The Allied Effect in Tight Budget Times

May 12, 2011
By Robert K. Ackerman
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Defense is being underfunded by between 20 and 40 precent across Europe. This is an incredible reduction in defense spending, and frankly quite dangerous, said VAdm. Robert G. Cooling, Chief of Staff Allied Command Transportation at the AFCEA/USNI Joint Warfighting Conference in Virginia Beach, Virginia. In this environment, we all need allies, even the United States. Fighting along with NATO is better than fighting ad hoc. Future operations need to be politically supportable, which means having the populace behind you, he explained. He notes that trust among nations is a two-way street, and the all of government approach is a force multiplier. In all situations, interoperability is critical, he maintains. He gave credit to the United States as the force behind improving interoperability. It was critical to have it in Afghanistan, and it is showing to be successful in operations in Libya, he related. Addressing the topic of the Joint Forces Command disestablishment as part of the United States' cost-cutting measures, the admiral stressed that this disestablishment does not signal an end to transformation in Europe or in the United States. The foundation is solid, and the forces are the same. But where links become severed, ACT will create new links, he said. The admiral suggested that in the tight fiscal environment the industry is facing that the Framework For Collaborative Interaction might be an organization that could play an important role. The purpose of this group is to enable collaborative work to be carried out in a nonprocurement manner between ACT, industry and academia and to leverage the expertise that each party brings to Alliance capability development efforts. Despite budget considerations, NATO still has a lot of efforts underway. With all the activities of NATO today, including those in Afghanistan and Africa as well as those focused on piracy, transition training in Iraq and the no-fly zone over Libya, it is important to determine how to balance support for operations today with planning for those tomorrow. "We must find the sweet spot between preparing for current operations and planning for future operations," Adm. Cooling added. NATO includes conventional, nuclear and missile defense forces, but it also needs to develop cyber defense capability and prepare for such threats from state and nonstate actors. NATO is developing an in-depth cyber defense policy, but its first priority is to establish a definition of what constitutes a cyber attack. "Cyber space has yet to quantify its set of rules, and without rules, you have no rule breakers," he says. Although, the rules are not there, he adds, it is clear that harm and uncertainty have occurred. NATO will provide assistance to nations to develop their own cyber defense capabilities he continued. "In Europe, we cannot afford to be too precious about sovereign capability development," the admiral stated.

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