This paper asks: to what extent can a dedicated or special committee with access to classified information empower parliaments to oversee major defence procurement decisions? These decisions often involve a mixture of political, military, economic and societal interests. Particularly after episodes of contestation or controversy, questions tend to arise about how to empower parliaments. The central argument in this paper is that being institutionally empowered and incentivised does not guarantee rigorous oversight. The availability of expertise is an oft-ignored factor in studies of parliamentary oversight. An analysis of oversight behaviour by the Belgian Federal Parliament during the acquisition of new fighter jets (2015–2018) shows that members of parliament also need to be capable of mobilising the necessary expertise in order to translate technical information in such a way that it allows them to influence decision-making, which is often executive-dominated. In this way, this paper contributes to managing expectations about the capacity of parliaments to cope with complex military problems.
- defence procurement
- Defence procurement