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Pentagon presses for US access to special EU defense projects

U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist stuck up for American defense firms Thursday, saying they should not be cut out of European Union programs to strengthen its industrial base, the European Defence Fund and the Permanent Structured Cooperation program.

Speaking at the NATO-Industry Forum in Washington, Norquist said the European Defence Fund ― which commands a €13 billion (U.S. $14 billion) pool of money ― and PESCO ― a 2-year-old initiative to foster inter-European cooperation ― “must allow the United States and other non-EU allies to participate and compete for business,” or risk duplication that undermines trans-Atlantic security.

“Our collective strength and security hinges on our ability to bolster trans-Atlantic defense cooperation and streamline decision-making across the alliance,” Norquist said. “This is why we strongly encourage our European allies to pursue efforts that facilitate greater NATO-EU cooperation and advanced interoperability.”

Norquist’s remarks serve as the latest pushback from Washington concerning draft rules that would restrict non-European countries from the bloc’s programs. Norquist said the U.S. has engaged with the European Commission, the EU’s politically independent executive arm, in an effort "to allow our participation to continue.”