White House Office of Communications, Feb. 12, 2014 – The United States and France are long-standing allies and friends. Today, more than 232 years after the French Navy supported George Washington’s forces at Yorktown and nearly 70 years after 160,000 Allied troops landed on beaches of Normandy to begin the liberation of France, our alliance continues to enhance the security of our countries, the Transatlantic region, and the world.
Operations and Planning
The United States coordinates closely with France on operational issues around the world. In Mali, the Central African Republic, and elsewhere in Africa, our collaboration has focused on combating terrorism and developing regional capabilities to increase security and stability. In the Middle East, our close cooperation played a significant role in securing agreement to remove Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles, and more recently, the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group conducted combined operations with the French navy’s Task Force 473 in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. Off the Horn of Africa and in the Red Sea, our nations have contributed to combatting piracy and promoting maritime security through the Combined Maritime Forces. The United States also partners with France in the Pacific and Caribbean, where our security forces work together to address a wide variety of challenges in the maritime domain.
Exercise and Training Programs
To support our extensive operational cooperation, the United States maintains an active training and exercise program with France. Interoperability is an important focus, and programs to enhance the ability of our forces to work together include French participation in the Red Flag series of exercises and carrier landing exchanges during the recent deployment of the Charles de Gaulle carrier battle group with U.S. forces in the Middle East. France has been instrumental in providing training areas for our Special Marine Air-Ground Task Force, currently deployed in Spain. Both the United States and France are active participants in NATO exercises, such as last November’s STEADFAST JAZZ, which included U.S. land force elements under a French-led land component command.
The United States maintains an extensive bilateral personnel exchange program with France. Currently, there are almost 100 personnel serving in long-term exchanges and training programs, as well as numerous other personnel at short-term training courses. The personnel exchange program has grown over the past year, as operations in Africa and extensive cooperation elsewhere have led to a greater need for full-time coordination. In addition to our bilateral efforts, the United States fully supported French reintegration into NATO’s military command structures. The French military maintains a significant presence at Allied Command Transformation in Norfolk, VA, which has been commanded by a French four-star general since 2009.
The United States maintains an active partnership with France on space security, working to improve the safety, sustainability, and stability of outer space activities. The most recent example of this partnership was the signing of a Space Situational Awareness Agreement between U.S. Strategic Command and the French Ministry of Defense on January 21, 2014, which will enhance information sharing between our two countries in this critical domain. This agreement will make a significant contribution to spaceflight safety as we increase our ability to share data on space objects, thereby reducing the risk of collision. Both nations are also actively engaged in the development of bilateral and multilateral space transparency and confidence building measures to encourage responsible actions in, and the peaceful use of, space.
The United States values working with France on cybersecurity, which is important for ensuring the vibrancy of our economies and enhancing our shared security. We are long-standing partners in this area, and the United States looks forward to continuing its collaboration with France to further strategic policy objectives, improve network defense, cooperate in responding to cyber incidents, and build upon existing diplomatic and military cooperation on cyber issues. As NATO allies, the United States and France are committed to integrating cyber defense measures into NATO networks, as well as identifying and delivering national cyber defense capabilities that strengthen Alliance collaboration and interoperability. The United States continues to seek new opportunities for collaboration with our European partners on cybersecurity, including through dialogue with the European Union.
The United States and France have an active defense procurement program focused on unique capabilities to supplement national production and maintaining interoperability. The most recent of these programs was the expedited delivery of two unarmed MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial systems to French forces operating in Africa. The aircraft, delivered on December 30, 2013, to support immediate operational requirements, are part of a longer-term project with an option to purchase up to 16 aircraft with a total value of $1.5 billion. Other notable projects include U.S. HELLFIRE II missiles for the Tigre helicopter, Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft that are currently undergoing mid-life upgrades, E-2 Hawkeye aircraft that operate from the Charles de Gaulle, and unique carrier holdback bars to support carrier operations.
Looking forward to the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit, the United States plans to continue to cooperate closely with France on civil nuclear security. To reduce the risk of terrorist access to civil nuclear facilities and materials, both nations will hold regular exchanges to strengthen nuclear security culture, security of nuclear materials in transport, cybersecurity, and security of sensitive nuclear information.
The United States is partnering with France, as well as Belgium and Germany, to develop and qualify new high-density low-enriched uranium (LEU) fuels in order to convert all remaining research reactors in Europe from highly enriched uranium (HEU) to LEU fuel. With these partners, the United States is also working to minimize the use of HEU in the production of the medical isotope molybdenum-99, while ensuring that reliable supplies of this important medical isotope are available to patients worldwide. The United States is also working with these countries to advance nuclear forensics technologies, strengthen international safeguards at declared nuclear facilities, and develop software tools to assess the effectiveness of physical protection systems against outsider threats.
Countering Nuclear Terrorism
The United States and France, together with the United Kingdom, have a robust partnership to strengthen our collective efforts to reduce the risks of nuclear terrorism. This cooperation is founded upon a strong pillar of mutual trust and respect, and the United States and France remain dedicated to our joint work within the P3 to improve our technical and operational capabilities to diagnose, render safe, characterize, and dispose of a nuclear threat device. We also continue to recognize our shared responsibility to engage the international community to inform and strengthen worldwide preparedness to detect and thwart the threat of nuclear terrorism. The United States and France are committed to gain the benefits of our unique experiences securing sensitive technical information, technology, and nuclear material to continuously improve upon the efficacy of our respective security regimes. On the basis of this knowledge, the United States will continue to work with France and international partners to enhance the effectiveness and sustainability of their physical security measures to decrease the likelihood that terrorists could acquire any amount of nuclear material to execute an attack.