Dr. Khaled Al-Biyari, Saudi Assistant Minister of Defense for Executive Affairs, said the localization of the military industries maximizes the economic impact, noting that the ministry was witnessing rapid development, through the implementation of an ambitious transformation program.
In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Al-Biyari stressed that the Saudi Defense Ministry has made important strides in its institutional transformation through more than 300 initiatives that aim to attain five main objectives of the development program.
They include achieving operational excellence, boosting individual performance, modernizing equipment and weapons, developing the ministry’s organizational performance, improving spending efficiency and supporting the localization of military manufacturing.
Al-Biyari noted that the ministry’s organizational structure was designed in three specialized bodies that carry out the functions of guidance, empowerment, and acquisition, namely, the Directorate for Strategic Affairs, the Directorate of Procurement and Armaments, and the Excellence Services Directorate.
The official explained that the ministry’s work is based on an integrated development program, which was designed under the supervision of Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Crown Prince and Prime Minister, when he assumed the defense portfolio.
He noted that the ministry’s Directorate for Strategic Affairs works to develop policies and strategies through short, medium and long-term plans, while the Directorate of Excellence Services supports the centralization of administrative, technical, financial and technical services across the ministry’s sectors, and the Directorate of Procurement and Armaments focuses on all matters related to procurement.
Al-Biyari told Asharq Al-Awsat that the ministry of Defense has begun restructuring various forces, which include the ground, naval, and air defense forces, following the restructuring of the presidency of the General Staff and the establishment of the joint forces.
“The three directorates include 19 public departments, most of which were established by attracting capabilities from inside and outside the ministry, and all sectors now operate with great integration and through a separation of powers and balance between sectors, which makes the ministry’s organizational structure unique in terms of governance and decision-making,” he stated.
The official continued: “The Ministry works through multiple councils, including a Defense Council headed by Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, the Minister of Defense, and five main specialized bodies, in addition to 37 specialized operational councils.”
Al-Biyari explained that these steps replaced the concept of committees, as work in the ministry became completely institutional.
Localization of military industries
With the launch the ministry’s development program, efforts were focused on the localization of military industries, Al-Biyari said, pointing to the establishment of the General Authority for Military Industries (GAMI), the General Authority for Defense Development, and the Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI).
He emphasized that all work was aimed at achieving the highest level of efficiency and spending within the structure of the national defense system and strengthening national military industries.
He stressed that an important part of the strategy, which was built on specific goals, and which was led by Crown Prince Mohammed, focuses on the importance of exploiting the purchasing capabilities of the Ministry of Defense and other military and security ministries in localizing this industry.
He said: “For this purpose came the establishment of GAMI, SAMI and the General Authority for Defense Development (GADD), at a time when the Ministry and the military and security sectors were a major driver of this system.”
Consolidating the military industries sector is one of the ministry’s strategic goals, Al-Biyari went on to say.
He revealed that the ministry was working with colleagues in GAMI to localize the production of systems and employ Saudi cadres.
“The contracts signed at the World Defense Show, for example, all include industrial participation, whether in manufacturing or local support,” he said of the exhibition that concluded in Riyadh last week.
Al-Biyari explained: “There are two basic goals for this step. The first is to rely on an industry that supports raising the military readiness of our armed forces, and the second goal is the economic impact, as these projects generate jobs and contribute to increasing economic mobility.”
He stressed that the ministry has achieved great successes, especially in current and past projects that focused on industrial participation and localization.
The assistant minister revealed that Saudi industrial companies have started to invest in the military sector.
“We always focus on ensuring that these companies are close to us, so that their work ultimately meets the requirements of the armed forces,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Al-Biyari continued: “We seek to promote the image of the high-quality Saudi product. There are many successful experiences that we saw at the World Defense Show that prove that our Saudi products are comparable to what are manufactured in developed countries.”
The official sees the journey of the development program in the Ministry of Defense as a complete structure, while the ministry proceeds with the construction process.
He stated that with the support of the Saudi leadership, the Ministry of Defense worked on drafting its ten-year plans and budgets, which gives the ministry and the military industry the ability to have clear visions for the future.
He pointed to the importance of the think tanks, which study defense affairs that concern the Kingdom and the region.
“We live in an unstable region, and therefore anticipating the future, with regard to the defense and geopolitical situation, is very important. This has prompted us to establish a center for strategic studies in the field of defense, as an investment by the ministry, because we believe that it is important that plans stem from anticipating the future,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Localization of cadres
Al-Biyari stressed that the success of any system depends on its human resources.
He explained: “The Ministry of Defense is one of the ministries that has invested the most in the human aspect, whether in the military or civil sector.”
He revealed that the ministry boasts the second largest health system in the country, which employs around 65,000 male and female workers.
Al-Biyari added: “In the military system, the ministry has invested a lot in national human cadres, whether in our air, naval, air defense and land forces,” noting that the human element is the basis of success for any system.
Al-Biyari touched on the achievements of the Saudi cadres, saying: “I am proud of the team that is working with us now. There is creativity in every aspect of our work, and we have begun investing in new graduates through the ‘Fakhour’ (Proud) program, with the aim to protect the security of the nation.”
He said around 200 young Saudi men and women were qualified through training and on-the-job programs.
“These young recruits impressed everyone. Two hundred young men and women were chosen from among 140,000 applicants... They are the sons and daughters of the nation. They passed extensive interview procedures, part of which was through artificial intelligence technology, and now they have become an important part of the Ministry of Defense system,” he underlined.