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As With the Rest of the World, Europe and NATO Are Changing

September 2010
By Kent R. Schneider, SIGNAL Magazine

The fundamental nature of warfare has changed. Asymmetric warfare has become the prominent threat. Non-state actors, often difficult to identify, have become the primary warfighters in many cases. The cyber domain has been recognized as one of the most dangerous and potentially harmful warfighting domains. And, defense and security budgets are strained by a troubled global economy. Does this sound familiar? It is the environment no matter where you sit on this globe.

Nowhere is more change occurring in response to this environment than in Europe and NATO specifically. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has led a strategic review of the NATO charter and the direction of the alliance. This has generated a new set of proposed governance documents for the alliance and a proposed reorganization of its headquarters. All of this is being staffed within NATO now, and it will be brought to a vote at the NATO summit to be held in Lisbon, Portugal, in November. As an example of the commitment to change, a new division, formed to deal with a growing range of nontraditional risks and challenges, has been created within the NATO International Staff: the Emerging Security Challenges Division. This new division began work last month and will focus on terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, cyberdefense and energy security.

This is just the beginning of change. In June of this year, the secretary general published a document titled “NATO Reform—Command Structure and Agency Reform.” In this document, the secretary general lays out alternatives for command restructuring and agency consolidation. At the end of the 1980s, the NATO command structure included 24,500 people in 37 headquarters. This was a fairly static Cold War structure. Today, NATO has 13,200 personnel in 12 headquarters. NATO currently has live operational missions; this was not the case in the 1980s. The proposals for restructuring range from a total of 7,500 to 9,500 personnel and from two to three headquarters. The objective would be a smaller, more agile force structure that the member nations can sustain and that meets most of the future operational requirements of the alliance.

Similarly, the NATO agency reform looks at the 14 agencies that exist today. It proposes consolidation and streamlining to three agencies centered on the primary programmatic areas the agencies are intended to accomplish: procurement, support, and communications and information. This reform is intended to maximize effectiveness and efficiency in the delivery of capabilities and services. In addition, the effort is expected to promote improved sharing of support services, greater governance and oversight of the agencies by the North Atlantic Council, and greater synergy among similar functions, particularly in procurement. And, a byproduct of this reform is an expected savings of 20 percent.

Changes in European defense and security certainly are not limited to NATO. Each nation in Europe, as throughout most of the world, is re-examining its defense and security strategies and forces in this new environment and making significant changes to improve agility and the expeditionary nature of force structures. Spending also is declining as a percentage of gross national product across the board. In many cases, reductions of as much as 20 to 40 percent are being made in defense. In some, but not all, cases those reductions are being reapplied to internal security.

Much strategic thinking is being applied to the correct balance of defense and security, the potential seams between the two and how to address those seams through better information sharing and coordination. A good example of this is a conference on national defense and security held by the AFCEA Portugal Chapter in Lisbon in June. This was an exceptional conference that included representation from every part of the Portuguese government, NATO, the European Union, industry and academia. Such conferences are extremely valuable in bringing together the diverse views of all the stakeholders to discuss the way forward. It is appropriate that Portugal also will host the 2010 NATO summit in Lisbon in November.

Another vital event in Europe is the upcoming 2010 TechNet International Conference—run by the AFCEA Europe office—which will be held in London October 28-29, 2010. In this environment of change, with so much emphasis on the cyberthreat, the theme this year is focused on cyberdefense. In conjunction with this event, the U.S. National Defense University has agreed to present a day on security in cloud computing, which will be held in the same location on October 27. These three days of dialogue will help address the tremendous change in the cyber arena occurring across Europe.

The bottom line is that, if you aren’t paying attention to the changes in Europe, you should. Wherever you sit, you either will be directly affected by these changes or you can learn some excellent lessons to be applied wherever you operate.