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Cicciomessere Roberto - 3 aprile 1991
Industrial conversion of the military sector

Little has been done in these years both to investigate the problems of the industrial conversion of the military sector, and to develop pilot projects in specific departments.

I believe even the committee established in Italy by former Minister Fracanzani has produced no results.

In practice, the only reliable theoretic basis remains that of Seymor Melman. His researches provide us with two indications:

1) the conversion of the military industries is extremely difficult, especially because these industries are organized on the basis of premises that are alien to the market, that is, to the maximization of costs. The buyer in other words disregards the price, and simply wants the weapon to be more "effective" than that of his enemy. To remain in the field of computer science, a computer which continues to operate after having been parachuted both in the desert and in the North Pole does not have many chances of finding purchasers in the civilian market. The situation is even worse in Italy, where the military industry works almost exclusively for the State, and is not even forced to compete with the international competition. For these reasons, it is very difficult to use these industries for civilian production, which must on the contrary find outlets on the market, and thus respond to the criterion of the minimization of costs at the same quality.

2) On the basis of the previous statement, it can be inferred that the cost for the conversion of the military production is probably unsustainable. The possibility of converting the demand is a more realistic hypothesis. If, for example, the State decided to drastically reduce its expenditure for armaments and increase the expenditure for civilian protection, for the safeguard of the coasts, for the struggle against pollution or to establish task forces against natural and food calamities in the world, sectors such as the shipbuilding, aeronautic and electronic industry would probably find opportunities to achieve a less traumatic conversion from the military to the civilian production. We need only think of Italy and its want of coastal ships, of rescue means, of networks for the sensing in real time of environmental or natural calamities.

These brief indications are given to "subdue" any excessive enthusiasm as regards a professional perspective such as that of converting military industries, which is neither easy nor popular. A useful indication is represented by the draft bill presented by Francesco Rutelli on this subject (ARCHIVE RADICAL PARTY, text No.2385). An important basis for an initiative in such sense is also represented by the motion on conventional non-proliferation, presented at the Chamber of Deputies by all political groups (ARCHIVE RADICAL PARTY, text No.2279), which links the ban of transferring armaments to developing countries to the need for such countries to acquire the technologies necessary for their development.

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