May 6, 2021 – Close links between the defence industry and governments in Europe are jeopardising the integrity and accountability of national security decisions, according to a new report by Transparency International – Defence and Security.
Defence Industry Influence on Policy Agendas: Findings from Germany and Italy explores how defence companies can influence policy through political donations, privileged meetings with officials, funding of policy-focused think tanks and the ‘revolving door’ between the public and private sector.
These ‘pathways’ can be utilised by any business sector, but when combined with the huge financial resources of the arms industry and the veil of secrecy under which much of the sector operates, they can pose a significant challenge to the integrity and accountability of decision-making processes – with potentially far-reaching consequences.
This new study calls on governments to better understand the weaknesses in their systems that can expose them to undue influence from the defence industry, and to address them through stronger regulations, more effective oversight and increased transparency.
Natalie Hogg, Director of Transparency International – Defence and Security, said:
“When individuals, groups or corporations wield disproportionate or unaccountable influence, decisions around strategy and expenditure can be made to benefit private interests rather than the public good. In defence, this can lead to ill-equipped armed forces, the circumvention of arms export controls, and contracts that line the pockets of defence companies at the public’s expense.
“The defence and security sectors are a breeding ground for hidden and informal influence. Huge budgets and close political ties, combined with high levels of secrecy typical of issues deemed to be of national security, means these sectors are particularly vulnerable. Despite the serious risk factors, government oversight systems and regulations tend to be woefully inadequate, allowing undue influence to flourish, with a lot to gain for those with commercial interests.”
Transparency International – Defence and Security calls on states to implement solutions to ensure that their defence institutions are working for the people and not for private gain.
Measures such as establishing mandatory registers of lobbyists, introducing a legislative footprint to facilitate monitoring of policy decisions, strengthening conflict of interest regulations and their enforcement, and ensuring a level of transparency that allows for effective oversight, will be important steps towards curbing the undue influence of industry over financial and policy decisions which impact on the security of the population.
Notes to editors:
Defence Industry Influence on Policy Agendas: Findings from Germany and Italy is based on two previous reports which take an in-depth look at country case studies. The two countries present different concerns:
- In Italy, the government lacks a comprehensive and regularly updated defence strategy, and thus tends to work in an ad hoc fashion rather than systematically. A key weakness is a lack of long-term financial planning for defence programmes and by extension, oversight of the processes of budgeting and procurement.
- In Germany, despite robust systems of defence strategy formation and procurement, significant gaps in capabilities have led to an overreliance on external technical experts, opening the door to private sector influence over key strategic decisions.
The information, analysis and recommendations presented in the case studies were based on extensive document review and more than 50, mainly anonymous, interviews.
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