Switzerland’s Three Terrible Misconceptions

Whatever the tender procedure, the French arms industry always loses in Switzerland. In 2011, Dassault Aviation’s Rafale finished at the top of the ratings, but in the end, Switzerland inexplicably chose the Gripen E, which, however, was the least efficient fighter plane in the competition. In 2022, the F-35, which is Armasuisse’s highest-rated aircraft, is chosen by the Federal Council, the executive body of the Swiss Confederation. However, the Management Committee of the National Council (CdG-N), which controls the management of the Federal Council and the federal administration, emits strong criticisms of the way in which the bidding was carried out.

If the CoG-N has not noted “manifest failure in the technical evaluation carried out by Armasuisse”, andshe thinks that “the subsequent processing of the results by the Federal Department of Defense, Civil Protection and Sport (DDPS), as well as the way in which this matter was handled by the Federal Council were partially inadequate”.

1/ The Federal Council limits its room for maneuver

As part of an inspection launched in 2021, the CoG-N wanted to examine the procedure for evaluating future Swiss air forces combat aircraft in light of the numerous technical difficulties and budgetary overruns of the F-35 in the United States. In the conclusions of this report released on 9 September, the CoG-N notes that the main problem with this acquisition procedure is that the Federal Council has restricted from the beginning – and, in the opinion of the CdG-N, unnecessarily – its room for manoeuvre”. And the Federal Council noted that “when it was necessary to make your choice, when it was impossible to take into account foreign policy considerations”.

“Initially, the technical evaluation must allow for the examination and evaluation of offers from a military point of view; secondly, the Federal Council must be able to take into account political and economic reflections based on the technical evaluation to, finally, determine which offers best serves the general interest of Switzerland”, writes the CdG-N.

As the CdG-N notes, all aircraft evaluated met the requirements and Switzerland was assured of obtaining compensatory business. “substantial”. The commission considers that the Federal Council must define the framework conditions applicable to the acquisition of weapons so that it maintains the room for maneuver that is conferred on it by the legal provisions relating to this type of acquisition and that it can “incorporate high-level political considerations when making decisions”. Invite the Federal Council “to carefully examine, upstream, the extent to which you want to integrate more far-reaching political considerations into your thinking during future purchases of military equipment, and then ensure that you maintain your leeway”.

“The commission is concerned that the Federal Council, at the beginning of the procedure, did not discuss the room for maneuver it would have on the choice of aircraft after the assessment carried out by Armasuisse, or that it demanded further clarification on this, she wrote. On the contrary. , it was only in choosing the device that he realized that he could only confirm the proposal from the technical evaluation, taking into account the unequivocal result of the latter”.

2/ DDPS opacity, Armasuisse shortcomings

If the Federal Council found itself in this situation, it owes in part to the DDPS. “At this point, it is necessary to take a critical look at the work of the DDPS, which is competent in the matter”, estimates the CdG-N. Their investigations showed that DDPS “probably he himself had long been unclear about the room for maneuver of the Federal Council and that he had provided the latter with contradictory information on the matter”.

Added to this are the shortcomings of Armasuisse in its assessment. The CdG-N regrets that the new assessment method chosen (AHP method) has been applied “for the first time for such an important weapons project” while she had “certain risks”. Furthermore, the committee has difficulty understanding “why Armasuisse gave up relying as much as possible on the experiences of other countries where the aircraft submitted for evaluation were already operational”. Perhaps he should have consulted with the Democratic chairman of the US House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, Adam Smith, who in June criticized the F-35’s exorbitant costs.

“There is no doubt that everyone involved – certainly Lockheed Martin – could do a better job of reducing maintenance costs.he told the Defense Writers Group at the time. Maintenance costs vary, I understand they go up to $38,000 an hour, and that’s incredibly expensive.”. Except for Switzerland, maybe…

However, according to the Federal Council when announcing the selection of the F-35A, this device would cost almost 2 billion cheaper than its competitors. The Lockheed Martin aircraft therefore achieved by far the best result in terms of cost. “It is the most advantageous in terms of acquisition and operation. The acquisition costs at the time of the offers in February 2021 are 5,068 billion francs. Therefore, they are clearly within the scope of the 6 billion Swiss franc volume fund approved by the citizens”, explained the Federal Council. The F-35A would also be the most advantageous aircraft of all the suppliers in terms of operating costs. Thus, the overall costs, which combine acquisition and operating costs, total approximately 15.5 billion francs over 30 years for the F-35A. Or 2 billion francs cheaper than the second plane…

3/ The troubled game of Viola Amherd

IFederal Counsel in Charge of Defense (DDPS) Viola Amherd has not been playing fair on a national and international level. In the eyes of the CdG-N, the way in which the DDPS treated the results of the technical evaluation was also not adequate”, scolded the CdG-N. Because ? So Viola Amherd knew these results “since mid March 2021”she did not inform the other members of the Federal Council (Federal Department of Justice and Police and Federal Department of Foreign Affairs) “until mid-May or the first half of June 2021 (other department heads)”.

According to the CoG-N, “This late information and the aforementioned lack of clarity about the Federal Council’s room for maneuver meant that several departments continued to conduct negotiations with manufacturing countries to find solutions in other files related to the choice of aircraft until shortly before the Council’s final decision. Federal on June 30, 2021”. As a result, Switzerland “apparently accepted the idea that third countries might be annoyed by the way the procedure was carried out”. What is not wrong…