The new Minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parly, after meeting with the Army and the Navy, and before meeting the Air Force (which she should have done at Mont-de-Marsan today but the Budget kept her in Paris) yesterday undertook the perilous exercise of meeting with the media.
Amongst the things she said, we found two of particular interest: the duties given Geneviève Darrieussecq, her secretary of state, and changes in the air for the DGA French procurement agency.
First Darrieussecq’s duties: she has been specifically charged with implementing the new universal national service.
Explaining that the armed-nation tie “is a necessity … today even more than it was yesterday,” Parly announced that with Darrieussecq, they planned to “invest this issue through several angles: the one that the president of the republic has traced with a reflection on the universal national service to be launched soon” and for which Darrieussecq “will have particular responsibility.” Other special areas of responsibility for the former mayor of Mont-de-Marsan include: “all issues related to remembrance, especially during this period of commemoration of the centenary of the Great War but also all veterans,” said Parly, adding that “there may be other [areas of responsibility].”
As for the DGA, it can expect to have to work faster and in a more innovative fashion in the future. Achieving this will be the job of the person as yet to be appointed to replace Laurent Collet-Billon who retired on July 1 and whose role as director is currently being held by Vincent Imbert. Parly noted that even if she found a ministry that has been profoundly transformed “in many ways” compared to the one she knew when she was Under-secretary of State for the Budget between 2000 and 2002, “it is true that there are still areas which it will undoubtedly be necessary to deal with. I‘m thinking in particular of everything related to the maintenance in operational condition of equipment but also, more broadly, the Directorate-General for Armaments, so as to ensure, if possible, that our programmes are a little less long, our acquisition processes shorter because technological progress is very rapid and is difficult to accommodate with programmes that have such a long lifespan. At the same time, I’m very well aware that we are also investing for the duration, but we will have to reconcile very long-term calendars with more accelerated ones and in particular, we must increasingly integrate, which is actually beginning to be done, digital technology as a very structuring element of this military equipment.”
For the minister “the notion of cost control is obviously also very central. […] These programmes, which are extremely resource-intensive, which is quite normal, obviously weigh on the budget of the Ministry of Defence as a whole and therefore we will have to try to find perhaps more innovative solutions including in these areas.”
The DGA will not be the only one to tighten its belt: “We will ensure, as has already started to be done, to manage as best as possible the ministry’s way of life to intelligently cut back whatever can be,” the minister said.
Repeating several times that she was not a connoisseur of the military / defence world and that she had been in her job less than a fortnight, she often sought assurance that her remarks were factually correct from her director of communications, seated in the first row.