BRUSSELS — An agreement signed between the European Defence Agency (EDA) and the EU's Athena mechanism will enable the Athena administrator or any EU operation/mission commander to call on the EDA for technical and administrative support for infrastructure procurement.

The Athena Mechanism, which administers the financing of the shared costs of European Union operations with military or defense implications, had a budget of about €90 million (US $95.3 million) euro in 2014. The annual budget varies according to the costs of ongoing operations. Before the arrangement, the EU operations and missions leaders and the Athena administrator conducted were running procurement processes separately solely on their own and can still do so if they so wish.

Asked what the agreement changes, An EDA official said the agreement that it recognizes the potential role of the EDA in supporting procurement for EU-led military operations and missions. Last year, for the first time, operation EUFOR Althea asked for EDA to support a procurement. In that instance, the EDA supported the acquisition of air-to-ground surveillance and reconnaissance services.

"It took some time to clarify respective roles, responsibilities and processes and have the agreement of the 'Athena Special Committee'. This arrangement aims to clarify these points and thus speed up the process of providing support," said the EDA official.

However, he added, that "the aim of this support is not primarily to speed up the procurement but rather to minimize the risks associated with procurement by relying on EDA industry knowledge, experienced procurement personnel and increased legal scrutiny. Previous experience has shown that operations sometimes lack the time, personnel and knowledge to conduct a successful tender procedure due to issues of rotating staff, lack of experience and urgency at the beginning of new operations."

Under the agreement it has been possible to make requests for this support since late February. Asked how long it would take from making a request to ordering an off-the-shelf solution, the EDA official said that "it depends on the complexity and the urgency. For a framework contract offering premission solutions we expect it could take about six months."

In a press statement about the arrangement in early March, EDA Chief Executive Jorge Domecq said, "The ultimate goal of any EDA project is to support operations. The arrangement allows us to do this by providing a procurement service directly to the Athena administrator of an EU mission. I am sure this will prove particularly useful to develop upstream more ready-to-use solutions available from the shelf at the start of an operation in fields such as medical services, real-life support [e.g. laundry, canteen, bathing services, catering, accommodation, morale and welfare], satellite communication or strategic transport."

Asked about future requests for EDA support, the EDA official said that "the intention for the near future is to take advantage of EDA support for large, complex tender procedures such as assisting individual operations with the procurement of special requirements [e.g. medical evacuation services or airborne ground surveillance and reconnaissance] and Athena in setting up more framework contracts [such as camp infrastructure for future operations].

"Procurement of contracted solutions has become increasingly relevant for EU military operations not only to fill capability gaps in the force generation process, but also as a general planned support for ongoing operations," says the EDA in a press release.

"I am convinced that our cooperation would be of huge benefit for supporting EU-led military operations. The European Defence Agency can play a significant role. It holds a considerable knowledge of the industry, as well as in-house technical expertise and experience in contracting," said Athena Administrator Hans-Werner Grenzhäuser.

"The cooperation with EDA will therefore increase flexibility, optimize procurement procedures and save scarce resources by providing contractor support solutions to operations and Athena central."


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