Fernando del Pozo

Admiral of the Spanish Armada

“We have not reached our limits. We need to spend more and in a different way”

Have we reached the limits of doing more with less? Or do we need to do more with more, or less with less?

We have not reached our limits. Defense spending of 1 percent is half of what all the allied nations (and not just Spain) have pledged on a regular basis for years. We are very far from meeting our basic needs in matters of defense. Expeditionary forces are more expensive than conventional forces, but we need them because what we’re facing at the moment or will face in the near future is not conventional warfare. We will have hybrid warfare and expeditionary warfare, and defense will have many functions that are not strictly war as such, but none of these will be the traditional warfare of the past involving conventional forces on our own territory or on borders. We need to spend more and in a different way.

Do we need to concentrate more on spending or capabilities?

Capabilities. There have been various attempts to specialize, but this has never been achieved because all nations maintain their sovereignty and nobody wants to have to depend on another ally, who may decide not to participate at any given time. Nevertheless, the truth is that the community of interests that we have in Europe is striking, and it is likely that something that interests Italy will also interest Spain. We could even include the Scandinavian countries in this circle of countries.

What should be the priorities of Spanish defense policy?

They are no different to those of our other allies or other members of the European Union. What we need to be able to do is sustain expeditionary interventions in relatively small, distant places. One manageable objective would be to have the capacity to engage in a couple of light expeditionary operations at the same time, with the possibility of immediate participation. It’s not cheap, but it is within the limits of acceptable costs. The English have coined a very interesting term: “establish presence without occupation, coercion without embroilment.”

Some 70 percent of Spanish defense spending pays for staff. Is that excessive?

Yes, without a doubt. The majority spend around 50 percent. I am not saying that we should pay staff less; rather, that more should be invested in equipment, which should account for a significant proportion of the budget.

Do we have to be more competitive in the defense industry? Do we need an increasingly European framework?

The various mono-national industries that had the monopoly on fulfilling all aviation needs at the national level have ended up coming together as Airbus, which is pan-European and tremendously competitive. Nothing similar has happened in the naval industry, which is surprising, and a shame. We still have “national champions,” which is terrible because none of these companies have international stature. This has happened because the naval industry is more staff-intensive and labor-intensive than others. And, of course, nations do not want to see the most intensive part of the work go to another because unemployment is a significant problem. There isn’t a European champion in the land-based sector either, but there the problem is different because there is a far greater diversification of systems. The naval sphere should find it easy to follow the example of aviation, and we should concentrate on making that happen. We need to make a sacrifice now if we want to reap the rewards in some years’ time.