General Jarmo Lindberg completed his five year-tenure as the Commander of the Finnish Defence Forces in August 2019. (Roni Rekomaa – Lehtikuva)

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FORMER COMMANDER of the Finnish Defence Forces Jarmo Lindberg is lobbying for Lockheed Martin on the fighter jet acquisition of Finland, reports Helsingin Sanomat.

Lauri Puranen, the programme manager in charge of the acquisition at the Ministry of Defence, told STT on Thursday that the American supplier candidate informed the ministry about the role of Lindberg on Wednesday.

Lindberg is advising the global defence company through his one-man consultancy Suomalainen kenraalikonsultointi, which was registered in January 2020.

He declined to comment on his role with the company to STT: “I wasn’t planning on commenting it in any way. I reckon it’s appropriate that the comments come from the official stakeholders, meaning the Ministry of Defence and Lockheed Martin.”

Lindberg completed his five-year tenure at the helm of the Finnish Defence Forces in August 2019. He agreed to a cooling-off period of six months during which he is unable to engage in any business activity related to his former role.

Lockheed Martin is one of five fighter jet manufacturers contending for the up to 10-billion-euro contract to replace the ageing fighter jet fleet of the Finnish Air Force.

The Ministry of Defence has compiled a list of companies and consultants used by the manufacturers to prepare for and support the tendering process on its website. The list indicates that also other manufacturers have turned to former representatives of the Finnish Defence Forces and Ministry of Defence.

Juhani Kaskeala, the Commander of the Finnish Defence Forces in 2001–2009, is advising Boeing and Karl Gustav Storgårds Saab. Jan-Erik Enestam, a former Minister of Defence, is a senior advisor at Cocomms, a communications agency used by BAE Systems.

Puranen told Helsingin Sanomat that such “expertise sharing” also benefits the Ministry of Defence.

“[Ex-military officers] understand our defence system and support the 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 possible performance for our defence system from all firms,” he explained to the newspaper.

“We always have a secrecy obligation. They can’t disclose any classified information to competitors because they’d be committing a crime. Nor is such information needed to respond to our invitation to tender.”

Lindberg was not available to comment on the matter, according to Helsingin Sanomat. The newspaper did, however, receive a statement from Lockheed Martin via Hill+Knowlton Strategies, a public relations consultancy based in New York City.

“Suomalainen kenraalikonsultointi will provide Lockheed Martin with management advisory services related to Finland’s HX [Fighter Program]. The company will not provide lobbying services,” the statement read.

Elina Melgin, the chief executive of the Finnish Association of Communications Professionals (Procom), and Anders Blom, a professor of practice at the University of Turku, both estimated that management advisory services effectively translate to lobbying.

“It’s a question of definition. The concepts can be blurry. Many in Finland talk about public affairs communication. 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,” said Melgin.

“I find this slightly amusing,” echoed Blom.

They both declined to comment specifically on the case of Lindberg, but viewed that it could be warranted to at least consider extending the cooling-off period from six months. “Six months is a relatively short period,” said Melgin. “We’ve only seen these sorts of cases in the past year. We’re still learning the rules.”

“These happen to be the cooling-off period regulations in the defence industry, but you could consider whether [the period] is long enough. You could consider that,” said Blom.

Helsingin Sanomat pointed out in its report that the coronavirus pandemic is also having an impact on the fighter jet acquisition, as the negotiations can only be had face to face due to the sensitive nature of issues discussed.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT