Una difesa sotto attacco: costi e benefici
More involvement of public opinion in the debate on military issues; more collaboration and, in the future, more European integration with national defense plans that fit EU foreign policy better are three indications that emerged from the debate among politicians, members of the military, journalists, and security and defence experts at the "Defence under attack: Costs and Benefits" conference held in Palazzo Rondinini, Rome, on July 16th.
The conference on how to maintain efficient defense and security whilst respecting budgetary constraints organized by IAI and NATO was opened by General Mario Arpino, an IAI board member and former Chief of Defence Staff, and closed by Antonella Cerasino, Head of Assessment, NATO Public Diplomacy Division. The conference was attended, among others, by Senators Nicola Latorre, Chairman of the Senate’s Defence Committee; Lucio Malan, member of that Committee; General Vincenzo Camporini, IAI Vice president and former Chief of Defence Staff, and Stefano Cont, in charge of military policy at the office of the Minister of Defence.
Other participants included Giancarlo Grasso, director of Finmeccanica, Professors Antonello Biagini, Vice Rector for Cooperation and international relations of Wisdom, Sergio Parazzini, associate professor in the Faculty of Economics and Law at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Cremona, and journalist Gianluca Ales, foreign correspondent for SkyTG24.
Camporini, who presided over the first session, emphasized the need to revise Italy’s national interests and rebalance military spending among staff, investment and training.
Latorre emphasized the importance of military missions abroad, now a permanent part of Italy’s foreign policy structure. But pointed out that efficient use of military equipment and personnel requires an appropriate legal framework and that the current loopholes create red tape that hinder the functioning of the military.
Biagini raised the issue of public aversion to military spending, and explained it in part by the supervision exercised by the United States and in part by the absence of a well defined national security plan. The latter, for example, makes the objective of the military missions deployed abroad confusing, exposing them to strong criticism. On these issues, political and military institutions have to communicate more with the public.
Ales suggested that it is also the fault of the media, which neglect news from abroad because it does not attract an audience, or deal with military issues in an occasional and superficial way, thereby fueling the distrust and indifference of public opinion on these issues.
Cont concluded the first session recalling that in Italy freedom, peace and democracy, qualities dear to its citizens, are guaranteed by the international organisations the country belongs to: NATO and the EU. He states that participation in international military missions is in the national interest.
In the second part of the conference, Parazzini focused on the issues of transparency and information, pointing out that military institutions need to communicate more, to keep the public informed and aware so that they can form a political opinion.
Grasso argued that European cooperation is needed in the fields of defence and security, especially as concerns the industrial-military sector faced with competition from Asia. A common operating scenario should be defined, harmonizing requirements and investing in maintaining a technological advantage. We should not be afraid of giving up national sovereignty: no military industry is purely national today.
Malan addressed the question of Italy’s purchase of the F35 aircraft. The senator believes it is a necessary investment, since Italy has to renew its military fleet to be ready to defend against any threat. In addition, the F35 order gives the industry some oxygen and creates jobs.
Cerasino concluded by emphasizing that an effort has to be made to improve communication and information. In addition, more investments have to be made in the areas of defence and security to prevent the economic crisis from leading to a security crisis.