Toppling of Saddam lets Kuwait cut defense budget by $2.5 billion

Thursday, July 8, 2004

ABU DHABI Kuwait canceled an estimated $2.5 billion worth of military projects as part of a revision of defense needs in wake of the toppling of the Saddam Hussein regime in neighboring Iraq.

A Kuwaiti opposition parliamentarian said the Defense Ministry has canceled several programs, including a $1.2 billion project to procure a command, control, communications, computers and intelligence, or C4I, system. The C4I project was abandoned, the parliamentarian said, because it was not deemed as suitable for the sheikdom's defense.

Since 1999, companies from both Britain and the United States have competed for the C4I project, Middle East Newsline reported. They included BAe Systems and Lockheed Martin, which have formed a consortium to win the project. Raytheon has headed a second consortium.

Nasser Al Sane, the parliamentarian, said the Defense Ministry also scrapped a $240 million project to procure British armored vehicles for the National Guard. Al Sane said the ministry determined that the armored vehicles did not fulfill Kuwaiti requirements.

"The Defense Ministry officially notified parliament that the C4I system and the armored vehicles deal have been removed from the procurement plan," Al Sane said.

Al Sane has been regarded as the leading gadfly of Kuwait's major defense procurement projects, particularly from Britain, France and the United States. Al Sane and his colleagues have argued that Kuwait's military requires better training and technical skills rather than major weapons platforms.

In a briefing on July 4, Al Sane detailed the process that led to the Kuwaiti rejection of the C4I project. He said a Defense Ministry report determined that the proposed C4I system required significant modifications to ensure integration with the sheikdom's current system.

In the first phase of the proposed C4I deal, Al Sane said, the Defense Ministry envisioned spending $600 million to modify the C4I system to achieve interoperability with the sheikdom's current command and control system. The parliamentarian said the ministry concluded that this was too costly.

Another factor in the cancellation was the revision of Kuwait's defense requirements. Al Sane said the ministry determined that Kuwait no longer needed a C4I system in wake of the toppling of the Saddam Hussein regime.

The sheikdom had envisioned a C4I system to help protect Kuwait's border with Iraq.

As a result, the parliamentarian said, Kuwaiti negotiations with the key bidders of the C4I system were halted in early 2004.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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