NATO Re-emphasizes Out-of-Area Operations

December 2006
By Cdre. Robert Howell, RN (Ret.)

New and effective technologies will be essential for NATO to carry out missions beyond its traditional areas of responsibility. Industry is a key player in providing needed capabilities, and ongoing cooperative efforts between the Atlantic alliance and its commercial partners need to be enhanced and their procedures improved.

These topics were part of an extensive discussion at Allied Command Transformation (ACT) Industry Day 2006. Held October 3 in Paris, the event was titled “Bridging the Gap—Involving Industry Capabilities in NATO Transformation.” For the third consecutive year, AFCEA International’s European office administered the conference, which was presented by NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Transformation in partnership with the NATO Industrial Advisory Group (NIAG).

Ambassador Minuto Rizzo, NATO deputy secretary general, opened the event with the strategic view that Afghanistan is a long-term NATO commitment that needs both political and military support. NATO also is beginning to commit itself in Africa by helping the African Union in the Darfur region in Sudan, said the ambassador. This is consistent with NATO’s desire to project stability; thus partnerships with Australia, New Zealand and Japan are a practical demonstration of NATO’s desire not to be a global policeman but to establish cooperation on a global scale.

Vice Adm. Christian Penillard, FN, speaking on behalf of the chief of general staff, noted that the French concepts of transformation were developed from a 1994 national white paper, taking France into a new geopolitical environment. Subsequent developments have concentrated on establishing flexibility of organization and command chain, optimizing capability and adapting human resources. Transformation is not a military monopoly; the defense industry also needs to transform with both imagination and agility, he emphasized. Laboratory work is a good place to start such change.

Gen. Lance Smith, USAF, supreme allied commander transformation, followed Adm. Penillard’s remarks with an emphasis on NATO forces having the capability for integrated action, which requires early partnering with industry. He stated that NATO forces face a combination of both traditional and irregular warfare. The latter type of warfare is exemplified by exploiting the population base to seek strategic effect by tactical action, and it often is asymmetric. It does not follow the conventional rules of warfare and is globally networked on a cellular basis, the general explained. It also has unique aspects such as the role of Islam in the hands of extremists whose goal often is to kill and die while still allowing themselves global aspirations, he added.

Gen. Smith also took a modern look at the OODA loop (observe, orientate, decide, act). He noted that “observe” now means looking through roofs and around corners as well as deep underground. “Orientate” needs rapid data mining, shared databases and a common operational picture. “Decide” can be done with insights equal to higher level commands. Finally, “act” is with precision and near-real-time weaponry using collaborative tools that are intuitive and easily actionable, while nonlethal weapons also are available in the commander’s armory.

The general confirmed that his command would provide insight into the warfighter’s requirements, both now and in the future, in an environment that focuses effort and spurs innovation. He sees ACT as a hub for vetting solutions through experimentation. Industry can assist by setting common standards to increase interoperability, by developing open architectures and nonproprietary solutions, by telling NATO what is “the art of the doable” and by accelerating capabilities in the field.

Gen. Gerhard Back, GEAF, commander, Joint Forces Command Brunssum, has operational command of NATO Forces in Afghanistan. During the conference, 37 nations were operating under NATO’s umbrella. Gen. Back spoke on improving operational capabilities, though he emphasized that the battlefield is not a laboratory, so care must be taken to keep equipment that is under evaluation simple, deployable, movable, soldier-proof, supportable and cost-effective. He outlined some successes such as the experimental recognized environmental picture, the prototype water treatment plant and the disease surveillance system—all of which have been inserted at short notice into the battlespace.

Marshall Billingslea, NATO assistant secretary general for defense investment, discussed policy trends within NATO such as the need to counter terrorism by protecting citizens at home concurrent with deploying troops abroad. NATO needed the right kind of troops for deployment, especially special operations forces, all of which wanted access to information.

Billingslea also identified several trends in industry. Nations, excluding the United States, commit little money to defense spending. He predicts a rapid “hollowing” of European defense forces because of a lack of investment, and he said that the defense customer is becoming less important to industry. He believes strongly that government protection of national industry has less and less meaning in the globalized economy. Looking at trends within NATO, he desires to see results within “somebody’s lifetime.” Spiral development is a pragmatic way ahead, particularly going for the 60- to 70-percent solution instead of waiting for perfection. He also emphasized that it is not acceptable to produce single-service solutions to requirements; everything must be joint or combined—preferably both.

Francois Lureau, France’s national armament director and Defense Procurement Agency director, spoke in a session titled “Building the Synergies.” Responsibility for spending—or “investing”—government money also brings responsibility for profitability, Lureau said. Military equipment must meet requirements and be financially acceptable, he pointed out. These expenditures must be a long-term investment because technologies and programs need to last and evolve to ensure value for money. He emphasized that the relationship with industry is important and centers around investment, jointness and innovation. It is essential to capture the experience that both industry and military have shared through equipment deployments to such theaters as Kosovo and Afghanistan, he said.

Two industry speakers aired their views on working with NATO. Dr. Stefan Zoller, chief executive officer of EADS Defence and Security Systems, described NATO as a “strange animal” to do business with, especially when dealing with its procurement procedures. Denis Ranque, chief executive officer of Thales, asserted that industry also is transforming itself in the way it does business with NATO. He urged better direct links between ACT and industry, including regulatory facilitation of trans-Atlantic cooperation and connectivity between NATO battlelabs and industrial equivalents.

In an afternoon session, three syndicates that had been established by ACT reported their findings. As an experiment, ACT established a portal-based discussion forum with contributors providing their input over several weeks. This culminated in an afternoon’s debate on the previous day that formalized the forum’s findings for presentation to the audience. Joint deployment and sustainment, situational awareness and interoperability were the topics chosen, and they provided a useful debate forum between the panel chairmen and the delegates.

Adm. Sir Mark Stanhope, RN, KCB, OBE, deputy supreme allied commander transformation and moderator throughout the day, led a discussion on the way ahead for industry and ACT. This discussion included a brief presentation by Dr. Raffaele Esposito, NIAG chairman. Esposito explained the business model that the NIAG uses to create the interface between NATO and industry. Two promising lines of debate centered around one suggestion that a company be invited to lead on a specific topic that ACT is keen to examine, then to share its response with all those interested in the outcome. Another proposal suggested that blogs provide an opportunity for a number of contributors to join in the debate.

Adm. Stanhope and Gen. Smith agreed that the discussion had been invaluable to take forward the relationship that is so necessary for industry and NATO in general and ACT in particular. Much food for thought had been provided, they added. Gen. Smith announced that the ACT event would be repeated next year, although the time and venue have yet to be decided.