Antonio Bueno

Vice President of General Dynamics in Europe and Director-General of Santa Bárbara Sistemas

“We need greater investment, but also— and above all—stability, visibility, and financing”

What does a company like Santa Bárbara Sistemas contribute to Spain?

It contributes sovereignty and autonomy for our Armed Forces so that they have at their disposal now the technology and capabilities that will always be available in the future. It contributes technological value, since we are developing new and innovative products with a very advanced industrial base. We also produce a pool of professionals in the spheres of engineering and management, as well as a highly qualified workforce that provides a source of development for the rest of our industries in the future. When thinking about what the defense industry can contribute to other sectors, we should mention quality, for example. There are some tremendous examples of quality in our sector. Defense calls for some unique specifications that also contribute a great deal to the civil world. We are talking about advances in personalization or customization, of needs involving short production runs, which mean that we have to design and manufacture with these complex requirements in mind. We are talking about systems that are subjected to very intense theaters of operations and that have a useful life of 30 years or more, something that is probably very specific to our industry.

Have we reached the limit beyond which it is no longer possible to do “more with less”?

We’re talking about the efforts required to reach 1 percent of GDP right now. The NATO target stands at 2 percent. In order to ensure a sustainable industry that can maintain capabilities and make the grade in terms of technology, we need greater investment, but also—and above all—stability and financing. We always call for visibility and a certainty over the medium or long term that will allow us to support projects into the future. Our projects take a long time to mature and we need to be able to invest with visibility.

What role can Spain play in the definition of European industry?

A very important one. Spain is the fifth largest country in Europe in defense, and in order to maintain this position we must keep pushing forward with the conviction that we should be landmark in the sector. We have the industry, the knowledge, the talent, and the technology (or at least a good part of it) which make us an important player in all areas: air, land, and sea.

The Spanish defense industry exports some 65 percent of its production.

The defense industry cannot live on either its exports or its national market in isolation. There must be a combination of the two, which feed into each other. Both are good for clients and the industry itself. The export market in our sector is not like that of other sectors. It requires a great deal of institutional support. The national market is also fundamental because it adds trust and provides the necessary foundations for continued export activity.

Do we need a Spanish strategy for the defense industry?

It is fundamental that there is a clear state policy that goes beyond the Ministry of Defense and allows us to plan our next steps, as well as organize ourselves to respond to demands. State policy requires commitment and financing, support for export activity, a planning strategy, and, above all, the establishment of the open and fluid dialogue between government and industry, which is always going to be needed to achieve this strategic visibility.