Icelandic Defense Agency
When the United States announced that it would be pulling out of the NATO base in Keflavík after more than half a century, Iceland was left completely without defenses. The country has never had an army and military maneuvers are alien to most Icelandic citizens. However, unknown military aircraft have been known to fly through Icelandic airspace, and people still want to know who is coming to visit. So how does a country without an army defend itself?
The Icelandic Defense Agency was established in the spring of 2008 and handled all sorts of communications and supervision that were previously part of the NATO base functions. One of its main tasks is to operate the radar defense system that can detect "shielded" military planes. Iceland has no army and does not plan to establish one. However, the nation has participated in military rehearsals in Iceland where militaries from various NATO countries have engaged in maneuvers with Icelandic civil forces.
Ellisif Tinna is a lawyer and previously worked as both deputy commissioner for the Sudurnes Police District and deputy police commissioner at Keflavík Airport. Consequently she knews her current work environment at Keflavík airport well. She was in charge of preparation for the reorganization of the Radar Agency due to a transfer of its duties and personnel to the Defense Agency.
But is Iceland under threat? Ellisif Tinna said that, before 2001, a terrorist threat from airplanes was thought to be minimal. "Defenses today rely on techniques, training, knowledge and information. We always have to be on the alert, even against an unknown threat." Has security been redefined, now that Iceland has a Defense Agency? "Not necessarily, but by establishing a Defense Agency the state takes responsibility for its own security and outer defenses for the first time. Our contribution to the NATO cooperation is important. Every nation needs defenses."
In 2008, the Government of Iceland passed its first defense budget ($20 million) and on June 1, 2008 established the Icelandic Defense Agency (IDA), under the direction of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. The IDA oversees support of cooperative defense activities, military exercises in Iceland, and maintenance of defense-related facilities, including the operation of the Iceland Air Defense System radar sites, which the United States handed over to Iceland on August 15, 2007. Defense spending in the 2009 budget was reduced to roughly $13 million, due to government-wide budget cuts as well as considerable devaluation of the krona.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Össur Skarphédinsson announced 23 February 2009 that he was considering shutting down the Defense Agency, which was established in April 2008, in an effort to make cuts to his ministry's expenses. According to the 2009 budget bill, ISK 1.2 billion (USD 11 million, EUR 8 million) will be allocated to the Iceland Defense Agency this year. The Government of Iceland announced that the short lived IDA would be closing in 2010. It offered assurances, however, that all of the IDA's functions and responsibilities would continue.
Georg Lárusson, director of the Icelandic Coast Guard (LHG), supported the idea of closing the Icelandic Defense Agency, arguing that it is necessary in order for the LHG to fulfill its purpose of protecting the country's safety and natural resources. "LHG's cooperation with foreign militaries has a long history but is now suffering significantly because of this peculiar arrangement of establishing a special institution in the middle," Lárusson told Fréttabladid. "It [.] jeopardizes cooperation on rescue services with the neighboring states." Lárusson argued that by LHG taking over many of the Defense Agency's projects, "Not only can money be saved but we can also take advantage of the information and facilities that the Defense Agency has for the benefit of the country and nation in a much safer and efficient manner than how it is done today."
A bill passed into law 30 March 2010 set 01 January 2011 as the day when the Icelandic Defense Agency will cease to exist.
ECA Program - a private Dutch military consultancy firm - approached Iceland with the idea of paying to build a base where they could train jet pilots. E.C.A. Program was created in 2007 with the goal of developing the world's first contractor provided Integrated Training support for military services. Initial efforts started in 2004 to purchase real 4th generation training assets. The start of operations in 2010 will mark the advent of the world's first politically and commercially independent training support company that provides an integrated opposition force. Built on the experience of the management team along with Government and industrial partners, E.C.A. answers the training needs of armed forces around the globe. This is possible thanks to the fielding of an integrated system that is composed of individual assets such as aircraft, drones, cruise missile simulators, ground based air defenses, radars, passive ELINT components and jamming complexes. The integration is obtained thanks to the resilient, fully off-road mobile, Command and Control, Communications, Counter-measures (C3CM) backbone. Affordability is attained through commercial financial structuring, fully independent from any specific government and thus more open to international cooperation. This reduces ECA's costs and guarantees a maximum added value for the customer since E.C.A. is not representing, or influenced, by any military-industrial complex. E.C.A.'s acquisition and Pre-Planned Product Improvement (P3I) strategy guarantees sustainment of the system over the next 15 years with guaranteed availability rates of 80%.
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