ACT Is Driven by Change

November 2011
By Cdre. Robert Howell, RN (Ret.), SIGNAL Magazine

Allied Command Transformation faces a multitude of challenges across the alliance.

New security concerns are vying with the global financial crisis as NATO’s Allied Command Transformation attempts to keep abreast of the dynamic field of global security. Gen. Stéphane Abrial, FRAF, Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, opened the eighth ACT Industry Day held in London in September by emphasizing that affordability is today’s important word.

The combination of global financial/debt crisis, Arab Spring and NATO’s strategic concept has led to the only strategic certainty—that there always will be surprises, the general declared. NATO needs wide-ranging capabilities with a pragmatic realignment of logistics and budgets. Gen. Abrial stated that advances have been made with nations and industry working together, and Allied Command Transformation (ACT) has been busy identifying factors for success with current multinational programs. He accepts that industry needs better guidance from NATO, but conversely, NATO needs a better understanding of what industry can do and what is affordable. The general said he particularly wishes to involve small and medium enterprises.

His opening remarks were reciprocated by Gerald Howarth MP, U.K. minister for international security strategy. Howarth also emphasized the vital links between North America and Europe, noting that NATO is an organization of values shared among friends. Libya was proof that security cannot be confined to mainland Europe; NATO is the bedrock for Western security, and he expressed some disappointment that 10 alliance members had opted out of NATO’s Libya operations. Nations need to share the burden of collective defense, Howarth continued. For example, the United States is providing nearly three-quarters of the midair refueling in support of Libya operations as well as intelligence and drone support. The minister offered that he was challenged particularly by the need for the European Defense Agency to work in collaboration with NATO. Dual-hatting does not increase capability or support.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen noted that for the past six months, world headlines have switched between Libya and the global economy—both of which have had a major impact on the alliance. The decline in defense budgets was becoming a major challenge, and he warned that Europe’s influence on the world stage would decline if it could not operate beyond its borders.

Rasmussen suggested, however, that NATO did not necessarily need more money, just more effective spending. He urged nations to prioritize; to specialize, which could affect national sovereignty; and to seek multinational solutions for economies of scale. Defense markets are far too restrictive on both sides of the Atlantic, and a single European market really was not achievable. The U.S. Defense Department awards 90 percent of its defense contracts to U.S. firms, and this hampers international interoperability. More open, less restrictive competition will be good for industry, the taxpayer and NATO, he stated.

Adm. Giampoalo Di Paola, ITN, chairman of the NATO Military Committee, expressed his view that industry was more agile than nations on equipment issues. He summarized his attitude as three times the letter “E”—effectiveness, excellence and efficiency. Effectiveness is a challenge in the complex global environment, and industry needed to help while nations did better with what they have rather than seeking more or making do with less. Excellence becomes apparent as nations strive to do the right thing with industry support. Efficiency means developing reasonable requirements and innovative ways to procure what is needed. The admiral endorsed multinational solutions, saying he wants nations to stop talking “togetherness” and start demonstrating it.

ACT has established a task force under Vice Adm. Carol M. Pottenger, USN, ACT deputy chief of staff for capability development, to develop multinational approaches (MNAs) to business. This has spawned five functionally focused and supporting task groups: Capability Initiatives and Organization of Forces; Acquisition; Operation and Maintenance; Preparation of Forces; and Innovative Solutions.

Wayne Fujito, chairman of the NATO Industrial Advisory Group, said he believes that NATO should work to enable cost-effective capability development, and he provided some thoughts for consideration. These include harmonizing NATO and national requirements, simplifying NATO’s defense planning process, focusing on multinational approaches that do not involve large, costly programs, and ensuring that procurement reforms are coordinated between NATO and the EU.

The NATO Industrial Advisory Group again was highlighted as a vehicle for collaboration by Lt. Gen. Patrick Auroy, FRAR (Ret.), NATO’s assistant secretary-general for defense investment. He discussed the ability of industry to provide a level of national linkages beyond procurement to include training, operations, and research and development.

During the panel sessions, other speakers agreed that in wartime, nations coalesce into one force, but in peacetime each government looks after its own forces in a unique manner. Industrial integration does not necessarily lead to an integrated strategy, as companies follow money rather than governments. Markets, systems and people dislike uncertainty; and industry is driven by threats, politics and economics.  U.S.-European defense plans are under global competition from Asia, Latin America and Russia, while at the same time challenges exist within NATO based on uncertainty over demand and budgets, as well as the emerging needs of asymmetrical warfare and cyberspace.


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