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Very clear ministerial decisions

By decision no. 15 619 MA/DMA/CAB of 22 July 1964, the Minister of Defence, Pierre Messmer, created the Centre des hautes études de l'armement (CHEAr). Placed under the senior management of the Ministerial Delegate for Armament (DMA), then General Gaston Lavaud, the mission of this "specialised higher education body" (article 1er) is to "prepare military engineers, senior managers in public administrations and the private sector [...] and officers in the armed forces to assume responsibility for the development and execution of armaments programmes" (article 2). Studies at the school cover "armaments problems, with special emphasis on their technical, economic, financial and social aspects" (article 2).

On the same day, a second decision, No. 15,620 MA/DMA/CAB, was published on the operation and administration of the CHEAr. A general military engineer from an armaments management corps was to head it, assisted by a deputy director and a director of studies with unspecified qualifications. For the 1964 financial year, the Centre drew on the appropriations of the various departments of the Délégation ministérielle pour l'armement (DMA), which would eventually become autonomous, and was required to draw up a list of permanent civilian and military staff by 1 October 1964.

The Centre des Hautes Études de l'Armement provides training for "auditors", the term used in article 2 of the decision of 22 July 1964. Initially, these students were exclusively of French nationality. They can be divided into three distinct groups. Military personnel are selected from among chief military engineers and officers of equivalent rank (lieutenant-colonels and colonels; frigate captains and naval captains). They are appointed by the Minister on the recommendation of the Ministerial Delegate for Armaments. They are joined by "senior civilian and military civil servants from central government departments with an interest in armaments issues", including the quasi-statutory presence of one controller of the armed forces administration or one civil administrator per promotion. Finally, the third group is made up of representatives, engineers or administrators, from the nationalised, semi-public and private sectors with armaments activities. Appointments are made by the Minister for the Armed Forces, after consultation with the minister or supervisory authority to which they report.

However, the drafting of the texts was somewhat hesitant

The natural evolution of the text submitted for the Minister's signature shows a number of adjustments. They are the work of the 1re class of naval artillery (cr) Aubry, specifically responsible for studying the creation of what decision no. 17-292 DMA/CAB of 27 August 1963 calls an "institute". A deputy director and a director of studies were also approached by letter. The deadline for submission of draft regulations and implementing rules is 1 March 1964, "the opening of the first session of the Institute [being] scheduled for some time in 1964".

Engineer General Aubry consulted widely before submitting a voluminous progress report to the delegate on 10 January 1964. He first contacted the authorities at the IHEDN, which was the reference point for the new institute: Army General Gambiez, its Director, who was also the Director of Higher Military Education, the Deputy Inspector General of Administration Ravail, its Deputy Civilian Director, and Naval Administration Comptroller Duval, its Director of Studies. He then turned to the authorities at the Délégation ministérielle pour l'armement responsible for staff training: On the one hand, Engineer General Nardin, who had been tasked by General Lavaud with the study of a College of Advanced Techniques and the organisation of second-level teaching for armament engineers; and on the other, Civil Administrator Marc Robert, Director of the General Administration Department, who was responsible for the overall coherence of the provisions for the future corps of armament engineers and the Centre des Hautes Études de l'Armement respectively. In addition, Louis Armand and Chéradame, the general mining engineer, were in charge of the École Polytechnique, the DMA's main source of military engineers. The central directors were also consulted, including those in charge of "Research and test facilities" (Professor Malavard), "Naval construction and weapons" (Engineer General Gisserot), "Armament design and production" (Engineer General Sorlet), "Aeronautics" (Engineer General Dellus) and "Powder" (Engineer General Tavernier). The same was true of the Inspectors General (respectively Engineers General Deruelle, Bonte and Prévost) and the Directors of the training schools (Engineers General Dutilleul, Marlin, de Valroger and Corbu).

This "all-out" consultation first involved the central bodies of the Ministry of the Armed Forces, such as the Control Directorate (Comptrollers General Crossat and André). But the following were also consulted: the Commissariat au Plan (Jean Ripert), the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, in particular the Institut national de la statistique et des sciences économiques, and the Ministry of Industry (Ingénieurs généraux Bazin and Bellier, Inspector General de Lombares). Also discussed were personalities specialising in economic issues and armaments, some of whom had brilliant careers in public companies (Mr Cristofini, central director of the Société d'études et de réalisations d'engins balistiques - Sereb) and private companies (Mr Dontot, deputy managing director of the Compagnie française Thomson Houston - CFTH).

From this overview, Engineer General Aubry notes first of all the absence of any hostility to the Institut des Hautes Études de l'Armement project. "Leading figures from major government departments and the private sector were very interested in the measures planned to extend the knowledge of our engineers and facilitate their relations with them. They unreservedly approved the project, and in no case did I hear any criticism that would slow down its further development. On the contrary, they always assured me of their support and more often than not I even won the promise of their personal participation or the help of their collaborators", he noted in his progress report to General Lavaud dated 10 January 1964. On the other hand, he noted symmetrically the shortcomings then felt in the training of military engineers by certain central departments of the DMA and, correlatively, the appeasement of armament engineers in their thirties "reassured about their future" by the setting up of the future Centre likely to attract the brightest and best from the École polytechnique.

In this progress report, which is the result of close consultation with the Institut des hautes études de défense nationale (IHEDN) and the Délégation ministérielle pour l'armement's "Personnel" commission, Engineer General Aubry sets out an order of priorities.

In his view, there are five of them. Firstly, through lectures and committee work, auditors were to be given the fullest possible information on the way major companies operated, on French and foreign economic structures, on the place of armaments programmes in the national economy and on the limitations resulting from the current possibilities of science and technology. The aim is also to "develop the ability of students to grasp the big picture by extracting the essential elements and to make rapid use of the information to take the necessary decisions". To achieve this goal, the Centre needs to bring together students from very different backgrounds to "develop working methods that will enable them to compare different points of view and come up with solutions that are sufficiently precise and constructive to be used within the defence industry". To the spirit of synthesis must be associated the ability to "deal with problems in a forward-looking spirit, taking into account the sinuosities of approaches to the future and ensuring them the flexibility of adaptation that the speed of evolution of technical progress makes necessary". More specifically, the auditors must overcome their shortcomings in economic science, "analyse and use general and statistical information, recognise the external factors which in each case have the greatest influence on the course of armaments operations and detect the warning signs of variations in these factors [...] devise or perfect regulatory processes enabling them to react effectively and rapidly to disturbances which could compromise the balance of the programmes".

A working group was set up to look into the various points raised in the report submitted on 10 January 1964 and to complete the preparatory work for the creation of the CHEAr. At its first meeting on 6 February at the Inspection Technique des Constructions et Armes Navales (Technical Inspectorate for Naval Construction and Armaments), it was confirmed that the working hours would be concentrated on four half-days straddling the weekend, so as not to interfere with the auditors' professional activities and to match the rhythm of the IHEDN, with which joint activities were planned. In response to internal questions about the need to create the CHEAr in view of the programme of courses geared towards "business preparation" or "business management", thereby bringing it into line with certain specialised private organisations that already receive armaments engineers or certain courses organised by the technical divisions of the DMA or by the IHEDN, The level of teaching provided at CHEAr is well above that acquired during the above-mentioned courses, and the importance of "breaking down the barriers" between the various players involved in armaments programmes is reaffirmed. Lastly, a consensus was reached with the IHEDN management on the idea of a joint study trip at the beginning of the session, whereas at the end of the session the trip would remain individualised due to the great differences in the centres of interest and insurmountable material difficulties. Following this meeting, a draft decree creating the CHEAr, accompanied by its supporting report and a report presenting it to the President of the Republic, was submitted to the DMA and then to the Minister of the Armed Forces.

This very complete and detailed text, consisting of around ten articles, combines the creation of an Armaments Higher Education Orientation and Development Committee with that of the CHEAr. In addition to two former auditors chosen from the last five classes of the Centre, this council has 15 ex-officio members and 6 appointed members, belonging to the CHEAr, the DMA's inspectorates and major directorates, higher military education, senior civil servants and national employers' federations. The chairman, appointed for a non-renewable three-year term by the Minister of the Armed Forces, is chosen from among the ex officio members, with the exception of the director of the CHEAr.

In a handwritten note, Pierre Messmer indicated that, while he agreed with the principle of the proposed creation, it "should take place within higher military education, in the form of a Centre des hautes études de l'armement (symmetrical to Chem) whose trainees would at the same time attend the IHEDN course". And he goes on to explain his thinking even more clearly, if this were necessary: "Armaments do not exist for their own sake, but for the sake of national defence. It must be integrated into national defence". As a result, from now on the word "Centre" will always appear in place of "Institute". On the other hand, the director of the CHEAr will be appointed by decree in the Council of Ministers on the proposal of the Minister of the Armed Forces.

The second meeting of the working group, held on 15 April 1964, was devoted to the preparation of the work topics to be submitted to the first graduating class, as well as the study of the budgetary proposals for 1965. It enshrined the principle of a close association between the private sector and the civil service through the allocation of management positions and executives in the "Armament", "Economy" and "Enterprise" sections. The Director of the CHEAr is proposed to be Engineer General Aubry, the Director of Studies is proposed to be Engineer General Aubry, the Director of Studies is proposed to be Engineer General Aubry, and the Comptroller of the Administration of the Navy is proposed to be Comptroller of the Administration of the Navy Perrot, with only the Deputy Director to be appointed at a later date "in turn from outside the Ministry of the Armed Forces in the various branches of activity concerned with armaments issues". Appointed for a non-renewable period of three years, the Deputy Director may be a representative of a ministry other than the Ministry of Defence, or a person from the private armaments sector, whose role is to advise the Director "on all matters affecting circles outside the DMA". At the suggestion of the Director General of INSEE, Inspector General of Finance Hubert Davost, a member of the government-guaranteed companies audit mission, has been appointed Deputy Director. The Director of Studies is a member of the Ministry of the Armed Forces and is a controller of the administration of the armed forces, an engineer or a civil administrator.

Based on the financial precedent set by the IHEDN, a draft budget was drawn up, to be allocated to the various chapters of the DMA's central departments included in the common services of the Ministry of Defence budget. The programme for the first class was outlined. Out of 256 hours, including 68 two-hour lectures, 104 hours are shared with the IHEDN and 152 are specific. Adjustments will be made on the basis of experience, in particular the inevitable reduction of the part common to both institutes if the CHEAr "wants to explore the entire programme specifically on armaments".

However, Engineer General Aubry notes that it would be useful to separate the project from the set of measures aimed at overhauling the Délégation ministérielle pour l'armement, submitted for the Minister's consideration, in order to meet the commitment to host the 1er November the first class of CHEAr.

The progress report of 10 January 1964 stated that "the organisation planned for the Institut des Hautes Études de l'Armement should be part of the general framework of reforms currently being examined within the Délégation Ministérielle pour l'Armement, and in particular that concerning the merger of the management bodies". In the memo drafted for Pierre Messmer's attention to submit for his signature the text of the decisions as well as the decrees appointing the director and deputy director, the ministerial delegate for armaments emphasised that the creation of the CHEAr was part of the overall armaments reforms "without there being any real technical dependency". However, even though the texts have been ready for several weeks now, the time required to set up the new Centre is incompressible, so the cumbersome procedure of three decrees countersigned by either the President of the Republic or the Prime Minister has been avoided.

The alternative is therefore between a decree and a decision, both of which are resolutely brief. Choosing not to go through the process of a decree means leaving aside everything that goes beyond the level of a decision, on the one hand, and ignoring all the issues that could anticipate the provisions of the forthcoming decree, on the other. Conversely, it has the advantage of leaving the director of the future Centre a free hand, as the ministerial delegate expressly wanted: "It should be borne in mind that the Institute will necessarily be an ongoing creation built around and by its director. In accordance with the precedent followed for the IHEDN, the initial decree of creation will have to be limited to a few essential points so as to give the director the necessary freedom of action".

Motivations linked to the creation of the Armaments Engineers corps

Paragraph 2 of the decision of 27 August 1963 focuses on improving the professional skills of armaments engineers called upon to perform senior functions. The reasoning behind the creation of the CHEAr refers to the need to adapt to the pace of modern development, which goes beyond the narrow confines of the Ministry of the Armed Forces and France, each stage in the professional careers of military engineers, moving progressively from predominantly technical responsibilities at the start of their careers to problems of organisation, management, planning, accounting and human relations as they progress. By providing them with this knowledge, CHEAr aims to enable them "to assess the industrial possibilities and availabilities of the moment, [to] foresee the industrial, economic and social consequences of their policy and [to] measure the importance of the probable repercussions in the international context". Technically proficient, but until then limited to the DMA alone in the scope of their activity, the engineers were to open up, thanks to CHEAr, to the practice of interministerial cooperation and to knowledge of the capabilities of the nation's public and private sectors. Their ability to summarise, anticipate and adapt flexibly, as well as their capacity to build a precise and constructive compromise solution, are all put to the fore.

As part of a continuous training programme for military engineers, the CHEAr is the highest level. Between the ages of 20 and 25, military engineers graduating from the École polytechnique undergo the essential basic training provided by the Collège des techniques avancées before entering the workforce. Between the ages of 25 and 35, they continue their administrative training through internships and technical retraining at the technical and administrative advanced training centres, when they are not 'on the dole' in the arms industry... before undergoing higher-level training at the CHEAr. Designed to be a turning point in the careers of military engineers, entry to CHEAr gives them access to very senior positions in the design and implementation of weapons programmes, and therefore opens up "new perspectives on activities that penetrate deeply into the financial, economic and social fields and that involve frequent contact with staff, as well as trusting cooperation with numerous organisations outside the DMA". This explains the diversity of the CHEAr's graduating classes, "to facilitate the DMA's future relations with these organisations and to ensure better mutual understanding in a climate of understanding". The hoped-for return on investment is the development of large-scale interdepartmental initiatives involving the CHEAr: the examples of the "armaments accounts" and the compilation of files that can be easily used by the Commissariat général au plan commissions are immediately cited. "It is not the least important part of the work to make clear in the conclusions of the studies the ideas to be spread within the DMA and to be propagated outside through the intermediary of its former auditors".

CHEAr is defined as "a forum for reflection on the place of armaments programmes in the economy of nations and in their scientific and technical development". The decrees of April 1961 brought about a simultaneous regrouping and decompartmentalisation of the various armaments production facilities. As a result of this concentration of the management bodies and the corresponding decentralisation of the means of execution, which implies a reduction in the traditional separation of techniques by army as well as "the fusion of the traditional corps", the engineers called upon to exercise the highest functions will have wider and probably transversal responsibilities compared to their elders. A transition therefore needs to be made between the respective roles of executor and leader, through training that combines exhaustive information and in-depth reflection. This gap is felt at a very high level. General Lavaud asked Engineer General Aubry to take the advice of the DMA's Personnel Committee. In General Lavaud's view, it is important that the "training period at the Institute effectively constitutes a turning point in the career of auditors" belonging to the armaments corps.

In a draft letter from the Minister of the Armed Forces to his counterpart in charge of Finance and Economic Affairs, Pierre Messmer justified the creation of CHEAr by the need to provide higher education designed to prepare certain military engineers "for positions of great responsibility in the armaments activities that will fall to them or in related activities".

CHEAr at the heart of higher military education

The CHEAr, IHEDN and Chem are linked geographically, functionally and educationally. As envisaged by General Lavaud, the eventual location of the CHEAr at the École Militaire combines practical advantages (proximity to the IHEDN and the Chem) and symbolic advantages (aura of the creation of the IHEDN by Admiral Castex): "the old walls steeped in history in which the Haut Enseignement Militaire has always been taught would give the young IHEAr a solid foundation and ensure an excellent start". A naval artillery training school before the Second World War, the premises on rue Sextius-Michel are now home to the CHEAr, with a few reconfigurations of the existing departments at a modest cost. The Laboratoire Central de l'Artillerie Navale provided logistical support for the CHEAr.

IHEDN: an accepted model

The perfectly assumed imitation of the IHEDN model goes as far as the adoption of similar principles and identical study conditions, a unity of teaching location, as well as the deepening of the concepts developed at conferences by making available the resources of a substantial documentation centre.

The decision of 27 August 1963 explicitly tasked Engineer General Aubry with studying "the creation of an Institute for Advanced Armament Studies". In a note to the Minister entitled "Fiche de présentation des projets de décision portant création d'un Institut des hautes études de l'armement", one of the heads of the "General Administration" department of the Délégation ministérielle pour l'armement referred to renewed criticism of the CHEAr. The first, which was in fact a reminder, wanted CHEAr to be designated as an 'Institute' rather than a 'Centre'. Three arguments were put forward. Apart from questions of terminology, the type of teaching provided by a centre - such as Chem - is "partial, organised in a cycle over a limited period of the year". Its working techniques and study regime make the CHEAr more like the IHEDN. A second analogy lies in the variety of origins of the auditors and the foreseeable future presence of foreign auditors "with the express and individual authorisation of the Minister of the Armed Forces". Hence the need for a "free and autonomous organisation, which is not reflected in the title 'Centre', which has a more state-run and administrative ring to it". Finally, to baptise the new organisation by calling it a "Centre" would be to diminish its dimensions... The decision of 22 July 1964 put an end to this pretension. But the symbolic battle was long and hard fought.

Coordinating the activities and delimiting the areas of interest of the two institutes was a major challenge, which was already at the heart of the decision to give Engineer General Aubry the task of studying the creation of an IHEAr. The statutes of the new centre were drawn up ab initio with the full agreement of the director of the IHEDN, Army General Gambiez, and the active participation of the director of studies at the IHEDN in the work of the working group presiding over the creation of the CHEAr. "The interweaving of the two courses was therefore accepted from the outset.

The link with IHEDN aims to "provide IHEAr auditors with the information they need to understand the position of armaments in the country's defence" and to "extend their circle of contacts by providing them with contacts or conversations with auditors from the various disciplines represented at IHEDN". This information includes "the examination of problems directly or indirectly affecting the definition, design and execution of armaments operations in the national or multinational context". In addition to this, CHEAr's armament-specific teaching begins, under the supervision of the ministerial delegate for armament, acting after obtaining the opinion of the "Comité d'orientation et de perfectionnement du haut enseignement armement", a body to be created that has already been mentioned.

During exploratory discussions, a modus vivendi was found between the two organisations at both management and auditor levels. At director level, each director sits ex officio on the Orientation and Development Committee of the other institute (Haut enseignement de défense and Haut enseignement armement). A joint conference of executives from the two institutes draws up the work plan for the sessions concerning the common part of the teaching resulting from the Prime Minister's directives. It therefore harmonises working hours. The inevitable counterpart is that the part of the teaching provided jointly by the two institutes comes under the authority of the Prime Minister, even though the DMA provides the resources in terms of staff and equipment, as well as the funds needed to run the CHEAr. The aim is to constantly compare and harmonise the teaching methods of the two institutes.

At the graduate level, a whole range of programmes are shared: while "general lectures" and "committee work" deal with subjects of interest to the armaments industry, "information sessions corresponding to this work" are planned jointly. Study trips" are also organised jointly. "Effective parallelism will exist between the committees of the two institutes concerned by the subject or subjects relating to armaments problems, the work will be conducted in constant liaison and the final summary will give rise to the drafting of a single joint document".

To improve the mix of personalities making up the various CHEAr and IHEDN committees, the CHEAr auditors are divided among the existing IHEDN committees. Engineer General Aubry asked that the first project to be discussed by the auditors on the committee before the IHEDN trip at the end of November be an arms-related topic. This cross-fertilisation of backgrounds must be carefully managed so that links last beyond the sessions. This cross-fertilisation is achieved by constantly recomposing the committees after each study or exercise "so that one auditor can work in turn with all the others and act at least once during the session as committee chairman or secretary".

In fact, more than from the IHEDN hierarchy, resistance came from two different and complementary quarters. On the one hand, the training managers, unwilling to take the existence of the CHEAr into account when defining common study subjects, denied future auditors the qualification required to take part in IHEDN work relating to armaments because they did not follow the full IHEDN curriculum. On the other hand, André Tranie, President of the Association of Former IHEDN Executives and Auditors and a member of the Orientation and Development Committee for Higher Defence Education, expresses "his fears that in the future the IHEAr will definitively divert military engineers and civil engineers from the private armaments sector from the IHEDN". He believes that the alchemy of the IHEDN, which provides "a common language for people from very different backgrounds called upon to play a role, whatever that may be, in defence", is relevant. With its generalist defence education, the IHEDN is more likely to complement specific training provided elsewhere in higher military education (as in the case of Chem) or in another ministry. Attending only the work of committees specifically focused on armaments issues without subsequently considering attending a full IHEDN session would be sterile for CHEAr auditors and a source of complications for IHEDN executives, and would set a dangerous precedent for the latter, "image of defence unity, means of expression and cement of this unity". André Tranie is therefore in favour of allowing CHEAr auditors to follow an IHEDN session... and therefore of "limiting the symbiosis between IHEAr and IHEDN".

While he felt that the fears expressed about military engineers were well-founded, Engineer General Aubry had more reservations about CHEAr's attractiveness to engineers from the private armaments sector, of whom there were very few at IHEDN. On 15 April, Naval Comptroller Perrot suggested that CHEAr should become a prerequisite for military engineers to become IHEDN auditors, ten years after their time on rue Sextius-Michel.

Le Chem, neighbour and partner

On 18 August 1964, the Chief of Staff of the French Armed Forces, General Ailleret, gave the CHEAr a mixed appraisal.

Firstly, he contests the method by which he was not involved in the deliberations. "Responsible for higher military education and assisting the Minister for the general organisation of the Armed Forces, I should have been kept informed of the creation of this Centre and taken part in the work that led to it". This was a knee-jerk reaction to the fact that the Centre, which reports to the Ministerial Delegate for Armaments, is beyond his control, just as the IHEDN, which reports jointly to the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Armed Forces, is already partly beyond his control. In the minds of its initiators, CHEAr auditors "follow the part of the IHEDN teaching that relates to the common range of both IHEDN and IHEAr teaching" and come under the authority of the Minister of the Armed Forces through the DMA, while the Chem "follows all the IHEDN teaching" and comes under the authority of the Minister of the Armed Forces through the Director of Higher Military Education and the Cema, and the IHEDN comes under the authority of the SGDN and the Prime Minister. General Ailleret is therefore calling for the appointment of an ex-officio member in the person of the General Director of Higher Military Education and a military officer who is a Chem instructor within the Directorate of Studies. "This harmonisation of programmes would, among other advantages, place officers from both the Chem and the CHEAr on the same level.

Then, in the name of the "current errors", rather than allocating two places per army, General Ailleret wanted the number of "officers" in each army to be taken into account, i.e. three representatives from the Army, one from the Navy and two from the Air Force. The Minister for the Armed Forces decided in favour of General Ailleret.

Part of a file sent to the Director of Higher Military Education in June 1964, the following table illustrates the borrowings made by CHEAr from its counterparts.

Teaching tailored to the audience

Initially, the teaching planned focused on the "economic, financial and social aspects", and even on the industrial and administrative dimensions, but did not include the study of the technical aspects of armaments problems.

The second aspect is the opportunity for auditors to develop their network of professional contacts 'by extending it to the best elements of the major sectors of national activity'. The proximity of the IHEDN is particularly beneficial for the CHEAr in this respect, and the teaching given in the armaments sector therefore overlaps with that of the IHEDN. It is in the interests of both institutes to work in close symbiosis.

Similarly, there is an age requirement (minimum age 35 and maximum age 45 on 1 January).er January of the year of appointment) present in the preparatory documents, the equivalent of which is not to be found in the IHEDN model statutes in force at the time, explicitly disappears from the ministerial decision. This is an important issue: after 12 to 15 years in the job, former chief engineers hold positions of responsibility. Having given satisfaction, they have reached a turning point in their careers where they need to be motivated for the future. The age difference with the civilian auditors of the IHEDN, almost 10 years more for the latter, is considered secondary in view of the maturity shown by the youngest civilian auditors of the IHEDN. The concern is quite different with the CHEAr military auditors who are called upon to take part in debates with Chem officers, who are systematically older...

The attrition over 15 years - on the order of 50 % - of graduates from the École polytechnique into the armaments corps, combined with the unsuitability for senior posts of some (1/6e) and the pursuit of a career in technical services for others (1/6e), results in an evaluation of nearly 15 places for military engineers within the CHEAr. Six auditors from administrations other than that of the Ministry of the Armed Forces, six engineering auditors from the major departments of public or private companies and six officers from the armed forces complete the intake. The inclusion of foreign auditors, which would have been desirable, has been postponed: "this delay gives us time to study the special arrangements to be made for foreigners, since they in particular will not be able to gain access to the IHEDN".

Auditors continue to be paid by their respective companies or administrations for the duration of the sessions. The costs of running the Centre (study trips and visits) are covered by the "equipment and operations" section of the armed forces budget.

The Centre is divided into three sections: "Business", "Economy" and "Armament", each headed by a section head assisted by one or more deputies, all part-time, whose role is to "prepare the subjects for study, compile the information files that are given to the auditors, lead the discussions, analyse the reports and draw up constructive summaries". At the request of the DMA, the managers of the 'Economy' and 'Business' sections are proposed by the Conseil national du patronat français (CNPF), the national employers' federations of the arms industries, the trade unions (Confédération générale des cadres - CGC) or by the government departments to which they report. In the end, a certain parity was established. The managers in the 'Armement' section are military engineers: the head of the section is usually a general engineer, and the deputies are chief engineers.

1964-1965: the 1re CHEAr session

A well-defined architecture

On 20 October 1964, Engineer General Aubry sent the DMA a preliminary draft programme for the first session of CHEAr. In the general balance between the sixty information lectures (interactive in their operation) of two hours each and the time for reflection estimated at one hundred and twenty hours, the visits to installations and the trips abroad, by the concerted mixing of auditors from different backgrounds between three committees of twelve members renewed for each of the subjects dealt with, "the teaching methods are inspired more particularly by those which have proved their worth at the IHEDN".

The thirty general lectures are given jointly by the IHEDN and the CHEAr. Similarly, the eight lectures and all the work relating to the two committee subjects, which clarify the role of armaments in defence and show the different aspects of its action, are conducted jointly. The same applies to factory visits. On the other hand, among the activities reserved for armaments engineers only are eighteen lectures on the general characteristics, legal forms, structures and life of large public or private companies. Together with engineers from private sector companies, there is a first series of lectures on the state of economic science and technology, a second on the economic structure of France and the major developed countries, a third on major weapons programmes, a fourth on the implementation of weapons programmes in France, and a final one on weapons production in the multi-national context, all of which are supplemented by visits to factories in the main industrial sectors. Year in, year out, this represents between two hundred and fifty and two hundred and ninety hours of actual work.

Teaching is divided into six groups of questions:

  • the structure, operation and management of large companies,
  • the current state of economic science and technology (overviews),
  • the economic structure of France and the major developed countries,
  • arms programmes in the French economy,
  • the implementation of armaments programmes in France,
  • arms production within a multinational framework.

The teaching topics are subject to change as and when required by the authorities. From the outset, the subjects for committee work were based on data supplied by the DMA's technical departments and led the auditors to make suggestions for standardising methods within the DMA, or even to become aware of methods for limiting the impact of external factors likely to disrupt the progress of such a programme. For example, in February 1965, when consulted by Engineer General Aubry, Engineer General René Ravaud, head of the DMA's "Development Plans" department, suggested two topics for study: "Supervision of the armaments industry" and "Armaments exports". The DMA's Director of Research and Test Facilities asked that the programme include lectures and presentations on ergonomics.

A not unimportant detail: in order not to penalise the auditors in their positions of responsibility, both in private companies and in central administrations, and so that their superiors do not see this as a pretext for opposing their participation in the work of the CHEAr, the sessions take place on Saturday and Tuesday mornings, as well as all day Mondays, for eight months (from 1 January to 31 December).er November to 30 June). In principle, Monday afternoons are reserved for visits to industrial centres, where the rule is still to be at the level of the major directors and "to show only the most original installations in the workshops and departments".

The case of "provincial" auditors is considered on the basis of an alternative: either limit yourself to a specific region each year and organise a weekly logistical air link, or retain only auditors from Paris and the Paris region in the first year while waiting to solve the problem, perhaps by creating regional sessions.

Great moments, much appreciated

Under these conditions, the Centre can be opened on 1 November 1964, as provided for in the directives of 27 August 1963.

Before the highest military authorities and in the presence of numerous civilian personalities representing the major State administrations and private companies, General Lavaud delivered the opening address of the first session on 6 November 1964 at rue Sextius-Michel, in front of thirty-six listeners gathered on the balcony of the amphitheatre and ninety distinguished guests in the audience. He saw the creation of CHEAr as a direct result of the reforms of April 1961 and as a mirror image of the activities of Chem and IHEDN: "CHEAr thus appears to be the indispensable complement to Chem, where essential concepts concerning the use of military forces were taught and developed. CHEAr's mission is to go into greater depth in an area already covered by IHEDN, albeit in a more comprehensive way. In this way, engineers who have benefited from the work carried out at CHEAr will be better prepared to follow the work of IHEDN in the future. In his inaugural lecture, Louis Armand, one of the founding fathers of the post-Second World War French industrial revival, emphasised the consequences and changes brought about by recent and rapid technological developments for the hitherto traditional practices of designing and implementing armaments programmes.

The class attended its first lectures at 9am on Saturday 7 November 1964. The four subjects studied by the first graduating class of the Centre des Hautes Études de l'Armement are fairly indicative of the needs of the Délégation Ministérielle pour l'Armement in 1964-1965. In each case, students were provided with a substantial documentary file.

The subject is the state of the French armaments industry. In the orientation note, the CHEAr studies department noted that the aim was "to give the auditors an overview of the way in which armaments programmes are carried out in France, so that they can make a sound judgement on the principle of the current organisation and its desirable development". The second theme is industrial research and armaments. The aim is to "show to what extent and by what means industry can participate, with the best return, in the research effort relating to armaments". The components of a research policy, the desirable evolution of funding methods (particularly state funding), the influence of regulations on patents and licences, coordination and exchanges with industrial research abroad, industrial development, the autonomy of French companies, etc. and the protection of secrecy must be highlighted. Third theme for study: arms expenditure and the economic and social development plan. The challenge is twofold: "the various aspects of the French plans, and especially the conditions for preparing the 5e Plan", which began in 1965. Finally, the Common Market and armaments are the last theme of study. The aim is to compare the reality of 'flourishing' armaments programmes with the ambiguous texts of the Community. A joint subject with the IHEDN is nuclear weapons and the French economy.

The study is being conducted in two phases. The first phase consists of five two-hour committee sessions spaced at least a week apart, and is supplemented from the second week onwards by three information conferences given by specialists. At the end of this first phase, each committee submits a report to the Director of Studies. The second phase comprises two plenary sessions. During the first session, each of the three chairmen presents the thesis defended by his or her committee to the class as a whole, followed by a debate led by the Director of Studies on the points of disagreement. The Director of Studies then draws up a provisional summary, which is circulated to all the auditors, who are invited to make their comments known before the second plenary session, where they will be discussed with a view to drawing up the final summary.

In addition, each of the six main parts of the syllabus includes three general information lectures and two different types of exercise. These may be simple applications involving the use of general information or statistical elements taken from public summaries of figures or from the DMA's technical departments; the exercise then lasts the time of a working session in committee. The exercise may also involve concrete examples of problems dealt with at the level of a major director and leading to reasoned positions being taken by the committees; in this case, the exercise lasts two committee working sessions and ends with the drafting of instructions, which are immediately discussed in plenary sessions in the presence of the Research Department.

As the course was spread over twenty-four weeks and the visits corresponded to each Monday afternoon (or the whole day of the Monday if necessary), Engineer General Aubry proposed dividing all the visits into two groups: twelve visits to public or semi-public service test centres and twelve visits to industrial complexes in the private armaments sector. The aim was "to inform the auditors about the main problems facing the major directors, the difficulties involved in carrying out the operations of the major armaments programmes, the developments that the companies were planning to give to some of their factories, and their general views of the future, by showing only the most original installations in the workshops and departments". At the suggestion of the representatives of the CNPF and the industrial federations on the CHEAr working group, the first CHEAr class visited industrial sites at Renault in Flins, the Centre d'études nucléaires in Saclay and the établissement pilote des véhicules blindés in Satory.

The class's 'short' study trip took place from 29 November to 6 December 1964 in the Federal Republic of Germany, in the company of IHEDN auditors. As for the 'big' trip, it took place for the CHEAr alone from 25 May to 15 June 1965 in the United States. Each of the four committees dealt with a different and complementary aspect of American power: industrial organisation, State-industry relations, research and development and human problems. However, the sites visited on 26 May and 11 June 1965 included the Vandenberg Missile Test and Launch Centre in California, with assembly and maintenance facilities for the Titan and Minuteman rockets, and the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company in Virginia, which specialised in the construction of warships, aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines. A visit to the Industrial College of the Armed Forces (Icaf) "whose mission, on a different scale, is similar to that of CHEAr" is planned by the CHEAr working group in Washington. Like the four summary reports resulting from the work of the class auditors' committees, the report on this trip was widely circulated to the military authorities and the major departments of the Délégation ministérielle pour l'armement (French ministerial delegation for armaments).

The closing of the first CHEAr session took place on Saturday 26 June 1965 under the chairmanship of the director of the 'General Administration' department, representing the ministerial delegate for armaments. Lasting no more than an hour, it was marked by four stages that were systematically repeated in subsequent classes. Firstly, the diplomas are awarded to each student. The Director of Studies then outlined the Centre's various activities, placing them in the context of the programme announced in November 1964 by General Lavaud. He was followed by an auditor who presented the auditors' assessment of these activities and gave their suggestions for the future. Finally, the Director gave a short speech.

 From 1965 to 1983: a cenacle relaying the word of the DMA

More conferences, visits and study trips...

In the twenty years since its creation, the operating structure of the Centre des Hautes Études de l'Armement has changed only marginally. The principle of bringing together a group of students from different backgrounds, but united by their interest in armaments issues, to work for nine months on predefined study topics, alternating lectures in the Lacoste or Vallières lecture theatres at the École Militaire with visits to public or private companies and two study trips, remained unchanged for the first eighteen students.

The five subjects proposed to the auditors of the second class (1965-1966) concerned French industry in the face of international competition, research financed by the Ministry of the Armed Forces, State-Industry relations in the field of armaments production, industrial preparation for the various conflict situations and the relations between energy policy and national defence, jointly with the auditors of the IHEDN. The third course (1966-1967) looked at international cooperation in the field of armaments, the training of scientific and technical staff, the mission of arsenals and French investment policy, in conjunction with IHEDN auditors.

The speakers we heard were often of a very high calibre, and the discussion time in the Aubry room following the lecture in Lacoste was very fruitful. In 1968-1969, for example, the lectures given by the 'Armement' section included a succession of high-profile generals (Gallois, Valentin, Faugère), politicians (Alexandre Sanguinetti), armaments engineers (Ravaud, Bonte) and civil administrators (Marc Robert). The ten speakers in the "Business" section included CEOs Roux, Pincson and Rousselier. The 'Economy' section featured nine speakers, including François Ceyrac and Jean Ripert.

... but also role-playing

From the first year onwards, simulation games of 'programme management' are organised, in which auditors are invited by the Director of Studies to be both active participants in the games and critics of them in all their aspects. Questions are asked and avenues for reflection are mapped out. What are the team's objectives? What strategy should be adopted to give the team the best chance of achieving these objectives? What can we expect from other teams? Should the original objectives be called into question? What tactics are available to gather information, influence the other teams, find out about their concerns, etc.? What are the effects of the final decision and what part do you feel you played in it? Which of the actions you took was the best? The worst?

La 11e promotion tested a programme simulation game model produced by the Centre de formation supérieure au management (CFSM). Illustrating the interactions between the various functions involved in managing an organisation, the aim of this simulated management game is to combine variables relating to costs, performance, deadlines and the risks associated with options in terms of technology and industrial progress, with the order of magnitude of the financial and temporal consequences of the decisions taken. Assuming the Anglo-Saxon influence on this managerial dimension of the teaching provided, the CHEAr authorities are interested firstly in the alternatives and choices involving decisions on armaments, then in the opposing interests (and their settlements) between stakeholders and finally in problem-solving and decision-making under risk. Three teams assume the respective roles of the DMA staff and industrialists, who "each individually or jointly have to make decisions on an indeterminate weapon system consisting of a delivery vehicle, propulsion and control system" during three phases in the life of the programme: weapon system specifications, studies and design, with the drafting of DMA staff programme sheets and the conclusion of design contracts between the DMA and industry; then prototype manufacture and testing, with budget and schedule adjustments on both sides, changes to specifications and resource allocations; finally industrialisation, pre-production and manufacture, with budgets and schedules for industrialisation, the DMA and industry; and finally the development of the weapon system. timing deployment, etc. All the data is entered on computer and the game is played over three half-days, followed by a half-day wrap-up session.

A larger audience and support from the hierarchy

However, the perception of CHEAr within the DMA, which became the Délégation générale pour l'armement (DGA) on 5 February 1977, has changed significantly.

First of all, Engineer General Aubry, the founder of CHEAr, is also the creator of the liaison and information bulletin Armament in October 1968 and chaired the steering committee until December 1976 (no. 43). In the early years, future directors of the Centre such as Chief Engineers Assens and Crémieux, as well as executives such as Naval Superintendent Perrot, were present. Under the direction of General Engineer Aubry, CHEAr's activities were given pride of place in the 'Armaments Activities' columns, as well as in the inclusion of numerous lectures given to the audience in the various issues of the bulletin: 'Industrial civilisation and youth movements' by Raymond Aron on 23 October 1968, 'The international trade crisis' by Jacques Plassard in 1976, and 'Prospects for human training at the end of the century' by State Councillor Schmeltz in June 1980. Study trips, both large and small, were also the subject of precise and regular reports: an in-depth trip to Brazil and Guyana for the 1968-1969 graduating class, India and Pakistan in May 1970, Canada in May 1971, Japan in May 1972, and so on.

Armament is, in the truest sense of the word, the only real newsletter common to the entire delegation: this was the conclusion of a study commissioned by the publication's management in 1975. It transcribes in extenso the opening ceremony of each national session of the CHEAr during which, in the presence of the ministry's highest military and civilian authorities and under the guidance of a very high-level speaker, the DMA transmits a certain number of watchwords to all personnel. In this sense, the opening of the CHEAr session in the École Militaire (Vallières amphitheatre) became an important moment in the life of the Delegation. The Minister (Pierre Messmer, Jacques Soufflet, Yvon Bourges) was often present, if not the Secretary of State for Defence (Georges Lemoine in 1982). On two occasions, during an inspection of the higher education centres located at the École Militaire, the President of the Republic Georges Pompidou visited the CHEAr premises and attended a meeting of the Centre's committee, in March 1971 and March 1972. The Centre therefore attracted a great deal of attention.

The delegates, Jean-Laurens Delpech and Henri Martre, got into the habit of coming to talk to the auditors of the different classes and submitting to a game of questions and answers. This was an opportunity for the hierarchy of the DMA, then the DGA, between 1975 and 1983, to put across a number of strong ideas that were relayed in the columns of the Armament. However, this habit is gradually being lost.

This relay role should be seen in the context of another change in the perception of the CHEAr's role within the Delegation. Up until 1973, the Personnel and General Administration Department (DPAG) saw a move to the Centre as a possible stage in a continuing education course for military engineers under the heading of 'Management and Direction'. In this sense, the Centre was seen as faithful to its original mission inherited from the ministerial decisions of July 1964. From 1973 onwards, it was no longer considered as such by the DPAG, to which it was administratively answerable, and disappeared from this summary table of training courses, replaced by a management course for DMA executives outsourced to a private organisation. The structures of the courses remain identical. We will not venture to give a definitive meaning to this measure, which tends to make CHEAr less of a practical training centre than a cenacle, or even an academy or institute.

A determined openness to foreign markets

Since 1964, the CHEAr has fulfilled its role of training armaments managers, officers and representatives of civil society, in accordance with the principles defined when it was founded. This orientation was confirmed during the eighties and nineties, but its purely national character faded in several ways.

The first international session was created in 1988-1989, the Session européenne des responsables d'armement (Sera). Reporting to the Independent European Programme Group (Geip), which became the Western European Armaments Group (Gaeo) in 1992, it brought together the European NATO member states. It provided a four-week training course for some forty senior civil servants from the countries concerned, including three weeks in France and one in another European country. Its board of studies, chaired by the director of CHEAr, included several foreign representatives, most of whom were general officers or civil servants of equivalent level. It was based on the 'CHEAr method', with lectures, committee work and visits to military sites and defence companies. As well as providing high-level training, it was (and remains) a showcase for the French defence industry. Visits to the French defence industry provided an opportunity to showcase achievements that aroused the interest, and sometimes the admiration, of European officials who were not always aware of France's high-tech successes. At the first session, one of the auditors was even the Dutch National Armaments Director himself.

In 2014, the Sera will be holding its twenty-sixth session.

In 1990, the Session méditerranéenne des hautes études de l'armement (SMHEAr) was created, in collaboration with the Fondation méditerranéenne des études stratégiques (FMES). The exclusively Parisian nature of the CHEAr seemed out of step with the geographical distribution of the French armaments industry, which is widely spread across the Centre with Bourges and Roanne, the South-East with Cannes and Toulon, the South-West with Toulouse, Bordeaux and Tarbes, and the West with Rennes, Indret, Brest and Cherbourg. Based in Toulon, it has recruited extensively in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region, then in neighbouring regions, at the rate of two days a month for an academic year. Although it was administratively independent of CHEAr, as it was part of a foundation, like Sera it adhered to the principles of the CHEAr method described above. Focusing on its natural environment, it organised visits for its auditors to the south of France, as well as to Italy and Spain, and offered them subjects for study which were also oriented towards the Mediterranean area: relations between the three European countries of the western Mediterranean, or relations between the countries of the European and African shores of the Mediterranean. It has received several foreign auditors from the Mediterranean basin, including Moroccan auditors and an Italian auditor. In 2014, it held its twenty-fourth session. However, other regional sessions have not been set up due to a lack of response from local authorities.

But the 1980s and 1990s were also the period of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the disappearance of the USSR and the transformation of Eastern Europe as a whole, a transformation that was to lead to the integration of the 'Eastern countries' into the European Union and NATO. In 1993, at the express request of the Délégation générale pour l'armement (French Defence Procurement Agency), the CHEAr set up a session modelled on the Sera, which for three weeks brought together officials from the countries of Central, Eastern and Balkan Europe, hence its name: Secob. A session exclusively for CIS leaders was also organised at the same time.

The national session itself became progressively more international with the arrival of one, and then several, foreign auditors, who followed its entire curriculum. The first of these auditors, Peter Lidgitt, was British. He has been followed by European auditors of various nationalities, notably German and Italian, and one American auditor each year. A Frenchman also attends the Dwight D. Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy (formerly Icaf) at the National Defense University in Washington every year.

Geographic and political diversification

During this same period of the eighties and nineties, from 1983 to 1996 to be precise, a shift towards strategic thinking began to emerge; the CHEAr began to take part in national debates on armaments and defence.

Participation in strategic thinking has taken the form of new activities in addition to the lectures given to auditors, which had already been one of the aims of the CHEAr since its creation. It appeared, and has since been confirmed, that there was less need for training in economics. On the other hand, the choice of weapons programmes was increasingly influenced by strategic factors, which had been changing rapidly since the end of the Cold War. There was a growing awareness that the world was changing and that this would have repercussions, including for the weapons industry.

This participation took many forms, starting with conferences organised for audiences other than members of the national sessions. Initially, these were conferences open to all DGA staff. This was followed by seminars and dinner debates attended by senior officials from all walks of life with an interest in armaments issues. Speakers at the time included André Bénard, Chairman of Eurotunnel, Louis Gallois, Chairman of Aérospatiale, Hugues de L'Estoile, former Director of International Affairs at DGA, Jean-Michel Boucheron, Chairman of the Defence Committee of the French National Assembly, and Pierre Lellouche, politician and strategic analyst.


The conferences were attended by engineers and managers whose work involved armaments-related subjects, but who were generally far removed from the ins and outs of these subjects in their day-to-day work. They represented a high level of continuing education that previously had no equivalent at DGA. The motivation of the participants was commensurate with the timetable chosen: 12.30-1.30 p.m. in the Aubry room at CHEAr, once a month.

Seminars These two- or three-day seminars were organised by the Centre d'étude et de prospective stratégique (Ceps). They were aimed primarily at DGA managers keen to understand the issues at stake in their activities.

Dinner debates The CHEAr also used to bring together senior executives from the DGA, the Armed Forces and the armaments industry around speakers chosen by the CHEAr. The CHEAr offered them the opportunity to exchange views on defence and armaments in an atmosphere freer than public debates and broader than private meetings.

The speakers could be senior civil servants from the Ministry of Defence (officers, engineers, inspectors, civil administrators), politicians (former ministers, members of parliament with a particular interest in defence), executives from the arms industry or related industries, analysts specialising in defence-related affairs.

The idea gradually emerged that the CHEAr's activities were leading to the creation, within the environment of the DGA and the armaments industry, of a capacity for reflection on defence problems and, more specifically, armaments problems, leading to the constitution of a veritable "defence industry". think tank whose work deserved to be formatted and disseminated.

This formattinghis was done within the framework of the Research and Reflection Groups (GRR) which generally met for one to two years, at a rate of about one meeting per month, and resulted in a report published by the CHEAr.

GRR topics could be strategic, such as "The foreseeable consequences of the double-zero option", or focused on a particular armaments issue, such as "The chemical threat" or "Controlling the seas in the twenty-first century". They could also have a horizontal theme, such as "Arms exports" or, well before 11 September 2001, "The terrorist threat". These GRRs are at the origin of the AACHEAr's Groupe de réflexion de l'Association des auditeurs et cadres des hautes études de l'armement (Graa). They are still in operation in 2014 and regularly prepare the "Entretiens armement et sécurité" (EAS), which have been held in Paris every two years for the past twenty years, and at which this document was published in 2014. The subjects and group chairmen were chosen by the CHEAr director with the help of the Studies Council, which drew on the diverse experience of its members, and group members were then co-opted.

Their distribution has been published by CHEAr, including Les Cahiers du CHEAr, which broadcast the best lectures given to listeners (first issue in December 1985).

The organisation of colloquia, held in the amphitheatres of the École Militaire or in external conference halls such as the Senate or the Palais des Congrès, has characterised this participation in public debate since 1989.

1996-2010: a renewed CHEAr

The reform of the Délégation générale pour l'armement initiated in March 1996 by the new Délégué général, Jean-Yves Helmer, was the subject of the decree of 17 January 1997 and the implementing order of 10 March of the same year.

A major structural reform, it radically transformed the organisation by directorates corresponding to the different armed services, in place since the creation of the DMA in 1961, and created, around CHEAr, a larger entity entrusted to a senior engineer general, Gérard La Rosa, previously director of the Directorate of Research and Technical Studies (DRET), which the reform had just done away with. In the vernacular, this became known as the 'new CHEAr' or the 'grand CHEAr'. This description was justified by the increase in staff numbers compared with the previous period. In August 2001, the number of employees planned for the end of the year was 50 for Paris and 98 for Cedocar at its Angoulême site. By comparison, in 1976 CHEAr had only 14 employees.

Article 30 of the decree of 17 January 1997 stipulated that

"The mission of the Centre des Hautes Études de l'Armement is to prepare military and civilian staff working for the Délégation Générale pour l'Armement for their responsibilities in armaments programmes, as well as officers and senior executives from public administrations and the private sector involved in armaments activities.

Article 2 of the decree of 10 March of the same year stipulated that "The Centre des Hautes Études de l'Armement comprises :

  • département des hautes études de l'armement,
  • the specialised higher education department,
  • the armament publications department,
  • the Outreach and External Studies Department,
  • the Armaments History Department".

Very quickly, CHEAr added new training courses and technical or strategic reflection activities, whose fate deserves to be examined separately. These activities are presented according to the distribution of CHEAr's departments, even if the boundaries between departments have certainly changed over time.