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Finmeccanica CEO Warns of Italian Defense Cuts’ Consequences

Sep. 27, 2012 - 01:10PM   |  
By TOM KINGTON   |   Comments
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ROME — Finmeccanica CEO Giuseppe Orsi warned Sept. 25 that further cuts in Italy’s defense funding could render his company unable to rapidly develop products for the country’s military operations.

“The [Italian military’s] British Lynx helicopters couldn’t fly hot and high in Afghanistan, and we compressed a six-year contract to 18 months for the remodeling,” he told a conference here focused on the military.

Finmeccanica had quickly carried out work on Italy’s forward operating base in Afghanistan, he added, while providing a rapid supply of gun turrets for Italian vehicles as well as systems to combat helicopter brown-outs.

“In future, without funding, we will lose global competitiveness and our ability to supply the Italian armed forces,” he said.

Orsi was addressing an audience of generals, admirals, defense industry managers, analysts and academics as well as Defense Minister Giampaolo Di Paola, who this year has formulated a wide-ranging reform of the Italian armed forces.

The plan involves a troop reduction of 33,000, which Di Paola hopes will bring the military down to a size that can more healthily exist on the reduced budgets it has been receiving for a number of years.

“For too long, we lived the illusion that tomorrow was another day,” he remarked at the conference, which was organized by the Italian Institute for International Affairs.

Di Paola has warned the reform has yet to gain final approval in Italy’s parliament and needs a final vote to enact it before year’s end or it risks being shelved as politicians focus their attentions on next spring’s elections.

“Italy has now managed reform of its labor and pension system,” said Roberta Pinotti, vice president of the Senate’s defense commission. “Why not military reform? Why is that so hard?”

Although Di Paola has built a name in Italy for focusing on the high-tech kit that soldiers take to missions, conference speakers pointed out how Italy’s successes in places such as Afghanistan were linked to training.

“For the man on the ground, technology isn’t everything,” said Vincenzo Camporini, who, like Di Paola, is a former head of the Italian general staff.

“Drones and sensors cannot replace soldiers — we have become drunk on technology,” said Gen. Marco Bertolini, the head of Italy’s military interforce command, who added that Italy would not be able to undertake another mission on a par with Afghanistan if it did not boost funding for training.

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