Lockheed Martin chief executive Vance Coffman has uttered a renewed call for the establishment of an open transatlantic defence market and a government-industry dialogue.

Speaking in Paris, Coffman warned against the pressure to create "Fortress Europe" and "Fortress America" - self-defeating propositions in his view.

He warned against obstacles to achieving the necessary reform. "Parochialism remains strong in some quarters," he said. "There is renewed pressure on both sides of the Atlantic to buy European or buy American, to award prime contracts to national champions even when they are not cost-competitive, to prefer the nationalistic solution to the interoperable solution. While parochialism should be expected, visionary thinking and enduring political will must be applied to overcome it."

He gave European industry credit for recognising the impact of falling defence budgets and making remarkable progress on restructuring in the past two years.

"Industry has now done as much as it can do on its own," he said. "We must now have an industry-government dialogue at the highest level, on both sides of the ocean and across the ocean, if we are to continue the progress that has been made."

At the heart of the dialogue would be the rules for transatlantic technology-sharing and export controls, said Coffman. "The Defence Trade and Security Initiative (DSTI) was a good start, but I would suggest that the Bush Administration may want to inject renewed vigour and momentum into the process. Governments will need to restructure their procurement to inspire confidence in the fairness of the process and give global players an incentive to compete."

For Coffman the choice lies between believing that globalisation and unification of the transatlantic defence market will be more productive and resisting those forces by protecting home markets.

"Is it better to build bridges or to build walls?," he concluded. "Industry walls always seem appealing in the short term, but they virtually always assure the gradual decline of the industry being protected."

Source: Flight Daily News