ROME — Italy's new defense white paper, its first in 13 years and which calls for Italian military leadership in the Mediterranean, has made a timely debut just as European leaders debate how to combat trafficking in the region.
First promised by the end of 2014, the Defense Ministry presented the delayed white paper was presented by the MoD on April 21 to a meeting of Italy's Supreme Defense Council, which is presided over by Italian President Sergio Matterella and attended by senior military and government figures, including Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
The white paper also envisions new multi-year procurement laws and closer cooperation with industry and a leadership role for the Italian military in the Mediterranean.
The paper's strategic ambition for Italy to take a central role in Mediterranean military affairs is likely to face an early test as European leaders grapple with deliberate on a military response to the Libya-based people traffickers who have sent thousands of migrants sailing annually the year from Libya to Italy and the Libya-based people who send them.
Concern over the smugglers turned to alarm on April 19, when a fishing boat loaded with about 850 migrants capsized, leaving only 24 survivors.
With Europe favoring military action to destroy the boats used by the traffickers, Italy has pitched itself as the leader of a potential operation, which could possibly use Italian drones for surveillance and Italian aircraft for strikes. But UK media reported that Britain the UK might also suggest itself as leader of a campaign.
"With Libya back on the agenda, no one else is more familiar with the country than Italy, thanks to its relationships there," said retired Gen. Leonardo Tricarico, a former head of the Italian Air Force and now president of the Italian Intelligence Culture and Strategic Analysis Foundation, a Rome-based think tank.
Gaining military primacy in the Mediterranean means maintaining a full spectrum of capabilities for use in the region, while sticking to coalition roles based on "plug-and-play" capabilities outside the region, the paper states.
As for spending, the paper favours dropping replacing annual spending budgets in favour of with six-year budget laws for major programs to allow greater certainty over on procurements.
"This is the first real top-down white paper," said a member of the civil-military working group that drew up the paper, which will be published when it is submitted to the Parliament.
The group member, who declined to be named, described Italy's last white paper in 2002 as "more of an update," and claimed the last "real" white paper was in 1985.
Defense News obtained a copy of a synthesis of the new white paper and spoke to members of the working group.
The new document does not make any effective changes right away. Based on its recommendations, the Italian military general staff will now take the next six months to draw up a strategic review, which will translate the recommendations in the paper into asset strength predictions — or, put another way, how many of what armaments will be required to fulfill the roles now required of the military.
Then, a series of laws will be framed to enshrine changes that require statutory updates. changes.
One recommendation that will need new laws concerns budgeting. in order to be carried out is that concerning budgeting. Italy currently passes a military budget annually that covers procurement, maintenance and operations, and personnel, while spending on missions overseas is voted separately.
In recent years, the Defense Ministry of Defense has paired started pairing its annual budgets with funding forecasts for the subsequent two years. The plan was to create stability in funding trends, to allow planners to know when they might get new kit, and to allow industry to know how much money was coming down the pipeline.
But the experiment has not worked, with forecasts being proved inaccurate, as funding cuts undermined them.
To remedy this, the white paper proposes six-year budget laws for large programs, approved by Parliament, to be renewed after three years.
"This would be similar to the French five-year laws," the group member said.
By handing Parliament the power to approve procurements for six-year periods, the new set-up could reduce the power of the parliamentary defense commissions, which have recently acquired veto the power of veto over new procurements.
This long-term procurement funding would also cover a large amount of logistics work on programs to give stability and certainty not only to acquisitions but also to the upkeep of platforms.
"This ends the uncertainty of funding for industry," the group member said.
Another white paper measure favouring industry in the paper involves the MoD providing industry with regular bulletins on technologies it is interested in. The paper also instructs the MoD to better exploit civilian technologies.
Under the new plan, R&D research and development, and maintenance and mission spending would be rolled into one annual funding package.
The paper also seeks to fix the continuing divide between Italy's armed forces. Despite the creation of a general staff and an interforce command, wasteful overlaps continue to exist between Italy's the Army, Navy and Air Force.
"We want to strengthen the interoffice command, and one way to do that is to base promotions on the amount of interforce or international experience a person has had," the source said.
The paper confirms the desired size of the armed forces is 150,000, as determined by recent legislation. But one time-honoured problem the paper seeks to counter is the aging of the Italian armed forces, which is due to personnel staying on in service until they retire rather than serving for a shorter span of years, as in the US.
The paper's strategic ambition for Italy to take a central role in Mediterranean military affairs is likely to face an early test as European leaders deliberate a military response to the Libya-based people traffickers who have sent thousands of migrants sailing the this year from Libya to Italy. Concern over the smugglers turned to alarm on April 19 when a fishing boat loaded with about 850 migrants capsized, leaving only 24 survivors.
With Europe favouring military action to destroy the boats used by the traffickers, Italy has pitched itself as the leader of a potential operation, which could possibly use Italian drones for surveillance and Italian aircraft for strikes. But UK media reported that the UK might also suggest itself as leader of a campaign.