On June 9, 2021, the thermometer reached 30 degrees in the Bay of Cádiz, a hot humid day for an official hearing. Francisco Javier Abajo Merino, Deputy Director of the General Directorate of Armament and Material of the Ministry of Defense, accompanied his immediate superior, Admiral Santiago Ramón González Gómez, in the magazine of the frigates built at the Navantia facilities, destined for the Saudi navy.
It was the last official visit, at least public, made by this Major General of the Army’s logistics leadership. A few days later, on June 18, he retired. And only four months later he was already working for the military industry: the consortium Tess-Defense SA hired him as an advisor.
The revolving door of the high military positions towards the private company does not stop turning. And the protagonist is now the recently retired Major General Francisco Javier Abajo Merino, who has become an advisor to the Tess-Defense SA consortium, according to Infodefensa.com. Tess Defense is not just another company in the sector but is awarded the public contract for the manufacture of the armored VCR 8×8, which has a budget of 2,083 million euros, one of the largest in the history of the Ministry.
Down Merino, a two-star general, it was until the month of July Assistant to the Director of Armament and Material of the Ministry of Defense, department responsible for the contract that benefited the Tess-Defense SA consortium, made up of the companies Sapa Operations SL, Indra Sistemas SA, Escribano Mechanical & Engineering SL, and Santa Bárbara Sistemas SA, the new Abajo Merino patterns. This newspaper has tried without success to obtain the version of these companies about the reasons for the incorporation of this general to the Tess-Defense consortium. Neither Abajo Merino has responded to the message from EL PERIÓDICO DE ESPAÑA.
8×8 VCR ‘Dragon’
The Defense Minister, Margarita Robles, attended in August 2020 the signing of the contract for the manufacture of 348 8X8 wheeled combat vehicles (VCR), called ‘Dragon’, with a duration of ten years. And according to the Defense Minister, it was “a historic milestone” for the modernization of the Army. A contract developed over the years by the DGAM, in which Down Merino served as deputy director.
A position that, despite its organic importance, is not considered a senior position or subject to its legal requirements for compatibility with private activity during the two years after termination. You should not even request authorization from the interest office of the Ministry of Finance as a retiree from the army.
Down Merino He is a high ranking military man and extensive experience in the field of military logistics. Before moving to a private company, he held various positions of responsibility in the Army.
Merino He was deployed in Afghanistan in several missions (2004, 2008, 2009), developing logistical tasks, as head of the Spanish Tactical Group. Subsequently, he was the head of the Army’s Operational Logistics Force for four years (2012-2016).
Brief passage through the reserve
After a brief visit to the reserve, Down with Merino he became deputy director in the General Directorate of Armament and Material (DGAM), entity of the Ministry of Defense responsible for the development of the weapons policy and its execution. In civilian language, it could be translated as the purchasing center of the Army. A very strategic position within the Armed Forces due to its powers and the high budget it manages and the responsibility of preparing the specifications and evaluating the different bidders.
La DGAME has been in charge of the development of the ambitious project of the VCR 8×8 combat vehicle ‘Dragon’, one of the largest contracts in the history of the Spanish Army. The ‘Dragon’, a true mastodon, which in some versions can reach 30 tons, is called to be the standard bearer of Spanish military land transport in this century.
Three versions of the ‘Dragon’
The Armed Forces are expected to have at their disposal in the near future various configurations and three versions of the ‘Dragon’; the basic one for the transport of personnel, one for command post and a third for cavalry exploration.
It is therefore not just any contract. Awarded by negotiated procedure without advertising by be affected “essential interests of national defense”, this acquisition responds to a plan developed over almost a decade and in which Down Merino he has been intimately involved.
As deputy to the Directorate of the DGAM, he directed the tests carried out in August 2020 by the Experimental Brigade of the Legion in Almería, with some of the prototypes developed by the UTE formed by Santa Bárbara Sistemas, Indra and Sapa, companies that are part of Tess-Defense SA, where he has been hired as an advisor.
Controversy with the Israeli Rafael
The hiring of this general is not the only controversy in which Tess-Defense has been involved in relation to the VCR 8×8. A company that was opting for the contract to manufacture the armament tower of this armored vehicle, which accounted for 250 million of the 2,083 total of the contract of the Ministry of Defense, announced its intention to take legal action against the award to the consortium that has employed Abajo Merino. In fact, the first demonstrators of the vehicle were tested by the Legion with this technology installed.
Pac Tecnos, a subsidiary of the Israeli firm Rafael, filed an appeal for reversal before the General Directorate of Armament and Material (DGAM) of the Ministry of Defense. It considers that the award was “contrary to law because the rules have been manifestly and irredeemably violated and principles of the supplier selection procedure and, additionally, the selected 30-millimeter remote towers manifestly fail to comply with the technical requirements demanded in the procedure, putting the program and the safety of the users at risk ”, according to the newspaper ABC.
This company believes that Escribano Mechanical & Engineering “He was invited to participate in the contest because he was a shareholder of Tess-Defence” although fails to meet the technological maturity requirement required”.
“Nothing can be done”
The Ministry of Defense points out to EL PERIÓDICO DE ESPAÑA that this major general has been in retirement since June 18, 2021, therefore, he no longer has military status. Other sources in the Robles Department recall that when the military leaves the Army “if the competent body gives them the compatibility, it is their decision. Nothing can be done”, They defend.
While perhaps the latter, the case of Down Merino it is not the first. the move from high military positions to defense industries has been criticized by Military Associations in recent times. The Old Third Association, qwhich includes some 800 members of the Spanish Armed Forces, issued a statement on June 15 criticizing this practice: “The transition from generals to companies in the defense industry, basically commercial ones, It does not seem ethical or aesthetic to us. It is something that military dignity should never have allowed ”. The Ministry of Finance is preparing a law to regulate the revolving door of officials.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.