PARIS — The July 24 announcement that one of the top officials in the French Defense Ministry, Yves Blanc, was leaving the Direction Générale de l’Armement procurement office took one industry official by surprise.
“It’s surprising. Very clumsy,” an industry executive said. “It doesn’t give a very good image.”
Blanc has been director of the international development department for just more than a year, and it would have taken that time to master the complex files, the executive said.
As the head of international development, Blanc played a key role in leading the national arms export effort.
The defense official who made the announcement said, “He is leaving his functions.” No further details were available.
The Defense Ministry has made a temporary internal appointment, armaments engineer Sévérin Miallet, while a search is held to name a permanent head. A swift internal appointment is intended to provide continuity in relationships and reassure potential clients that complex negotiations underway will proceed in an orderly fashion.
A government Cabinet meeting is needed to ratify the appointment of a permanent head of the department.
France and the domestic industry are relying on raising foreign sales to offset expected cuts in the national military budget. Paris is pursuing a number of export campaigns, including to Brazil, India and the United Arab Emirates, in an increasingly competitive world market, with rivalry from Western and emerging economies.
The Defense Ministry appointed Blanc as department head in May last year. He was previously director of institutional and international affairs at Eutelsat, the commercial satellite operator, and had worked as a senior civil servant before leaving for the private sector.