Jarmo Lindberg, former commander of the Finnish Defence Forces, is now lobbying for Lockheed Martin in the Nordic country's upcoming fighter jet acquisition aimed at replacing its ageing Hornet fleet, the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat reported.
According to Defence Ministry acquisition manager Lauri Puranen, Lockheed Martin has informed about the role of General Jarmo Lindberg, who completed his five year-tenure at the helm of Finland's armed forces in August 2019 and agreed to a six-month “cooling-off” period, during which he is unable to engage in any business activity in any way related to his former tenure.
Today, Lindberg is “providing management advisory services” to Lockheed Martin through his one-man consultancy firm, Suomalainen kenraalikonsultointi, which was registered in January 2020.
While the company stressed that this was not tantamount to lobbying, Elina Melgin, the CEO of the Finnish Association of Communications Professionals (Procom), and Anders Blom, a professor at Turku University, both maintained that “management advisory services” effectively translate to lobbying.
“It’s a question of definition. The concepts can be blurred. Many in Finland prefer to talk about public affairs communication. But if you say abroad that we don’t have lobbying in Finland, we just have public affairs communication, at least the researchers will laugh at you”, Melgin said, backed up by Blom, who found it “slightly amusing”.
Finland's Defence Ministry has compiled a list of companies and “consultants” used by manufacturers to prepare for and support the tender process. According to the list, turning to former representatives of the Finnish Defence Forces and Defence Ministry is not uncommon.
Lindberg is thus sharing the company of Juhani Kaskeala, the Commander of the Finnish Defence Forces in 2001-2009, who is advising Boeing; and former Defence Minister Jan-Erik Enestam who is a senior advisor at Cocomms, a communications agency used by BAE Systems.
According to Puranen, such “expertise sharing” is beneficial for the Defence Ministry itself.
“[Former military officials] understand our defence system and support manufacturers in drafting their tender offers. In that sense they’re also helping us to get responses that satisfy us. Our goal is to get the best possible performance for our defence system from all firms", the Defence Ministry official explained to the newspaper.
He stressed that there is a secrecy obligation and non-disclosure clauses.
Lockheed Martin is one of five fighter jet manufacturers vying for the up to €10 billion ($10.9 billion) contract to replace Finland's ageing fighter jet fleet.
In Finland's so-called HX Competition, Lockheed Martin's F-35 is pitted against Boeing's Super Hornet, Eurofighter's Typhoon, Saab's Gripen, and Dassault's Rafale.
According to Helsingin Sanomat, however, the current coronavirus pandemic has put the fighter jet acquisition talks on hold, since these negotiations are only held face-to-face due to the sensitive nature of the issues discussed.