French Defense IT system under US company control

It could be the scenario for next movie production on the dark lobbies of the power at the age of information society. Well, no, this is simply a case study among many, many others on the actual situation : Redmond's intrusion at all levels of our existence including the most sensitive ones – when it comes to our national security for example.

In April 2010 French Deputy Bernard Carayon expressed his concern on global agreement n° 2009-027/09-54-149 between French Ministry of Defence and Microsoft Irland. Three main issues were raised at the meantime by Free software associations :

1/ the legality of the process :

  • there was no publicity nor call for tender although the agreement gives a clear monopoly to Microsoft regarding the maintenance of French Defense Ministry's computer system.
  • the contract was awarded to Microsoft Irland whereas French IT companies were most probably competent to handle the services – starting with Microsoft France themselves ; fiscal optimization could hardly be denied.

2/ the subjugation to proprietary software through :

  • the incompatibility of the agreement terms with recent legislations in favor of interoperability of information systems in French public administration.
  • the committment to use Microsoft softwares with no possible alternative anymore, the dominant position of the company being reinforced by the creation of a Microsoft Center within the premises of the Ministry of Defense.

3/ the high risks for French Defence because of :

  • strategic dependence on an American company.
  • vulnerability to IT risks (cyber attacks, viruses, …) due to uniformity of information system.

Browsing through some administrative documents leaked on the issue, it appears the concerned Department (DIRISI) had been warned both by its rapporteur and by the workgroup in charge of the agreement analysis.

The Rapporteur was notably worrying about the drafting of the contract, wondering what was the real object of the later « other than to accept for the present and the future the entire Microsoft catalog ».

Indeed, future softwares updates and a bunch of undefined maintenance and assistance services have been accepted with no limitation neither of time nor of cost, making both the supposed contract period and agreed budget inapplicable.

According to the Rapporteur and « given the weight of Defense Ministry (…) this framework agreement will have impacts on other departments even if they do not join it. (…) So in reality it is a significant part of the overall software budget of the State which is involved in this case, even the materials budget. »

He adds : « In this period of questioning of the usefulness of public expenses, the justification of proposed expenses appear weak and does not take into consideration the important and recurring costs incurred by this framework agreement. »

The Workgroup confirms this position, adding that the agreement presents unacceptable risks related notably to the extraterritorial application of U.S. laws as well as the loss of National sovereignty.

A wide list of other risks is also given regarding aspects such as financial, legal, security, performance and industrial ones.

The rapporteur concludes :

« Beyond the strategic aspect of the issue, the consequences are difficult to apprehend as the object, price and duration of the contract are uncertain, and it is negotiated here without formal competition and especially without prior definition of the needs of the public body. »

« This file is just the tip of the iceberg of relations between the French government and Microsoft, that are now political and highly conflicting issues, marked by economic and financial power of Microsoft. It is then futile to try to resolve them by considerations of respect for the public procurement code. »

Links :

Thanks to :

  • Zorba666 for the uploaded documents
  • Dark Marten for the translations into English

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