their recommendations based upon how the alternatives meet our technical requirements; our experts in naval operations will make their recommendations upon how the alternatives meet our requirements in an operational perspective, and, finally we will consider how the proposed industrial program meet our expectations for industrial cooperation.

Let me be absolutely clear – as I already mentioned, our Parliament has expressed strong expectations with respect to industrial cooperation in general, and also specifically as regards the submarine program.

A submarine programme would add new opportunities to the existing co-operation between Norway and France. That is a main reason for us being here today. To explore and develop opportunities for you to engage with Norwegian Defence Industry.

Allow me therefore in conclusion to underline the importance of a venue like this, in which different representatives come together to exchange ideas and spend time with counterparts. I encourage you all to seek new opportunities and find ways to be even better at this.

Again, thank you for the invitation. I wish you all the best for the seminar today and tomorrow.

I thank you for your attention.


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