A Statement of the Undersecretary of State for Defence on MUOS


On 19 June 2014, the Undersecretary of State for Defence, Mr. Gioacchino Alfano, expressed the position of the Government on the project concerning the realization of the MUOS communication system in Niscemi, Sicily. The Minister of Defence had previously intervened, at that time before the Chamber of Deputies, on the same issues. In his statement, the Undersecretary highlighted that the MUOS project finds its foundation directly in the NATO treaties and subsequent agreements intervening thereon.

He stated:

The delicacy of the issue at stake necessitates an analysis of the international treaties that regulate the military alliance between Italy and the United States.

The two countries are bound by the North Atlantic Treaty, signed in Washington on 4 April 1949 and ratified on 1 of August of the same year. This treaty stipulates, inter alia, an obligation for the parties of mutual assistance in order to maintain and develop the “individual and collective capacity to resist [an] armed attack”. This is clearly a purely defensive obligation of assistance. In order to implement the alliance agreement, NATO was established. The countries that have joined the organisation have concluded a specific treaty that regulates the legal status of armed forces hosted in another country. This is the Agreement between the Parties to the North Atlantic Treaty regarding the Status of their Forces, also known as NATO-SOFA, which has been signed in London on 19 June 1951 and ratified on 30 November 1955.

Concerning bilateral relations, Italy and the US have also concluded an intergovernmental agreement to regulate the legal status of the allied bases established within the Italian territory, also known as BIA, signed in Rome on 20 October 1954.

As specified in the Treaty preamble, the existence of allied bases is grounded on, justified by and aimed at the implementation of the abovementioned principle of mutual military assistance under Article 3 of the same Treaty. Therefore, this does not serve American needs only.

BIA is still a confidential document. In 1995, BIA has been complemented by another technical agreement which is not confidential and is also known as Shell Agreement, signed in Rome on 2 February 1995. Article 1 of this memorandum states that collaboration for the purposes of common defence should take place at bilateral level and within the constraints of the NATO Treaty.

Given these premises, as for international agreements, it should be highlighted that the communication system in Niscemi, from the perspective of operation purposes, is not exclusively an American installation, but also an installation of the allies. This project is regulated by BIA, which is grounded both on Article 3 of the North Atlantic Treaty and on the Shell Agreement which in turn, in its Article 1, confirms the obligation to ensure bilateral military cooperation between Italy and the US in the framework of the broader principle of mutual assistance among NATO countries.

[…] The Shell Agreement reiterates and confirms the will to act in accordance with the Treaties and bilateral agreements, including the bilateral agreement between Italy and the US, concluded on 20 October 1954.

In accordance with the abovementioned treaty sources of international law, Decree No. 170 of the President of the Republic of 19 April 2005, titled “Regulation concerning the military activities of the Corps of engineers (Genio militare), in accordance with Article 3, paragraph 7-bis of Law No. 19 of 11 February 1994 reads as follows: the realization of infrastructures on the national territory that are financed by allied countries is regulated by specific memorandums of understanding. The memorandums that are referred to are the BIA and the Shell Agreement.

[…] It is therefore clear that MUOS is an installation of primary strategic interest also for the Italian armed forces.

[…] Defence needs other than war needs [are] those that are aimed to ensure the external and internal security of the State […].

The Italian version of the statement can be found at:


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