Defense and Security In Europe Today

March 1, 2014
By Kent R. Schneider

Even though the Cold War has ended and the monolithic threat against the West has disappeared, the relationship between Europe and the United States remains vital. Europe includes some of the United States’ strongest coalition partners and alliances; the two economies are closely tied and interdependent; and defense and security in Europe are evolving rapidly, just as in the United States. AFCEA chapters and members outside the United States number the greatest in Europe.

It is important to note that European defense and security are treated in individual governments and at the pan-European level much the same as in the United States, that is, a separate agency has the lead for each. NATO is the primary alliance in Europe for defense, although the European Union (EU) has the European Defense Agency to coordinate defense and defense-related acquisition for the EU. Each nation in Europe has a ministry of defense or equivalent to provide defense against foreign threats for that country. The European Union has the lead in Europe for internal security—what the United States calls homeland security—and each nation has a ministry of the interior or equivalent to provide internal security. Just as in the United States, coordination of these two functions often can be challenging, and information sharing can be difficult because systems were not designed originally to work together.

For defense, NATO is in the midst of a massive reorganization. The size of the headquarters was reduced; operational forces were increased; agencies were consolidated from 14 to three; and command and control structures were simplified to provide greater agility. Under a concept called smart defense, NATO is trying to increase capability and reduce cost by sharing capability across the member nations. The nations are working to determine the best way for each to participate as they generally are reducing the percentage of gross domestic product committed to defense. The new NATO Communications and Information Agency (NCI Agency) is the organization charged with planning and provisioning the command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) capability for all of NATO.

For internal security, the European Union is in the third year of its Internal Security Strategy to tie together efforts across Europe. As in the United States, cyber is considered the greatest threat, with terrorism not far behind. Since these threats do not respect borders, and people and commerce now flow freely across borders within the EU, integration of capability within the entire EU is the priority. Each European nation with an external land or sea border, and all that have ports, are responsible for a part of the collective security of the union.

AFCEA has been working with and supporting NATO for more than 55 years. We have a recent agreement to work closely with the NCI Agency. AFCEA Europe has chapters in most NATO member nations, and these chapters work closely with the ministries of defense in these nations to help them with coordination and communication with industry. Once a year, AFCEA has a combined event with the NCI Agency—the AFCEA TechNet International and NATO C4ISR Industry Conference. The theme this year is, “From Assets to Services—Capability Delivery in the 21st Century.” This reflects the transition in Europe to a services model and the integration of capability across NATO. This year’s conference is being held in Bucharest, Romania, March 25-27. Much of the leadership of the NCI Agency will be in Bucharest for this event. This is the time to understand the direction and opportunities with NATO going forward.

Similarly, AFCEA Europe works closely with the European Union on security, and our chapters work with the member nations to facilitate dialogue on internal security and provide an interface with industry. In the fall, AFCEA will hold a conference focused on the European Union and the security mission across Europe, with a heavy emphasis on cybersecurity. AFCEA TechNet Europe will be held this year in Paris, October 9-10. In today’s environment, the evolution of the security functions globally. This event is a good place to embrace that.

Any reader located in Europe or doing work there should engage with AFCEA Europe. Its job is to bring together government, industry and academia in an ethical dialogue around defense and security; and it does it well. Take advantage of its programs.


Enjoyed this article? SUBSCRIBE NOW to keep the content flowing.

Share Your Thoughts: